What Happens if a Former Spouse Breaches the Divorce Agreement?
While many expect to move on with their lives once a divorce decree is entered, one spouse (or both) may fail to follow the terms of the final divorce agreement. A judgment or decree issued by the family court is legally binding, however, which means that either party’s failure to abide by the terms of the divorce agreement is unlawful. In this situation, it takes a skilled divorce attorney to help explore all the enforcement options. If your ex-violated such an agreement, there are several options available to you.
Divorce Agreement Modifications
Depending on the nature of the breach, the parties may be able to agree to change the terms of the divorce agreement. This option is often necessary when there are minor or college-aged children involved that still need co-parenting. The former spouses must be able to cooperate, however, and maintain an amicable relationship to effectively co-parent.
Agreeing to modify the divorce agreement can also help avoid the stress of repeated court proceedings seeking to enforce the divorce agreement terms. In other cases, a former spouse may have experienced job loss or a substantial change in financial circumstances which makes the original divorce agreement unworkable. Regardless of the reasons, there are times when it makes sense to modify the agreement.
Other Enforcement Options
When the parties cannot agree on changing the terms of the divorce agreement, it may be necessary to seek court intervention. The court may assess penalties — designed to pressure the former spouse to comply with the original divorce agreement — including:
- Wage garnishment
- Seizing tax returns
- Driver’s license suspension
- Suspension of professional licenses
Additionally, the court may order the former spouse to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees and court costs. If the violation interfered with child visitation or parenting time rights, moreover, the court may grant additional time to make up for any resulting lost time. In cases of particularly egregious violations or repeat offenses, the other spouse may be held in contempt of court. While this could result in jail time, the courts are typically reluctant to do so since the non-paying spouse will not be able to earn the income necessary to fulfill his or her obligations under the agreement.
Protecting Your Rights in a Divorce
While the actual divorce proceedings are only one part of the greater divorce process, there are a multitude of matters to iron out before and after the final divorce decree has been entered. At Blair Chan Law PLLC, we will work tirelessly to protect your rights throughout the entire matter. Get in touch with us today by calling the office or filling out the convenient online contact form.