Contempt of divorce settlement: what happens?

I’m happily divorced. Recently it came to my attention that the ex hadn’t done something that she agreed to do as part of the settlement. I spoke with my lawyer, and she sent a letter to opposing counsel (who was specifically named in the settlement as the person who would handle it).

My attorney stated that we were going to motion the County for counsel fees and contempt of the settlement.

What is involved with contempt like this? I could call my attorney, but she charges by the millisecond (no complaints; she is awesome) and I’m just anxiously/nervously awaiting results.:smiley:

Don’t know enough to really say. But generally, if the party is able to comply, they do so when they see the motion is being filed and the judge is about to order it with sanctions. If they can’t, due to lack of funds, etc., they go to court and explain the hardship and beg for more time. If they have simply decided they wish they didn’t have to do it, the judge is unlikely to sympathetic.

Thanks. Any idea on what “sanctions” would entail if the party chose to just ignore the situation?

reasonable attorneys fees, and perhaps more if they are just defying the authority of the court.

Don’t hold your breath, depending upon the state/county court system & their backlog, it could take quite some time to get scheduled, like months.

Very much depends on the situation. Typical sanctions for contempt include jail time, attorney fees, possible modification of custody/visitation, etc.

On a civil contempt, jail is coercive rather than punitive. The person in contempt is jailed until they comply with the existing order. Often used in child support cases, have also seen it used for spousal support, insurance, and other financial matters.

I don’t know what state you’re in or how they do things there, but in the state in which I used to practice, that motion would be called a “Rule to Show Cause” where you would hale your ex-wife into court to explain to the court why she shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for disobeying a court order. Our judges would get these things scheduled pretty quickly, and would expedite things to the next day or so if it was an emergency situation, but your situation did not sound like an emergency.

Chances are that the ex will have some excuse or other why said item was not accomplished and the judge will give her, say, 2 weeks or a month to get it done or face arrest for contempt of court. Our family courts did not look kindly upon their orders being ignored, but also gave some leeway to get 'er done. Things tend to get done when faced with actual jail.

Good luck.
N.B. I am a lawyer, but I am not your lawyer, and I am probably not even licensed to practice in your state and this is not legal advice in any way, shape or form. Further, this is an anonymous message board, so take whatever you read here with a humongous grain of salt.

Stopped at my attorney’s office yesterday, and while there my ex’s attorney called. He expressed frustration with the situation. Apparently the ex is “not cooperating” with him.

So, my attorney is doing a motion to hold her in contempt. We are going after my legal fees as well as other costs (her failure to do what the divorce required means that I am now served with a civil suit).

Man, this sucks. What is the worst case scenario?

Worst case for you—she files bankruptcy, and the bankruptcy court finds that whatever obligation she failed to meet in the divorce decree is dischargeable. In the meantime, the civil suit against you proceeds, you lose, and the judgment against you forces you into bankruptcy as well. Slightly less bad scenario–she doesn’t file bankruptcy, but legitimately cannot comply with the order, so she is not found in contempt, you get a judgment against her that you can’t collect, and still have to deal with the civil suit.

Worst case for her–your divorce decree was carefully drafted, her obligation is not dischargeable, she is found in willful, deliberate, and contumacious contempt of court and jailed until she complies with the terms of the order, plus has to pay your costs (including indemnifying you for the costs of the civil suit), attorney fees, etc.

Oak, her obligation entails some paperwork she needs to complete. No cost (responsible attorney fees, maybe). It’s contempt, period.

ETA: My alimony payments are always postmarked on the required date. Man am I pissed.

It’s a court order she’s disobeying. Courts don’t like that. She’ll be ordered to comply (if it’s possible) and may face being jailed until she does. Uncooperative exes tend to face reality rather quickly when reality knocks on the door with a warrant for arrest.
Again, I am a lawyer, but not your lawyer; this is not legal advice; yadda yadda yadda, monkey with a keyboard; whatever.

Too late to edit, but meant to add that after the ex complies with the order, your lawyer should move to have the claim against you dismissed in the civil case, citing the uncomplied-with order. I don’t know your circumstances, but if you’re not liable, you’re not liable.

But don’t ask us. What does your lawyer say about the civil suit?
IAAL bnyl. I am probably not licensed to practice in your state and this is not legal advice and don’t go by anything you read on an anonymous message board, etc. etc.

Actually, the civil suit is a minor ($35,000 minor) thing that my lawyer will be filing for dismissal on due to some procedural issues. My attorney initially offered my ex’s attorney that if he handled the civil suit motion and took care of the unhandled divorce issue, that we’d be happy with that.

Weeks went by and nothing. So now she suggests we play hardball.:frowning:

I’m just getting worried that the ex will say “fuck you” and not show up in court. If that happens, my lawyer is planning on getting the court to allow me to subtract the $$ from alimony payments.

I mentioned to my lawyer that since my ex is very likely to be ordered to pay my legal bills, she should pad them. She looked at me askance :dubious: and said she doesn’t swing that way. She is good and honest!

If your ex just doesn’t show up for court, the judge will undoubtedly issue a warrant for her arrest.

Changing an existing alimony order would be a lot more involved and would require due notice to the ex that it was going to be discussed in court and that would require more time (in my state - 30 days!) for her to arrange a defense, yadda, yadda. Better to just stick to the one issue and get it settled one way or the other. Either she complies with the order or she goes to jail. Simple and straight-forward.

I like the sound of your lawyer.