Sometimes obtaining a divorce decree is only half the battle.   After a judge enters a divorce decree, what guarantee is there that the parties will comply with the judge’s orders?  Well, except for death and taxes, there are no guarantees, but in family court cases, judges do retain jurisdiction to enforce the orders they issue.  Using child support as an example, this post will focus on how judges, upon request of one party, may force the other party’s compliance with court orders.

When a child support obligor (the person who is under order to pay child support) falls behind in his child support obligation, the obligee (person to whom support is owed) may bring a court action against the obligor to enforce the child support order.  Typical remedies in a child support enforcement case include awarding a judgment for all unpaid child support and accrued interest, awarding judgment for some or all attorney’s fees and costs the judge determines are warranted, and ordering a monthly payment toward the arrearage judgment.

In addition, if the judge finds that the person ordered to pay support had the ability to pay but wilfully refused to do so, the judge may hold the obligor in contempt of court.  The judge may even order that the obligor be incarcerated until he purges the finding of contempt by paying some or all of the arrearage obligation.

Once the judgment is secured, it may be enforced as any other judgment. Any payment on arrears ordered by the judge is not the exclusive remedy. For example, the obligee could pursue a wage garnishment to collect on the judgment IN ADDITION to any wage assignment issued by the family court so long as the garnishment does not violate federal limits (no more than 50% of net pay may be garnished).  The obligee can also collect on the judgment by attaching/taking non-exempt assets belonging to the obligor.

In cases brought by DES, some additional remedies are available, which may include taking away the obligor’s driver’s license, hunting license, and/or professional licenses.  When an obligee pursues the State’s services in collecting child support, however, there is a tradeoff.  As might be expected, DES is overloaded with requests for assistance in pursuing child support arrearages, so it can take months or years for a DES-filed case to make its way to a court hearing.

Other court orders such as orders to pay debts, transfer property, and orders to make payments to an ex-spouse to equalize the division of assets are also subject to enforcement by the issuing judge.  Most non-support orders, however, are not enforceable by contempt and incarceration.  If your ex is not complying with court orders and you are ready to take him or her to court, please contact an attorney at Scoresby Family Law to schedule a consultation.

© 2016  J. Kyle Scoresby, P.C.  All rights reserved.