Enforcing Your Divorce Court Orders

Enforcing Your Divorce Court Orders

You have taken a much-needed and possibly painful step forward in your life by getting a divorce.  Everyone has his or her reasons for it. And, after it is over, you are ready to start a new life.  There are times when a court order is necessary – especially in cases involving children.

What is Considered Contempt?

Common court orders that are often not followed involve asset distribution, child support, alimony payments, or visitation agreements.  It must be shown that the violator willfully or intentionally violated the court order.  There are three things that must be proven to show that a person is in contempt.  One is that they have to know about the court order.  Keeping a copy of the court order is important along with making sure that the other person is aware of it.   The second is that the violator must be able to do what the order states, and violate the order anyway.  Finally, they should not have just cause or an excuse regarding the violation.

It may seem petty to try to enforce these orders, and in some circumstances, a small violation might not be worth going through the courts.  For example, they were late one day in dropping off the child because of a flat tire.  The key to remember is that these court orders were put in place to protect you and your children, and while a one-off situation may not be a problem, persistent violations are another story.

Law Enforcement

You may need to contact the police in some circumstances to help in enforcing the court orders.  It could be simply calling the parent that is in violation of the court order or escorting a parent to the violator’s home to pick up the child.  Some police departments are less willing to be involved unless there is a crime occurring, such as parental kidnapping or abuse.

Evidence and Burden of Proof

You will need to show credible evidence that the court order had been violated, and not just your say so that this is happening.  School records showing attendance issues are one example of how to be able to show evidence of a violation.  Phone records showing multiple attempts to contact the person are another type of record that can be used as corroborating evidence.  A written log may also be helpful.  The same is true if you ever need to call the police to have an order enforced.  You may need to provide witnesses that can corroborate that the violation occurred as part of your evidence.

The burden of proof when it comes to a contempt motion is on the person that has filed the motion.  That means it is up to you to prove that it has occurred, and if the judge finds that you did not have enough evidence, your motion may be denied.  Your lawyer is an excellent source of information to help you in determining the best types of evidence to keep in case you need to file a motion for contempt.

Process of Contempt

Once you have documentation and evidence of the violation, you can have a motion for contempt filed.  Once it has been filed correctly, a court hearing will be scheduled by the clerk of courts.  The violating spouse will need to be served with the motion and correctly notified of the court hearing information.

On the date of the hearing, you will be responsible for showing that your ex violated the court order using your evidence and any witnesses you might call for testimony.  The person said to be in violation will be able to provide their own information trying to refute what has been shown.  The judge will determine whether or not they are in contempt of court based on what has been provided to them.  A new order may be the issue that will determine the consequences.

Consequences of Contempt

There may be consequences if your ex is found in contempt.  A judge has the discretion of using a warning for a first-time offense, but they may arrange for sanctions to be ordered.  This may be for the guilty party to pay your court costs, attorney’s fees, a lien to recoup the money, additional time with the child, or even a new parenting plan.  In some cases, they may even have to serve some time in jail.

It may seem harsh to go through the motion of filing against your ex for contempt, but it may be the only way to get them into compliance with the court order.  Going through with this motion will help to restore a home environment that is best for the child and the parents.  Also, remember that this is not a one-time deal as you can file this motion again if your ex is still not complying with the new court orders that had been set by the judge.