In a car crash or other negligence claim for damages, the judge’s final order puts the matter to rest, in most cases. But divorce orders are not like that, especially if the decree involves ongoing obligations, such as support payment or co-parenting arrangements. IN these cases, obligated parties are sometimes unwilling or unable to follow these orders. In cases like these, a motion to enforce may be appropriate.
The Orlando contempt & enforcement lawyers at the O’Mara Law Group stand up for your legal rights in these situations. Respect for each other, and for the judge’s orders, are central to a successful co-parenting arrangement. Without due respect, the whole thing may fall apart. So, we work diligently to enforce, and when necessary, modify court orders.
When and Why to Pursue Contempt Charges
Many years ago, spy novelist Ian Fleming wrote that “once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and thrice is enemy action.” This same principle applies in many parenting plan enforcement motions. For example, if Bill brings Sara back to her mother late on one or two occasions, these things happen. But if Bill consistently brings Sara back late, there may be a power play involved. So, Teresa (Sara’s mom) probably needs to file a motion to enforce before things get worse.
Other contempt motions involve a one-time traumatic event. Assume Bill goes to Teresa’s house to pick up Sara for the weekend, and the two are nowhere to be found. Bill probably needs to file an immediate motion to enforce along with a writ of habeas corpus. That writ commands Teresa to bring Sara to court.
A legal doctrine called unclean hands sometimes comes into play here. If both Bill and Teresa have been guilty of violating the court orders, the judge may refuse to order enforcement. They have unclean hands.
Financial enforcement orders are a bit different. If Bill falls behind on child support, the Attorney General may have exclusive jurisdiction over the matter. If Teresa falls behind on spousal support, the decree probably allows Bill to serve a wage withholding order on Teresa’s employer.
What to Expect
Many times, attorneys combine motions to enforce with motions to modify. This combination does not just address the current situation. It also makes the orders more sustainable going forward, and that usually means fewer motions to modify.
Discovery gives both parties an opportunity to investigate the matter. Perhaps Teresa is behind on spousal support payments because her work hours have been slashed, or perhaps Bill is late dropping off Sara because he has moved. Discovery is a court-supervised process that involves an information exchange between the parties.
In parenting plan enforcement actions, discovery might also include a social services report. A social worker investigates the matter and makes a recommendation as to parenting time orders. These recommendations are not binding on the court, but most judges give them considerable weight.
Mediation resolves most motions to enforce. When the parties work out the dispute on their own with the help of a neutral third party, litigants have more control over the outcome. That control usually increases voluntary compliance and therefore decreases the need for enforcement motions.
Reach Out to Assertive Lawyers
A motion to enforce may be the course correction that your parenting plan needs. For a consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Orlando, contact the O’Mara Law Group. Convenient payment plans are available.
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