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Forcing Your Ex to Obey the Divorce Decree


Going through a divorce can be a traumatic process, highlighted by a mix of intense emotions while fighting for what you believe you deserve. The process can be particularly adversarial in litigated divorces with a judge making the final determination of what is fair and in the best interests of any children involved.

When the court makes its ruling, the relief you feel when it is over could be short-lived if your ex doesn’t live up to their part of the agreement.

Divorce Agreements Are Enforceable

In uncontested and mediated divorces, both sides participate in the creation of the divorce agreement that becomes legally binding in the final divorce decree. In these cases, violations are less common because both parties agreed to the terms. Over time as individual circumstances change, violations in jointly agreed settlements become more likely. For contested divorces before a judge, infractions can happen almost immediately if one person is angry about the final ruling.

No matter when the violations occur, you have grounds to file a motion to enforce your agreement or court decision if your ex defies any of its provisions, including the following:

Some infractions are willful, and others are rooted in a change in employment or address or other complications. In these cases, a motion to enforce the agreement or court order might be the best action.

Charging Your Ex with Contempt

When an ex disregards the final decree, you can and should file a contempt motion with the court to enforce your divorce order. Your ex-spouse will then be served notice.

Our legal team at McIntyre Tate LLP has experience in handling agreement violations. We can help you file the motion and describe the details of the violation. An effective motion is important for the court to consider your contempt complaint valid.

After your ex has been served, he or she may attempt to rectify the situation and avoid a hearing. If your spouse does not, you will both appear before a judge at a hearing. The hearing provides you the opportunity to present your evidence of the violation. If the judge rules in your favor, your former spouse must repair the issue within an allotted timeframe or face harsher consequences. The guilty party can also be ordered to pay the associated court and legal costs of the other person.

Depending on the original offense, the court can also do the following:

  • Order Wage Garnishments
  • Place Levies on Bank Accounts
  • Suspend Their Driver’s License
  • Award Compensatory Visitation
  • Assess Other Fines

The judge can rule that your ex is guilty of either willful contempt or technical contempt. Willful contempt means your former spouse has the means to live up to the agreement but is choosing not to comply. Technical contempt means the spouse is guilty of not complying, but it is due to some circumstances that they might not control. The judge can compel compliance in both cases but is understandably less tolerant of willful contempt.

The initial contempt is a civil offense, not a criminal one. It is designed to compel compliance with the court order. However, in some cases, most commonly failure to pay child support, a Family Court judge can order an individual incarcerated until he or she complies the Court’s order.

Sophisticated Legal Representation for Rhode Island

Our attorneys have more than 150 years of combined experience providing top-notch family law and civil litigation services. Our in-depth knowledge can help our clients resolve difficult and emotional problems. We treat each client with compassion while aggressively representing their best interests.

At McIntyre Tate LLP, we know that your stress level increases when you are unsure of the legal process. We provide detailed explanations, so you are always aware of what we are doing and why. Two-way communication is vital.

If your ex is not abiding by the terms of your divorce agreement or if you want your agreement modified, contact us for an evaluation. We can help you with these and any other family law need.

Schedule your consultation by calling (401) 351-7700. You can also reach out through our online form and someone from our office will get back to you promptly.

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