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3 Potential Ways to Enforce a Divorce Decree

By Betty Wang, JD | Last updated on

How do you enforce a divorce decree? Unfortunately, there may be situations in which you’ll need to know how to enforce the agreed-upon terms that ended your marriage, even long after your divorce has been finalized.

A divorce decree is the final judgment in a divorce proceeding that spells out each party’s obligations. But if your ex-spouse is not making the proper payments or fails to follow the terms of the decree, how can you get it enforced?

Here are three potential ways to go about it:

1. File a Motion for Civil Contempt of Court.

Because your divorce decree is a court order, you can file a motion for civil contempt of court.

Your ex-spouse can be found in contempt of court if he isn't compliant with the court order (for example, failing to make child support, spousal support, or other payments). The court will then call in the ex-spouse to try to remedy the situation.

2. Seek Criminal Non-Support Charges.

While situations involving families and post-divorce payments are handled administratively or in civil court first, the matter can potentially be turned over to criminal prosecutors as well.

Depending on your state's laws, criminal charges may exist for certain acts, such as knowingly failing to pay child support. It can be a misdemeanor or even a felony in certain states.

3. Pursue Collections Procedures.

If you get a judgment against a party for non-payment, then you may be able to get your payments through a collections procedure. This works similarly to the way any general debt collection does -- money owed to you can be confiscated (in the form of tax refund or bonus checks, for example) to satisfy the obligation amount.

These are just a few strategies that may work to enforce your divorce decree. Because each decree is different, it may be best to speak with an experienced divorce attorney to assist you in collecting what is rightfully yours.

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