When an Order of the Court is not being followed, the remedy is to file a Petition for Enforcement. When an Enforcement case is filed, the Court can hold the violating party in Contempt of Court, award attorney fees, money judgment, a specific action, and (in some cases) jail time.
There are multiple types of Enforcement Cases depending on the type of Order that is being violated:
Enforcement of Property Division – This is filed when the property division as ordered in the Final Decree of Divorce is not followed.
Enforcement of Spousal Maintenance – This is filed when the Spousal Maintenance as ordered in the Final Decree of Divorce is not followed.
Enforcement of Child Support – This is filed when the person ordered to pay child support in the current Order (whether that be a Temporary Order, an Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship, a Final Decree of Divorce, an Order in Suit to Modify the Parent-Child Relationship, or any other Order in which one party is ordered to pay child support) is not paying the child support as Ordered.
Enforcement for Possession and Access of a Child – This is filed when one party is interfering with the other party’s court Ordered Possession or Access to the child. NOTE: If the other party is refusing to return the child to you at the beginning of your period of possession and you have concerns for the child’s safety, the law provides some specific relief to you that can be granted on an emergency basis. Time is of the essence so do not delay in seeking legal advice.
Each case begins with filing the Petition for Enforcement. The Petition outlines what was ordered in the previous Order and details each violation that has occurred. The Petition also outlines the relief (or help) that the filing party is seeking from the Court. The next step is for the opposing party to be served by a process server with a copy of the Petition. Typically, the trial will also be scheduled and the party receives notice of the trial date from the process server as well. At the trial, the Judge will hear evidence to support the Petition for Enforcement along with the evidence presented by the opposing party. The Judge will then issue a ruling and issue new Orders based on the evidence presented.
While all Court proceedings are stressful, Enforcement matters can be especially taxing. Further, Enforcement matters are the one area of family law that can result in one party being jailed, so it is very important that exact procedures and rules be followed.