All too often at the DiPietro Family Law Group we hear of ex-spouses violating court orders or court ordered agreements. “He hasn’t paid child support in three (3) months,” or “she always drops the kids off two (2) hours late.”
Ideally, everyone would follow through with and adhere to the obligations they make in an agreement ordered by the court. Unfortunately, the sad reality is that this is not always true. In fact, often times it is not true – particularly when it comes to family law agreements and court orders.
Obtaining a court order or court ordered marital settlement agreement is merely the first step in resolving your family law issue. The second step is ensuring that the order or agreement is properly enforced; and when it is not, there are consequences to ensure compliance. Otherwise, the agreement or order is nothing more than a piece of paper.
Here are some things you can do to ensure that your agreement or order is followed:
Specific Enforcement Provisions
When composing a settlement agreement or parenting plan, you should ensure that the agreement contains specific provisions, that permit consequences for non-compliance. One of the most common clauses requires the party who is in violation of the agreement, to pay the other side’s attorney’s fees if they have to go to court to enforce the agreement. This can be an effective deterrent for your ex-spouse, to violate the agreement.
In order to enforce a family law agreement, the agreement must be incorporated into a court order. This is a simple process that your attorney can handle for you. Once the agreement is incorporated, it has the full force and effect of a court order. A violation of a court order is more egregious and much easier to enforce than claiming a breach of contract.
Before pursuing time consuming and costly litigation, consider having your attorney write a warning letter to your ex-spouse who is in violation of a court order or agreement. Your attorney can draft a carefully tailored letter citing the violation, demanding compliance within a certain time period and tactfully pursue legal action, if your ex isn’t complying.
If your ex does not respond to your attorney’s letters, then you can seek an order to show cause from the court. This is very serious, and if your ex cannot provide a legally justifiable reason for their violation(s), the court has authority to impose various penalties upon your ex, including fines and jail time.
If all else fails, then modification of the court order or court ordered agreement may be necessary. However, this process will almost always require proving that there has been a change in material circumstances. When it comes to your ex-spouse’s violations, you will likely have to show repeated and serious violations, in order to obtain a modification.
Before reaching a marital settlement agreement with your spouse, you should always, at a minimum, have your attorney review it before signing it. Your attorney will ensure that you include proper enforcement provisions and the language to make ensure your order is valued.
If your former spouse is in violation of a court order or court ordered agreement, you should hire a family law attorney immediately, who can pursue all available means of forcing your ex to comply. The knowledgeable family lawyers at the DiPietro Family Law Group have decades of experience representing clients in all types of family law matters, and we are here to help you.