How to Enforce a Divorce Decree Without an Attorney? A Step-by-Step Guide

A divorce decree is a court order that finalizes the terms of your divorce, such as property division, child custody, child support, alimony, and other issues.

It is legally binding and both parties must comply with it.

However, sometimes one party may violate the divorce decree by not paying child support or alimony, not following the custody or visitation schedule, not transferring property or debts, or not complying with other obligations.

Image of divorced wife
Divorced wife [PHOTO COURTESY OF DUPAGE]
If this happens, you may need to take action to enforce the divorce decree and protect your rights.

Steps to Enforce a Divorce Decree

The steps to enforce a divorce decree may vary depending on the state where you live, the type of violation, and the remedies you seek.

However, in general, you can follow these steps:

1.Contact your ex-spouse and try to resolve the issue.

The first step is to communicate with your ex-spouse and try to work out the problem amicably.

You can send a letter, an email, or a text message reminding them of their obligations under the divorce decree and asking them to comply.

You can also suggest mediation or arbitration as alternative ways to resolve the dispute without going to court.

This may save you time, money, and stress.

2.Gather evidence of the violation.

If your ex-spouse does not respond or refuses to cooperate, you will need to gather evidence of the violation.

This may include copies of the divorce decree, bank statements, receipts, pay stubs, tax returns, correspondence, photos, videos, witness statements, or any other relevant documents or information that can prove that your ex-spouse has not followed the divorce decree.

3.File a motion for contempt of court.

The next step is to file a motion for contempt of court with the same court that issued the divorce decree.

A motion for contempt of court is a legal document that asks the judge to find your ex-spouse in contempt of court for violating the divorce decree and order them to comply.

One of the most effective ways to enforce a divorce decree is to file a motion for civil contempt of court.

This is a legal document that asks the court to find the non-compliant party in contempt of court for violating the court order.

The motion must include evidence of the non-compliance, such as copies of the divorce decree, payment records, correspondence, or witness testimony.

It will then schedule a hearing to decide on the motion.

The non-compliant party will have a chance to explain why they did not follow the court order and present any defenses or excuses.

It will then determine whether the non-compliant party is in contempt of court and what sanctions or remedies are appropriate.

The court may order the non-compliant party to pay a fine, spend time in jail, or take certain actions to comply with the divorce decree.

It may also award attorney fees and costs to the filing party if they had to hire an attorney to file the motion.

Filing a motion for civil contempt of court can be done without an attorney, but it requires following the rules and procedures of the court.

One can find the forms and instructions for filing a motion for civil contempt of court on the website of their local family court or at the clerk’s office.

Alternatively, one can use an online service that provides legal forms and guidance for filing a motion for civil contempt of court¹.

Seek Criminal Non-Support Charges

Another way to enforce a divorce decree is to seek criminal non-support charges against the non-compliant party.

Divorce lawyer vs defense attorney
Family Lawyer vs. Divorce Lawyer[PHOTO COURTESY OF DRENDENS & JACKSONS]

This is applicable when the non-compliant party fails to pay child support or spousal support as ordered by the court.

Depending on the state laws, criminal non-support can be a misdemeanor or a felony offense that carries penalties such as fines, probation, or imprisonment.

seek criminal non-support charges, one must contact their local child support enforcement agency or district attorney’s office and report the non-payment of support.

The agency or office will then investigate the case and decide whether to file criminal charges against the non-compliant party.

The agency or office may also help with collecting the unpaid support through wage garnishment, tax refund interception, license suspension, or other methods.

Seeking criminal non-support charges can be done without an attorney, but it requires cooperation with the authorities and providing evidence of the non-payment of support.

One can find more information about seeking criminal non-support charges on their state’s child support enforcement website.

Pursue Collections Procedures

A third way to enforce a divorce decree is to pursue collections procedures against the non-compliant party.

This is applicable when the non-compliant party owes money or property to the other party as ordered by the court.

For example, if the non-compliant party was supposed to pay off a joint debt or transfer title of a vehicle to the other party.

To pursue collections procedures, one must first obtain a judgment against the non-compliant party for the amount or value of what they owe.

This can be done by filing a motion for enforcement of property settlement with the court that issued the divorce decree.

The motion must include evidence of what was ordered by the court and what has not been paid or transferred by the non-compliant party.

Once one has obtained a judgment, they can use various methods to collect it from the non-compliant party. Some of these methods include:

1.Recording a lien on their property
2.Levying their bank accounts
3.Garnishing their wages
4.Seizing their assets
5.Selling their property at an auction

Pursuing collections procedures can be done without an attorney, but it requires following the rules and procedures of the court and using proper forms and documents.

One can find more information about pursuing collections procedures on their state’s court website or at the clerk’s office.

Alternatively, one can use an online service that provides legal forms and guidance for pursuing collections procedures.

Conclusion

Enforcing a divorce decree without an attorney can be a difficult and time-consuming process, but it is not impossible.

There are several ways to try to get the non-compliant party to comply with the court order, such as filing a motion for civil contempt of court, seeking criminal non-support charges, or pursuing collections procedures.

However, each of these methods has its own advantages and disadvantages, and one should weigh them carefully before taking action.

One should also consider the possibility of reaching an agreement with the non-compliant party through mediation or negotiation, which may save time, money, and stress.

If one is unsure about how to enforce a divorce decree without an attorney, they should consult with a legal professional who can advise them on their options and rights.

A legal professional can also help with preparing and filing the necessary forms and documents, representing them in court, and collecting the judgment.

One can find a qualified and affordable divorce attorney in their area by using an online service that matches them with local lawyers who specialize in divorce law.

 

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