Once the divorce is final and the financial and parental issues have been resolved, disputes can still occur if one party does not comply with the divorce decree or wants to change it. Terms regarding child custody and visitation, support and distribution of marital assets contained in an agreement between the parties are all legally enforceable court orders that must be fulfilled. If one party fails to meet his/her obligations and the parties cannot agree on a resolution, the only option is to file a post-judgment modification or enforcement action.
Post-divorce disputes are not unusual because as time passes, the parties’ or their children’s circumstances change. If a party wants to change the terms of the divorce, he/she should consult an attorney about post-judgment modification before ceasing to comply. Otherwise, the party violating the agreement will likely face an enforcement action.
The most common reasons for a post-judgment modification or enforcement action include:
- Change in income. One parent may have experienced a significant drop or increase in income. As noted in a previous post, a party can seek modification of child support or spousal support in such a situation depending on the amount of the decrease or increase and other factors.
- Substantial change in circumstances. If there have been substantial changes to the cost of raising a child, such as a child who develops special needs, the court may modify support obligations. Examples include where the child receives a diagnosis of ADHD or other learning disability, and therefore requires remedial help in or out of school and the parents cannot agree on the help needed or who is responsible for paying for that help.
- Custodial parent seeking to relocate. If the custodial parent wants to relocate after a custody agreement is in place, he/she must request permission from the court if the other parent objects, or else risk losing parenting rights. The court will then decide whether relocation is in the best interests of the child.
- Objections to parenting time. Either of the parents or the children may want to change parenting time schedules and the parties cannot agree on a new schedule. Among other factors, the court will consider an older child’s opinion as to who he/she prefers to live with primarily or what the visitation schedule should be.
- Refusal to pay support. The party seeking enforcement can file an action in either Family Court or Supreme Court. The judge will determine what amount, if any, is owed. If support has not been paid or has not been paid in full, the court can do many things: (1) grant a money judgment for the arrears;(2) order the noncustodial parent into a work program; (3) order suspension of state-issued business, professional, or occupational licenses (including a driver’s license); or (4) issue probation or jail sentences if the court finds that the failure to pay was willful and in violation of an order of support. A party can also be granted an income execution to garnish the payor spouse’s wages to pay the support.
Where the terms of a divorce or custody agreement are not being complied with, legal representation is essential. An experienced family law attorney can help the person recover what’s owed to him/her or advise the party who is not in compliance about his/her options.
Contact us to help you find the best solution for your post-divorce dispute.