Enforcing The Rules In Your Divorce
A few details
If you have a court order that your ex is not following, s/he may be in contempt of court. Modern Law may be able to enforce your judgment.
YOU SHOULD KNOW
Modern Law can help look for hidden assets and facilitate a garnishment or seizure of property (or bank accounts) in order to ensure your ex complies with court orders.
How we can help
At Modern Law, our goal is to make the other party comply as quickly as possible. This may mean a demand letter or an action in accountability court.
1 – Support Enforcement Court
In Maricopa County, which has courthouses in Mesa, Phoenix, and Surprise, Support Enforcement Court is specifically designed for parties who need to enforce a child support or spousal maintenance order. You can also seek enforcement of arrearages, or monies that were due to you in the past but have not been paid. You may also wish to seek enforcement of medical insurance coverage or unpaid medical expenses.
In “Enforcement Court” a hearing is automatically set with a Family Court Conference Officer after a petition to enforce is filed. An order to appear will be issued. A one-hour hearing is set to try and figure out a solution between the parties. If it is unsuccessful, the parties will immediately go into a 45-minute evidentiary hearing before a Judge. This is a very fast process. You will want to be prepared with all of your evidence when you are ordered to appear. For instance, if you have receipts proving payments or expenses, you will need to have them with you. I also recommend sending copies of all of your evidence to the opposing party in advance.
After the evidentiary hearing, you will immediately receive a ruling. This can be in contrast with the long and difficult divorce process described here. Support Enforcement Court is designed to be fast-tracked, simplified, and efficient. So, preparation prior to filing a petition to enforce is essential.
Depending on your circumstances, the court may put monitoring in place for up to 12 months to ensure that the parties comply with the court orders. If the court determines longer monitoring is appropriate because of chronic violations or large amounts of arrearages, your case may end up in accountability court.
While Enforcement Court is not the same as family court, several rules still apply. You may not bring children with you to court. You may not speak to the family conference provider by yourself without the opposing party present. This is called ex-parte communications. If you need to reschedule the date of your hearing, you must file a motion to continue for good cause. Do not ignore your hearing date.
2 – Family Court
Notice I did not suggest that you file a Petition to Enforce Parenting Time in Enforcement Court. Parents often ask me what they can do when one party is not following the parenting plan. Most of the time, a modification may be more appropriate than seeking to enforce a parenting plan. The Court cannot exactly force your ex to pick up the kids on time. Depending on your specific facts, there may be other remedies, but enforcement may not be the best way to go here.
If a party wants to seek modification of legal decision-making or parenting time along with support enforcement, your case will not go to enforcement court. Instead, all issues will be heard simultaneously by your family court judge.
To enforce property division or other issues from a divorce decree, like refinancing a house to get your name off of the loan, you will not go through the process in Support Enforcement Court. In that case, your Petition to Enforce will take you to the assigned Judge in family court for rulings on your enforcement issues. There, the process is very similar to the divorce process described here.
3 – Accountability Court
Accountability Court may be appropriate for your case if you have not received child support in more that twelve months or your ex owes you more than $20,000 in back support. Another requirement is that your support order be current, meaning you still have underage children at home, or the spousal support order is still in place. Additionally, if you have a judgment for arrears and you have secured a finding of contempt, your chances of being accepted into accountability court increases. Typically, the court will assign accountability court to repeat offenders who have consistently failed to pay their child support.
There are several reasons that a case may not be appropriate for accountability court, including:
- The case is for arrears only or for spousal maintenance only.
- The arrears are due to direct payment verification only.
- The person owing support has been awarded or is eligible for Social Security benefits.
- The person owing support has an open bankruptcy case.
- The person owing support has not received adequate notice of accountability court proceedings.
4 – Civil Court
There may be some cases where you must seek enforcement of a property settlement agreement in civil court. If you have signed a property settlement agreement or other marital settlement agreement that was attached but not merged with your divorce decree, you will need to enforce the contract in civil court. This can be especially frustrating when you are seeking to enforce spousal maintenance or child support (over which the family court has jurisdiction) and you are seeking to enforce property provisions of your marital settlement agreement or property settlement agreement (over which the family court will no longer have jurisdiction). It is VERY important to seek the advice of counsel before filing enforcement whenever you have multiple issues that may need to be heard by multiple courts.
Give us a call to talk about your enforcement issues.