Maryville Family Law Attorneys Helping with Order Enforcement
Assistance with contempt of court orders in Blount County & East Tennessee
For many couples, divorce can be a lengthy and complicated process. Dividing up property and assets, negotiating alimony, and negotiating child support and custody takes a lot of work and cooperation. Once the two of you reach that settlement and your divorce is finalized, you and your ex-spouse should be able to move on with your separate lives and co-parent according to your agreement. However, what happens if one person doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain?
If an ex-spouse is unable to abide by the rules of your divorce order, they may be able to file for a divorce order modification. Modifications are available when one person has a material change in circumstances and a judge finds them significant enough to change your divorce order.
However, if it turns out that your ex is just unwilling to comply with your divorce order – refusing visitation, failing to pay alimony or child support, or other violations – you may be able to file for an order enforcement action. The Maryville divorce attorneys at Shepherd & Long, P.C. can work to ensure your divorce order is properly enforced, as well as file a contempt of court action when your ex-spouse continually refuses to comply.
What are Tennessee order enforcement actions?
Everyone is required to abide by a court order, whether it has to do with a family law matter or not. When someone fails to obey that order, it sometimes takes a Contempt of Court filing to force them to comply. In Tennessee, failure to comply with a court order can land a person in jail until they fulfill the requirements of the order.
You may need to file an enforcement action if your ex-spouse or partner:
- Damages property before turning it over
- Fails to pay child support
- Fails to pay health insurance
- Fails to provide required documents when asked
- Fails to transfer agreed-upon retirement accounts
- Refuses to allow visitation
If you’re having trouble with any of these issues, or another matter that should have been settled in your divorce agreement, you have legal recourse. For example, if your ex is withholding child support, Tennessee Child Support Enforcement withholds wages, income and tax refunds to help you and your child get the support to which they’re entitled. Our experienced Maryville order enforcement attorneys will work with you to file a court action if your ex-spouse continues to defy your divorce agreement.
How does the court enforce an order?
The court has several options when it comes to enforcing an order, depending on the circumstances of your case. First, they conduct a hearing which allows both parties to tell their side of the story. Once the court makes its decision, it’s legally binding and failure to comply can lead to even more penalties. The court can issue enforcement strategies, including:
- Formal written warnings (for first-time violators)
- Freezing accounts (puts a hold on a violator’s financial accounts)
- Property liens (prevents a person from selling or refinancing)
- Wage garnishments (withholding wages until obligations are met)
If you file a contempt of court action and win, your ex-spouse must comply with the original order, and may even be required to pay your attorney and court costs. The court may also lay down additional penalties.
My child’s other parent is violating our parenting plan. What can I do?
If your co-parent is denying you time with your child, a successful contempt of court action can provide the following types of relief:
- Require you get increased make-up time with your child
- In the case of serious violations, like when the other parent attempts to flee the state or country with the child, the court may give you primary custody or revoke the other parent’s child custody rights altogether
- Order the other parent jail time for their violations
You should remember, however, that the court typically penalizes a parent for violating a parenting plan only if the violations are serious and warrant penalties. When a co-parent drops off a child late once or twice, or is late with a few child support payments, it may not warrant a contempt action. The family law attorneys at Shepherd & Long can help you determine what actions may lead to a more successful outcome.
Are there steps I can take to avoid a Tennessee contempt of court action?
When it comes to matters of family law, contempt of court charges are civil and not criminal. However, that doesn’t mean a person still won’t potentially spend time in jail or face harsh financial penalties. You or your ex-spouse may be able to avoid these penalties and avoid contempt charges by taking some of these steps into consideration first.
- Follow your divorce or custody agreement. Read the divorce agreement thoroughly and ensure you’re aware of all deadlines and don’t miss them. Child support issues are typically the most common reason people file order enforcement actions. Failure to follow an order can lead to wage garnishment or jail time.
- Avoid making an informal agreement. During tough financial times, it’s not uncommon for ex-spouses to make an informal and temporary arrangement to reduce child support or alimony payments. Without a signed and approved court agreement, the court will still hold you both responsible for the original divorce order, and not your revised arrangement.
- Look into mediation. Mediation is an out-of-court proceeding that allows you and your ex to negotiate a solution with the help of a trained and third-party mediator. A mediator helps guide your negotiations, but does not make any judgements or decisions you. You can later submit your agreement to the court to make it legally binding.
- Seek a divorce modification. If you know you can no longer comply with your divorce agreement, talk to an experienced Maryville attorney about seeking a modification first. You may be able to work out a more favorable agreement and avoid order enforcement before it happens.
- Show up for every hearing or court appearance. If your ex does file a contempt of court action against you, you’ll have to appear in court. Ensure you don’t skip any hearings. If you are unsure about the date or time of a hearing, contact the court or attorney as soon as possible. Missing a court appearance can result in serious consequences and a likely negative outcome in your case.
If you believe you cannot meet the terms of your divorce or child support agreement, contact an East Tennessee family law attorney to get ahead of the problem and avoid costly and lengthy hearings.
Contact an experienced Maryville order enforcement lawyer today
Whether you are trying without success to get your ex-spouse to pay child support, or have been served with an order enforcement action, the attorneys at Shepherd & Long, P.C. can help. Our decades of experience in family law give you the guidance you need for a successful outcome to your case. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call us at 865-982-8060 or fill out our contact form. We regularly represent clients in Madisonville, Oak Ridge, Lenoir City and throughout East Tennessee.