The vast majority of divorces end with a settlement agreement, rather than a trial, and a judge’s orders. This settlement agreement clearly defines the rights and obligations of each party. Should one party fail to live up to those obligations, the agreement might have to be enforced. This usually requires requesting the court to compel the other party’s compliance. The judge has more tools as their disposal when the issue is a support order rather than a non-support obligation. A support issue includes alimony, attorney fees and child support. A non-support issue includes division of property, such as retirement funds, bank accounts and the marital home.
A Marital Settlement Agreement is essentially a contract between spouses, which is then ratified by the Court. The Agreement becomes a Court Order when there is a Final Judgment of Dissolution. Most spouses are shocked to find how little can actually be done to enforce a non-support order from a Marital Settlement Agreement. If the violation regards child support or spousal support, Florida Family Law Rule 12.615 dictates enforcement.
As an example, if certain debts were allocated to your ex, and he or she is not paying those debts, the judge has few options, other than to enter a judgment against the non-compliant party. The same is true if your ex is dragging their feet regarding the sale of the marital home; the judge can actually do little to force him or her to abide by the settlement agreement. There can be no incarceration and no civil suits when a non-support order is violated. Even in a very extreme case of violation of a non-support order, there are few options.
Suppose your ex was told to pay you $100,000 from his or her retirement savings account. Instead, your ex takes all the money out of the account, concealing it from you and refusing to hand it over. While this is obviously egregious behavior, there is little that can be done to force your ex to abide by the Settlement Agreement.
A support order is an entirely different matter; the judge can potentially find the party in contempt and can order incarceration. This would be true if one spouse stopped paying spousal support or child support. In this case your ex might be put in jail or charged with contempt of court. In the case of unpaid child support, wages can also be garnished, and driver’s licenses can be revoked.
Unfortunately, few divorce agreements clearly spell out the logistics of the agreement, and rarely is a post-divorce action plan put into place which lays out the necessary actions in order of priority, along with a timetable for achieving each action. Then if the order is not followed, you are within your rights to let the court know about the lack of follow-through. It can be extremely beneficial to have a Florida family law attorney by your side who has dealt with this type of situation before and can help you work out the best course of action when facing non-compliance.
Your attorney will investigate the situation fully, building your case step-by-step. Perhaps even more important is to have this knowledgeable Florida family law attorney by your side before you enter into a Marital Settlement Agreement. This could help avoid non-compliance issues altogether. In the end, every time you enter into a contract—and a Marital Settlement Agreement is a contract—you must consider how you would react to non-compliance and discuss the issue fully with your Florida family law attorney.
If you have concerns regarding the enforcement of your divorce agreement, the Coral Gables divorce lawyers at Estevez-Pazos Law Firm, P.A. are here to help. We can help you obtain the support you need during this time and petition the court to enforce the divorce settlement. Call us immediately for your consultation at (305) 717-7130 or fill out our confidential contact form and someone will call you back.