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Post-Divorce Issues

Although a divorce has been granted and a final decree has been entered, the issues between the parties do not dissipate. After the divorce, the court continues to have authority over the parties with regard to any obligations they were ordered to perform under the divorce decree. If the parties do not proceed according to the decree, the court can enforce the order by placing one of the ex-spouses in contempt or fining him or her.

Enforcement Of Divorce Decree

The court that issued the final divorce decree has the continuing authority to enforce its provisions. Either party can bring a suit to enforce the decree with the court at any time. After hearing evidence, the court may hold the non-complying party in contempt for refusing to follow the provisions in the decree.

Typically, issues arise as to property division (identity of property, time and manner of delivery) and the decree may need to be clarified. Rather than hold one party in contempt, the court can issue a "clarification order" setting out further instructions for the division of property.

SIDEBAR: The judge cannot amend or change a final divorce decree. Clarifying the decree simply clears up any ambiguity; it cannot change the original terms. For instance, if the decree ordered the husband to put all the household furnishings in storage for the wife and he did not include the china or silver, the judge can clarify that "furnishings" in the original decree included china and silver. Broadening "furnishings" to encompass additional items is not considered to be a change; it is a clarification of what the judge meant by the term.

My husband quit paying my support payments. How do I get the decree enforced so he will make the payments as ordered?

You must file a suit to enforce the decree. The court can then convert the past due payments into a money judgment. The judgment is just like any other judgment that a person could obtain against your husband, and he becomes a judgment debtor.

TIP: Judgments are enforced by first filing with the county clerk, and then by seeking certain legal actions. For instance, once you have a judgment, you can obtain a writ of garnishment. A writ of garnishment is a legal summons concerning the taking of wages of a debtor to satisfy a debt. As and example, the writ can be served on the husband's bank, and any money in the debtor's account is taken, or garnished, to satisfy the judgment.

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