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Ex-spouse in violation of a court order? Here are your options

Court orders are meant to be followed. That’s why parties to a divorce case work hard to develop the best arguments possible in hopes of obtaining a favorable order. But despite the power of the court, not everyone listens to a judge or his or her orders. This is especially true in family law cases, and even more so when children are involved. A violation of these court orders can affect your ability to maintain a relationship with your child, or it could prevent you from securing the financial stability that you need post-divorce. Regardless of your unique set of circumstances, you might have to take legal action to remedy the situation.

What can you do about violation of a court order?

If your spouse is violating a court order, then you have a couple of routes you can take to try to correct the matter. Let’s look at them.

  • File a motion for rule to show cause: If your former spouse is violating a court order, then the court should know about it. One way to inform the court and seek a remedy is to file what is known as a motion for rule to show cause. In lay terms, this is a motion to hold the other party in contempt.

Essentially, you file a motion with the court identifying which specific court order has been violation, how it has been violated, when it was violated, and why that violation was willful disobedience of the order. The court will then schedule a hearing on the matter where the other party will have to appear and “show cause” for why he or she should not be held in contempt. You’ll want to be prepared for this hearing, armed with evidence that further supports your claim that your former spouse is in violation of an existing court order.

If the court finds the other party in contempt, then he or she can be hit with a number of penalties. He or she can be fined, forced to pay attorneys fees, or even jailed until he or she complies with the court’s order. Therefore, this can be a great way to force compliance with a court order.

  • Seek a modification: In some instances, a spouse’s failure to abide by a court order can constitute grounds for a modification. In the child custody context, for example, a custodial parent’s failure to provide the non-custodial parent with court-ordered parenting time can demonstrate an unwillingness to allow the child to develop a bond with the non-custodial parent. This distancing can be harmful to the child, his or her wellbeing, and his or her best interests.

Again, here you’ll have to file a motion if you hope to achieve modification of an existing order, regardless of whether that order pertains to child custody, spousal support, or some other family law issue. Once you file your motion, the court will set the matter for a hearing where you’ll have the opportunity to make your argument. Just like in a rule to show cause hearing, preparation can be key.

Don’t let your ex-spouse take advantage of you

In many instances, when an ex-spouse willfully violates a court order they do so because they think the other ex-spouse won’t do anything about it. Don’t let that happen to you. Let your ex-spouse know that you mean business and that you’ll do whatever is necessary to ensure that you’re treated with fairness. Even if you’re hesitant to be confrontational with your ex-spouse, don’t worry. There are aggressive and highly skilled family law professionals who stand ready to zealously advocate for your interests in these matters.