What is enforcement?
When a divorce is over the parties have a court order which is either reached through an agreement of the parties or dictated by the Court in the absence of an agreement. The most typical court order is called a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage.
Many Final Judgments contain provisions that require one or both parties to do certain things or honor certain obligations in the future. These regularly include: cooperation in sharing time with children, cooperation with raising children, paying child support, paying alimony, transferring assets, and paying debts. Other obligations can be as varied as life itself. As such, the need to enforce court ordered obligations is sometimes an issue.
Divorced persons sometimes find themselves needing to spend energy, time and money enforcing court orders. After already going through the difficulties of a divorce this can sometimes be very taxing. The best way to avoid or limit this secondary process is to have your settlement agreements and court orders expertly crafted to make enforcement easier and less expensive. Thereafter, having an attorney who can effectively enforce a court order can have a chilling effect on a former spouse who may not otherwise be willing to comply with court orders.
At the Anton Legal Group we understand both the psychological and legal sides of court order enforcement. First, we craft court orders so that they are easier to enforce. In addition, should it become necessary to enforce a court order, we know how to navigate the processes and procedures necessary to do so, even in our debtor friendly state of Florida. This includes the possibility of requiring the non-compliant former spouse to compensate the compliant former spouse for their attorney’s fees and court costs necessitated by court order enforcement actions. We understand the remedies of garnishment, attachment, foreclosure, judgments and contempt. We also understand how to remove state provided privileges such as driver’s licenses and work related licenses such as contractor, medical or accounting licenses to name just a few. Lastly we understand contempt and incarceration or jail.
Why would someone need to seek an attorney for enforcement?
Unfortunately it can be very difficult to enforce a court order without an attorney because, for a non-attorney, the process can be very confusing and difficult.
The court typically requires a motion and then mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful, then a court hearing may follow. There are certain ways that certain types of obligations can be enforced and certain ways in which they cannot. A client needs to understand their options and their limitations both prior to and during any enforcement process.
For example, while some obligations can be enforced through contempt of court and incarceration, many cannot. Some obligations can be enforced through income deduction, where funds are taken right out of an obligor’s paycheck. Other obligations can be enforced by freezing assets and acquiring the asset yourself, such as a bank account or an investment account or retirement account. Others can be enforced by obtaining a judgment against the obligor which attaches to some of what they own, and which hurts their credit.
Matters that should be left to the expertise of an attorney:
- Picking and choosing which of the available collection options apply to your situation;
- Picking the collection or enforcement procedure best calculated to get you the result you need as quickly, efficiently and inexpensively as possible;
- Considering which enforcement options will provide the former spouse or obligor with the incentive to comply with ongoing court orders in the future; and
- Increasing your chances of receiving your enforcement attorney’s fees and costs.
The enforcement part of the family law process can be difficult and may require skills, experience and knowledge which are foreign to many family law practitioners. Many family law attorneys do not understand enforcement and thus do not to become involved in enforcing court orders. These same attorneys also may not understand how to craft agreements and court orders that are more easily enforceable.
What options does someone have when seeking enforcement of child support?
Child support is one of the few obligations where you can employ almost any option available for debt collection, including many options that are not available for other types of debt collection. You can ask for contempt and incarceration, this being the most severe remedy. You can also ask for garnishment of wages through an income-withholding order where money is continuously taken out of the other person’s pay as if it were taxes and social security, with the Payor former spouse or parent having no choice in the matter. Child support can also be enforced through obtaining a judgment against the obligor. Support can be enforced through finding assets and garnishing or attaching or freezing them so the money comes right out of their bank account or retirement account or other assets that they may have. Child support is rarely, if ever, dischargeable in bankruptcy. Alimony enforcement also allows for many of these remedies which are not available when collecting ordinary debts.
How does the Anton Legal Group help your clients with enforcement issues?
Our firm runs the full gamut of enforcement procedures. We understand most aspects of enforcement procedures. We first meet with the client and review the court order to be enforced. We then discuss with the client the options and costs involved in enforcement. Then, once we map a strategy, we proceed to do whatever it takes within the bounds of advocacy and the law needed to enforce what has already been court-ordered.