Post-divorce legal disputes are not unusual. As time passes, circumstances can change and one party cannot or will not meet their obligations. For example, a former spouse may stop paying spousal or child support or violate the custody arrangement as provided in the divorce settlement or custody agreement. If this happens to you, you can enforce your rights by filing a post-judgment enforcement action. However, going to court can be costly, which leaves the open question of whether you can recover your attorney’s fees in a post-judgment enforcement action.
Situations Where Recovering Attorney’s Fees is Possible
If a party is seeking contempt against their former spouse for violating a court order, recovering of attorney’s fees is possible. To prove your case, typically, the court will require you to show that your ex-spouse intentionally violated the agreement without a good reason and the violation was calculated to impede the rights of you or your child. If the judge grants the motion for contempt, he or she can order your ex-spouse to pay a fine, pay your attorney’s fees and/or go to jail.
If your divorce settlement or custody agreement provides for the payment of legal fees in the event of a default, attorney’s fees may also be recovered. Importantly, the agreement should explicitly state that a party can recover attorney’s fees from the other party when a post-judgment enforcement action is commenced in court and the default is subsequently (and miraculously) cured. With such a provision, you need not obtain a verdict because you reserved the right to attorney’s fees when the default was cured after you commenced the action.
Ending up in court can have serious consequences. If you are the one who has violated the divorce agreement and you have a good reason for failing to comply, you should contact an attorney to discuss renegotiating your agreement with your ex-spouse so as to avoid a post-judgment enforcement action. Being proactive as opposed to reactive is, in many cases, the best way to avoid having an enforcement action filed against you if possible.
Enforcing rights under a divorce or custody agreement can be both tricky and difficult. Experienced legal counsel can help. Contact us for assistance with your matter.