It’s an all-too-familiar predicament. You finally put your divorce behind you, only to face another problem: What if your ex doesn’t obey the agreements you both came to as part of your divorce?
A divorce is not final until a divorce decree has been signed by the judge. One of the purposes of the document is to help hold couples accountable after they’ve divorced. Unlike a divorce certificate, which is issued by the state, the divorce decree is issued by a court, letting both parties know they are officially unmarried. It is like a contract in that it is legally binding and establishes all of the agreements set forth during the divorce.
What’s in a Divorce Decree?
Part of going through a divorce involves dividing up whatever assets and responsibilities you shared as a couple. Any agreements made during the divorce hearing will be outlined in your divorce decree. For this reason, the decree can act as a reminder of typical financial and parenting judgements:
- Division of possessions and property;
- Spousal support;
- Child support payments;
- Parental rights;
- Ownership of life and health insurance;
- If applicable, how debt will be divided up; and
- Other support obligations.
If you share children, the decree will likely include details such as visitation schedules and judgements about how both parties are expected to share child-rearing responsibilities.
So what happens when one person violates a visitation order or refuses to share property after agreeing to do so? There are many common ways that people breach their own divorce decree:
- Failure to pay child or spousal support;
- Failure to contribute to shared costs such as schooling and credit cards;
- Violation of provisions regarding visitation rights;
- Failure to turn property over to their ex; or
- Failure to provide health insurance.
This list doesn’t include criminal or threatening behavior, in which case it might be necessary to get police involved. With common violations, you might be able to resolve the issue simply by pointing out to your ex which specific obligations in this legally binding document were violated. But if the problem persists, there are other steps you can take.
Enforcement in Illinois
Start by talking to your lawyer about what the best option is for your situation. Sometimes a stern letter from an attorney that explains the legal consequences of disobeying a divorce decree is enough to get the person to cooperate. Someone with a pattern of violations should be reminded that there can be serious legal consequences for their actions.
What if you’ve attempted conversations, warnings, and a letter from your lawyer but the problem persists? Any violation of a divorce decree amounts to the disobedience of a court order and therefore can be considered a contempt of court. The next step may be to file a motion for contempt with the court asking a judge to enforce the order on your behalf. This puts pressure on the other person to respond or else be threatened with legal action. You may be required to attempt mediation before the judge hears your case.
Possible Courses of Action
If you’re considering taking any legal action, first gather any evidence showing that your ex has refused to follow the terms set forth in your divorce settlement. You will want to collect emails, text messages, voicemails, account statements, and any other documentation that supports your case. This type of information can be used as evidence in court.
The judge reviewing your case will decide how to proceed in order to enforce the agreement. There are many ways someone can be penalized until the violation is resolved:
- Frozen bank account
- Garnished wages
- Loss of driver’s license, passport, or professional license
- Lien on business or house
- Withholding tax refunds
However, cases often fail because the filing parties don’t offer enough evidence to support their claim. If you have an uncooperative ex, put your conversations in writing so that you have a digital trail to back up your assertions. You may be expected to provide details such as dates when your ex failed to comply, the precise nature of the violation, and whether this affected you economically.
If you plan to seek a contempt of divorce decree or simply want to explore your options, call
the Law Offices of David A. King, P.C. at 630-504-7210 or contact us online. We are experienced in handling all types of post-divorce enforcement. Our attorneys can answer your questions and help you take the necessary steps as quickly and painlessly as possible. We represent clients in DuPage, Cook, and Kane County, and throughout the surrounding communities in Illinois.