Follow the Rules When Enforcing Financial Obligations in Your Divorce Decree

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If your ex-spouse violates the financial obligations in your divorce decree, you can go to court to obtain what you’re owed. However, you must follow specific steps in order to seize your ex-spouse’s property including obtaining a judgment and filing it with the county clerk’s office. If you fail to comply with the rules, you may have to start from the beginning or attempt one of the options discussed in this post, which are in the clerk’s or court’s discretion to decide.

Enforcing Financial Obligations

A divorce decree contains the terms of the parties’ divorce including distribution of marital assets, spousal support, child support, child custody and parenting time. These terms are legally enforceable court orders that must be fulfilled. If one party fails to comply, the other party can file a post-judgment enforcement action. However, where a financial obligation is involved, the party seeking enforcement must get a separate judgment that allows him or her to obtain the other spouse’s property in payment for the debt owed under the divorce decree. This separate judgment authorizes the sheriff to seize the offending party’s property.

Perfecting a Judgment

It isn’t enough to just get a separate judgment from the judge. The judgment must then be filed with the court clerk to “perfect” it and make it enforceable in any county where your spouse has property that can be seized. This must be done within a specified time limit.

Correcting a Failure to Perfect the Judgment 

If the deadline for perfecting the judgment has passed, you have 3 options:

  1. Try to file late. The clerk may accept it even though you missed the deadline.
  2. Ask the court to give you an extension. If the clerk rejects your filing, you can reapply to the court for additional time to perfect the judgment. You must provide a good reason and details why you are late.
  3. Refile the action seeking a judgment. While this is an option, courts are more likely to grant the extension provided you have a valid reason for your delay. This is because of general principles of judicial economy. It is more efficient to give you more time to file than waste more of the court’s time starting your action all over again.

It is critical to follow the proper rules and procedures when enforcing a judgment to avoid delays and minimize unnecessary costs. Always work with an experienced attorney who understands the requirements.

If you need assistance enforcing the terms of a divorce decree or you haven’t complied with the divorce decree, contact us to learn how we can help you.

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