How Do You Enforce a Divorce Court Order?

  •   |   Meghan Freed

A common worry for people getting divorced is: “What happens if my ex-spouse doesn’t follow the divorce court’s order?”  Or, in other words, how do you enforce a divorce court order?

Sometimes a spouse fails to divide marital property or to pay child support or alimony.  In other cases, they don’t follow the parenting plan or won’t cover or pay for children’s expenses.

Read on to learn how we address these issues in Connecticut.

Motion for Contempt

The primary means to enforce the divorce court’s orders is via a Motion for Contempt.

Generally speaking, the Connecticut divorce and family courts don’t patrol to determine whether people follow its orders, which means you affirmatively need to bring the problem to the court’s attention.  We do this by filing a Motion for Contempt.  A Motion for Contempt seeks that the court rule that your spouse was in contempt and order your ex to follow the court order.

A Motion for Contempt requires the requesting or “petitioning” spouse to meet a specific burden of proof. For the judge to make a finding of contempt, you will need to show by clear and convincing evidence (1) that there is a clear and unambiguous court order, (2) that the order has been violated, (3) that the party who violated the order acted willfully, and finally, (4) you must clearly explain the relief you are seeking from the court.

Read: What is a Motion for Contempt?

Read: What are the Most Common Post Judgment Motions After a Connecticut Divorce?

Enforcing Alimony Divorce Court Orders

Generally speaking, enforcing alimony orders is pretty straightforward.  Either the former spouse made the alimony payment, or did not make the alimony payments.

Things get complicated when the alimony payor’s income is more complicated than standard W-2 income.  For example, a business owner who has no (or minimal) W-2 income.

 Read: Small Business and Divorce

Read: Alimony: The Comprehensive Connecticut Guide

Enforcing Child Support Court Orders

Regarding child support, we want to flag a few special items. For example, it’s important to know that the Connecticut Child Support Guidelines contain arrearage guidelines.  The guidelines dictate how to calculate the amount of the weekly arrearage payment.

Second, the Child Support Enforcement Program may be the best avenue for some Connecticut families to help collect child support.

Third, the court has some additional means of enforcing its orders on child support.  For example, in some circumstances, courts may order a wage execution, or that a child support arrearage be paid from a tax refund.

Read: Connecticut Child Support Basics

Read: What to Do When a Former Partner Violates a Divorce Order

What You Need to Know About Enforcing Divorce Court Orders on Property Division

Connecticut courts do not have the authority to modify the property division the divorce court ordered.  They can, however, enforce their orders.  (Sometimes, we call this “effectuating” the court’s ruling rather than “enforcing” the court’s ruling.)

Read: Property Division: The Comprehensive Connecticut Guide

Read: What Is a QDRO (“Qua-dro”)?

Enforcing Court Orders on Retirement

It’s not uncommon for us to see Post Judgment issues arising from a failure to transfer retirement assets.  For example, a QDRO transfers certain retirement assets — like pensions and 401ks — after divorce.  The court has the authority to effectuate these orders.

Read: 401k & Divorce

Read: How Are Pensions Valued in Connecticut Divorces?

Enforcing Custody Court Orders

Enforcing custody and parenting is often more complicated than enforcing financial orders.  For example, when a child has a challenging relationship with a parent, forcing the child to see that parent is difficult.  That said, the court may hold a parent who manipulates discourages a child from seeing the other parent in contempt.  Courts can also hold in contempt parents who refuse to allow children to see the other parent as outlined in the court’s order.

Read: Physical Custody & Legal Custody

Read: What is a Motion for Modification?

Next Steps

Check out our Divorce Information and Facts for more information about Connecticut divorce and family law. If you have questions or want to learn more about how our team of divorce attorneys can help you with your divorce or Post Judgment issue, please get in touch with us here.

Freed Marcroft LLC

Freed Marcroft LLC