Signing a divorce decree obligates you and your former spouse to fulfill each of the agreed-upon conditions. While circumstances may make minor, occasional, and unintentional violations unavoidable and forgivable, resolving long-term problems requires going back to court to compel compliance. Three reasons you may need to enforce a divorce decree are when your previous partner:
- Stops making spousal support (alimony) and child-support payments
- Refuses to allow visits with your children or keeps your kids longer than specified in divorce papers
- Retains more proceeds from the sale of shared property or refuses to surrender listed items
Even when you and your ex agree that sticking to the original terms of the divorce no longer makes sense, deciding to alter arrangements without going back to court constitutes a violation. This means, for instance, that if a move by the custodial parents from Ohio makes stays with the other parent on alternating weekends impractical, you should petition the court to alter visitation rights.
Things to Understand When Seeking to Enforce a Divorce Decree
You must document every violation by your former spouse. This means, among other things, keeping copies of late and/or short support payments, details of checks returned for insufficient funds, and evidence that payment could have been made. The Ohio Department of Job and Family Services maintains an Office of Child Support in every county. Staff there can help you explore nonjudicial options to secure payments and, if necessary, build a court case.
The results of being found in violation of a divorce decree can be harsh. Civil judgments can include
- Orders to pay all past-due spousal support and child support with interest and penalties
- Orders to pay the complaining spouse’s court costs
- Garnishment of wages
- Revocation of visitation rights
- Forfeiture of property
Spouses who do not make support payments despite having adequate financial resources can go to jail. Refusing to abide by visitation agreements can also result in jail time for contempt of court, with the length of the sentence left to the judge’s discretion.
A third possibility is that a judge can find a former spouse in violation of the divorce decree but impose no immediate penalty. One acceptable excuse for failing to pay child support for a certain period could be unemployment due to incarceration or temporary disability. Recognize, however, that leaving Ohio does not automatically relieve a custodial parent of the duty to adhere to a child visitation schedule.
Work With a Columbus Family Law Attorney to Enforce Your Divorce Decree
Ohio law permits individuals to file petitions for the enforcement of divorce decrees on their own. Taking legal action against a former spouse with the help of an experienced Columbus family law attorney, however, could enhance your chances of success. We cannot guarantee any outcome, but our attorneys know which forms need to be completed, when they need to be delivered, and who must receive the paperwork to get it the attention it deserves. We also know which questions to ask to ensure all the necessary evidence gets collected and presented to make your case for a civil or criminal judgment as strong as possible.
If your ex has not fulfilled his or her obligation under your divorce decree, call us