Apr 16, 2021
A Court order is only enforceable if it is recorded into the Court record. Typically, the order is written, either as an agreement, order, or in the Judge’s notes from a hearing. It may also be recorded on a video. All these forms of an order can be enforceable. Statements made during settlement negotiations are not court orders unless they are written into agreement and signed by a Judge.
If a party violates an order, a motion for “contempt” can be filed asking the court to enforce it. Lawyers may also include a motion requesting relief for their client. For instance, if your ex has refused to pay medical bills as ordered, the lawyer can request that your ex be found in contempt, be ordered to pay you the money that he owes you within a short period of time, and request reimbursement of attorney’s fees for having to file the motion. The Court could even impose a jail sentence.
All motions must be proven with evidence. Money issues are generally easy to prove because a person either paid or did not pay. Sometimes the orders are not so clear, such as an order stating, “The Wife shall refinance the debt against the car.” Without a clear timeframe for the refinance to occur, the Wife will likely not be found in contempt. Other orders might be clearly written, but inherently difficult to prove, such as an order that restrains the parties from speaking negatively about each other in front of the children. The children are many times the only witness to the statements, and there may be little to no written evidence proving this occurred. These are truly difficult motions to prove. No one really wants the children to testify, so you may need to search for patterns of behavior, other forms of evidence, or find other witnesses to prove your case.
Another Lin for enforcement is “self-help”. If your ex refuses to reimburse you for a bill, you might be able to offset the debt with amounts that you owe your ex, unless your order specifically prohibits this. If your ex repeatedly requests that you take your children to his mother’s house for parenting exchanges even though the order requires him to pick them up from your house, you can refuse his request and force him to come to your house to get them, or not get them at all. It is imperative to read your order and understand exactly what is required of you before you attempt to use the self-help method. If you violate the order by using self-help, you may be the party found in contempt
The best strategy to enforce orders is to follow them yourself. Keep copies of every email, text, picture, letter, invoice, check, or any other proof that you adhere to the court orders, or that your ex does not.