A well-crafted divorce settlement gets its teeth from your ability to enforce it. Even after all the hours of negotiation, your former spouse may decide he or she no longer agrees with the terms of the settlement. Instead of just asking you to renegotiate, he or she may refuse to complying with the agreed-upon divorce terms, such as:
- The allocation of parental responsibilities;
- Child support;
- Spousal maintenance; and
- Marital properties he or she must surrender.
A divorce agreement is a court order, and violating it may result in civil and criminal penalties. If your former spouse refuses to obey your divorce order, you can take him or her to court by filing a Petition for Rule to Show Cause. However, you must show that your spouse is willfully in contempt of the order. You can help your case by preparing supporting evidence for both your petition and your hearing.
The first step is to explain how your former spouse is not complying with the divorce order. You should have a detailed timeline of the violations. Documentation can include:
- A copy of the divorce order to establish its requirements;
- Dates and amounts of missed support payments;
- Dates when the parenting time schedule was not followed;
- Instances when your former spouse made a parenting decision without your required consent; and
- Marital properties that you have been unable to procure.
Filing a Petition for Rule to Show Cause should be your last resort, not your first reaction to a violation of your divorce order. The court will expect you to have made reasonable efforts to ask your former spouse to comply with the order. You can list when and how you contacted your former spouse about the violation. Include copies of any written communications that you sent, as well as replies.
The final step is to prove that your former spouse was “willful, contumacious and without just cause” in violating the divorce order. This means showing that your former spouse knew of the violation and was capable of complying but instead chose to violate the order. Proving that your former spouse knew about the violation should be simple if you were thorough in warning him or her. Your former spouse is more likely to argue that he or she was incapable of complying with the order. Financial hardship and concern for your children’s wellbeing are two of the most common defenses. The court’s duty is to determine whether your former spouse’s defense made it impossible or impractical to comply with the divorce order.
Even with a reasonable excuse, your former spouse may be liable for violating your divorce order. A Kane County divorce attorney at Van Larson Law, P.C., can help you enforce the terms of your divorce order. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-879-9090.