Enforcing Property Division Orders after Divorce

Enforcing Property Division Orders after Divorce

By: M. Scott Gordon

Divorce itself can be a long, drawn out process, especially contested divorces where spouses cannot agree on how to divide marital property. Once you finally receive the judge’s order, you might breathe a sigh of relief and believe this particularly stressful chapter of your life is finally over.

Think again. Although a judge might tell you how to divide property, often you need your ex to take some action to make the transfer complete. But what happens if your spouse digs in his or her heels and refuses to go along with the judge’s order? After all, there is no reason to assume a resistant spouse will suddenly become compliant once the divorce is complete. Fortunately, you do have options for compelling compliance with property division and other court orders, but you should meet with a Chicago divorce attorney right away to discuss your options.

Contempt Proceedings

A judge will not personally go obtain the keys to a car and give them to you. A judge also will not divide up retirement accounts, bank accounts, or other assets. All a judge does is issue a paper order expecting both sides to follow through.

However, judges do expect parties that appear before them to follow these orders. If your ex refuses, then you can bring an action for something called “contempt of court.”

In a contempt proceeding, you basically point out to the judge that your ex is not following the order and ask the judge to enforce them. Judges have a variety of techniques for compelling compliance, such as:

  • Fining your ex money for each day they violate the order
  • Sending your ex to jail until they agree to follow the order
  • Both

These are serious penalties which usually work to get a recalcitrant spouse to go along with the property division as Ordered in the divorce decree. Some exes are quite shocked to find themselves possibly in jail for not taking the court order seriously, and a night behind bars often sets them straight.

How a Lawyer Can Help

Instead of rushing to the courthouse to file paperwork to find your ex in contempt, you should meet with a lawyer first to discuss the issue. In some situations, filing a contempt charge might not be in your best interest, especially if your ex can credibly claim that they did not intentionally violate the court order. A judge will not find someone in contempt for inadvertent mistakes and bringing an action for contempt in that case could make you look bad before the judge. A lawyer can help you think through these issues and decide if a contempt action is the right step to take.

Speak with a Chicago Divorce Lawyer

At Gordon & Perlut, LLC, we understand that frustration with an ex-spouse can extend well after a judge has granted the final divorce decree. Whether you are seeking to enforce a property division, child support, or child visitation order, we can help. To schedule your consultation, please call 312-360-0250.