Unfortunately, a final judgment of divorce does not always end all legal problems. For example, it’s not unusual for a party to stop paying spousal or child support or violate the custody or parenting time arrangement after the divorce. When one or both parties fail to comply with the divorce settlement agreement, everyone may end up back in court to enforce the divorce settlement agreement.
What Are Your Options for Enforcing Your Divorce Settlement Agreement?
Generally, you have two options for litigating your case:
Sue for breach of your divorce settlement agreement.
A settlement agreement is like any other contract. If one party doesn’t comply with the terms, the other one can sue in court for breach of contract. When you take this path, you are starting a new action in a different court than hearing your divorce.
File a post-judgment enforcement action.
In this scenario, the party seeking enforcement files an action with the court that decided the divorce to enforce the original order.
Which Is the Best Option for Enforcing a Divorce Settlement Agreement?
Generally, option two is the better choice for enforcing a divorce settlement agreement. Option one requires that a party start from scratch and file a summons and verified complaint followed by a motion to enforce the agreement. This is usually more costly than the second option because a post-judgment enforcement action is essentially a continuation of the original divorce proceeding so no summons and complaints are needed.
The other downside with starting a new breach of contract action is that the case is in a new court and the judge may not be familiar with the intricacies of divorce settlement agreements. With a post-judgment enforcement action, the case is heard by a matrimonial law judge.
Importantly, there is no time limit on filing a post-judgment enforcement action. Certain sections of the agreement can be enforced upwards of 20 years after the agreement was signed. However, we recommend that any action be taken as soon after the breach as possible as the evidence of the breach will be fresh and largely accounted for and the party suffering from the breach doesn’t have to answer questions as to why he or she delayed in taking action thereto.
If you are involved in a dispute with your former spouse over your divorce settlement or custody agreement, skilled legal representation is essential. An experienced family law attorney can help you enforce the terms of the agreement or advise you of your options if you are the one who is not in compliance.
Contact us to help you find the best solution for your post-divorce dispute.