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If your ex-spouse is defying a divorce settlement

You would think that having a legal “settlement” in place would mean that the terms within it are settled. If you and your spouse haggled over the details of your divorce settlement, whether through mediation or litigation, you may have felt relieved to reach an agreement, receive a judge’s stamp of approval and move forward.

Some divorced people find themselves in a situation where their exes fail or refuse to comply with the terms of the court-ordered settlement. You may be struggling to pay your bills without spousal support payments your ex is supposed to make, or perhaps you’re always on the defensive with your children because of your spouse’s defiance of child custody terms. These types of problems can be very stressful and demand action.

The terms of your divorce settlement

Your ex may be unable to comply with the divorce order if, for example, he or she is out of work or has a work schedule that conflicts with the custody arrangements in the court order. If this is the case, it is up to your ex to seek a modification of the order to avoid legal repercussions you may rightfully request. If you suspect your ex is simply refusing to comply, you may need legal counsel to help protect your rights.

A divorce settlement typically covers basic elements like:

  • Child custody and visitation
  • Child support payments
  • Spousal support payments
  • Division of assets
  • Division of debts

Your agreement may have more or fewer elements, but you and your spouse are bound to everything included in the document, even if it seems trivial, unless a subsequent court order says otherwise.

If your spouse defies the order

From the time the judge approves the settlement, you may wish to begin documenting your ex’s actions. You may begin to see a pattern of him or her showing up late to drop off the children for your parenting time or missing a spousal support payment with many excuses for not paying. If your spouse has decided to defy the order, you will have documentation that will help support your case.

An attorney can assist you in filing a contempt of court order against your spouse. A successful petition could result in a judge ordering the garnishment of your spouse’s wages for unpaid support. If custody is the issue, a court may go so far as to remove custody rights from your spouse. A continued lack of compliance in these matters could even lead to time in jail.

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