What If My Ex Disobeys Our Divorce Decree?
Once a divorce is finalized, each party is provided a legal document that details the agreements and settlements made between the two spouses during the divorce process. Unfortunately, many people don’t think they need to abide by the divorce decree, leaving their ex-spouses high and dry. What can you do if your ex doesn’t comply with your Long Island divorce decree?
Is a Divorce Decree a Legally Binding Document?
Yes. A finalized divorce decree issued by a judge to you and your ex-spouse is legally binding. If you or your ex do not abide by all or part of the decree, you may face legal consequences. A decree will typically include all agreements and other provisions, such as your child custody arrangement, visitation schedule, parenting plan, spousal and child support payments, and property division. If you have mediated your divorce, most or all of these issues are ones that you and your ex-spouse have previously agreed upon. Or, if your divorce was contested, these may be issues a judge decided for you.
How Divorce Decrees Can Be Disobeyed
There are many different ways a divorce decree can be disobeyed, all of which can have a significant impact on a family. Here are a few main categories in which the most common violations occur:
Child Custody and Visitation
If you and your ex-spouse share children together, your divorce decree will include provisions for child custody and visitation. It should specify who has primary legal and physical custody and what the agreed-upon visitation schedule looks like. If your ex does not pick your child up on time for their scheduled visitation or does not drop them back off at the appointed time, this is a violation of the divorce decree.
Alimony and Child Support
Your divorce decree may also include provisions for alimony and child support. These must be paid on time, in the amount specified by the decree. If your ex-spouse does not pay court-ordered child or spousal support when it’s due or in the correct amount without first requesting a modification of court orders, this can also be considered a violation of the decree.
Property division doesn’t occur immediately after a divorce is finalized — it takes time to sell a home, liquidate assets, and transfer bank accounts. The decree will outline how those things should be done, often down to the last penny. It’s the responsibility of you and your spouse to ensure that assets are divided according to the decree. If your ex-spouse refuses or delays surrendering property or assets that rightly belong to you, they may be held legally responsible for disobeying the divorce decree.
How to Enforce a Divorce Decree
There’s not much that can be done on a personal level to enforce a court-ordered divorce decree or force your ex-spouse to comply on your own. However, when notified of a violation, a court can help enforce the provisions in the document by imposing penalties when a party is not in compliance with the order.
Penalties for Disobeying a Divorce Decree
There are several possible penalties for refusing to comply with a Long Island divorce decree including, but not limited to:
- Assessing fines
- Putting a hold or freeze on bank accounts
- Suspending or revoking a driver’s license
- Placing a lien on a home, business, or other property
- Garnishing wages
- Withholding tax refunds
Often, courts will issue a warning first in an attempt to help the noncompliant party rectify their actions before more serious intervention is needed. If your ex still continues to disobey the divorce decree, a court may decide to take one or more of the above actions.
When to Contact an Experienced Long Island Divorce Lawyer
If your ex-spouse is refusing to comply with your final divorce decree, you have legal options available to you. Whether your ex is withholding property that belongs to you, neglecting to follow the approved visitation schedule, or otherwise not abiding by the provisions in the decree, we can help. Contact our Long Island family law office to learn more about how to enforce a divorce decree or to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation by calling 631-923-1910.
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