Throughout your divorce, you might have several Court Orders in place. They might be temporary or permanent, and the Orders might pertain to child support or custody. At the end of the day, Orders must be followed or there will be consequences. At least that is what the Court rules state technically. Practically speaking, however, violations of Court Orders are not as cut and dry as you might think. The Court has full discretion for interpreting and enforcing Orders, so knowing the rules is the first step to a successful case.
The first step is to determine what type of Motion you should file. While the possibilities are generally specific to your case, there are three types of Motions commonly used:
1. Motion to Clarify
Sometimes a Court’s Order might seem clear at first, but once the parties seek to apply the ruling to their daily lives the waters are muddied. If the verbiage of the Order was unclear, a party (or both parties together) might opt to file a Motion to Clarify. In essence, by filing this request, you are asking the Court to refine its ruling. This Motion is not asking the Court to find the other party at fault and is used most when everyone recognizes the need to future-proof the Order.
2. Motion to Enforce
A Motion to Enforce kicks things up a notch. In this scenario, whether the Order is crystal clear, the moving party is asking the Court to find that the non-moving party failed to live up to the Court’s Order. For example, maybe the Order requires a specific visitation schedule or requires one parent to pay for certain activities for child support. A Motion to Enforce can be used to keep the language of the Order the same while asking the Court to force the other party to follow whatever protocols are required. Attorney fees may be granted (especially for child support issues).
3. Motion for Contempt
The most difficult Motion to bring in this situation is a Motion for Contempt. The process is a bit different, too. First, you must file an ex parte request, which acts as a preliminary hurdle. You must establish sufficient cause to have the Court grant an Order forcing the other party to appear in Court to defend themselves on the issue. If the Court does not find sufficient basis for your Motion, you do not get to move onto the next step. If the ex parte Motion is granted, both parties will then appear in a full hearing. Here is the tough part, the Court must find that the breach was intentional and in bad faith. If contempt is found, the Court may grant attorney fees and a civil penalty. If the contempt is not “fixed,” which is different depending on the violation, additional penalties and even jail are available as remedies.
During a Divorce, parties are often at opposite sides on many issues. Violations of Court Orders may be small, and if that is the case, then filing the Motion might not be worth the cost. In cases where the violations are sufficient, knowing which route to take might save you time and money while applying the best remedy for the situation. For a free case evaluation, call the law offices of Magnuson Lowell, P.S. Our experienced team of litigators is available to help you understand your rights during a Divorce.