Enforcing Court Orders in Family Court
In a perfect world when the court ordered someone to pay you money they would do it without hesitation. But in reality parties sometimes do not do what the court has ordered. This is frustrating experience to say the least, especially if it took a great deal of effort to obtain that order in the first place. The purpose of this article is to discuss ways we go about enforcing court orders to pay money or transfer property.
Contempt of Court / Order to Show Cause Proceedings
The most common remedy Courts use when someone does not follow their orders is holding the disobedient party in “contempt of court.” If the court finds someone in contempt it can order them put in jail, fined, and a host of other unpleasant consequences. The idea behind this process is most people do not like being put in jail and having to pay fines and the Court hopes the threat of such will persuade parties to follow orders. The Court may also order your ex to pay your attorney fees for having to hire a lawyer to enforce your court order.
To start the contempt process we requested what is known as an “order to show cause” from the Court. An order to show cause is an order directed to the disobedient party telling them they have to show up to court on a certain date to “show cause” why they should not be held in contempt and sanctioned. There’s a three part test to prove someone is in “contempt”: First, that they are aware of a valid pre-existing court order. Second, they had the ability to comply. Third, they intentionally refused to comply with that order. If the Court finds these three elements are met it may hold the other party in contempt.
If the Court is persuaded your ex is disobeying your order it will likely enter a “judgment” against him/her for the amount owed plus your reasonable attorney fees and threaten your ex with jail time, court fines. A “judgment” is a determination by the court that your ex owes you a certain amount of money. Your ex will be given an opportunity to “purge” themselves of contempt by following the order going forward and reimbursing your legal fees. But if your ex fails to follow the order they may not be leaving the courthouse through the same door they came in.
Office of Recovery Services
If the other side has been ordered to pay you child support and is not sending you a check each month voluntarily the simplest way to collect child support is usually by opening up a case with the Utah Office of Recovery Services (“ORS”). ORS will contact your ex’s employer and have them automatically garnish child support from his/her paycheck each pay period. This is a convenient approach for everyone involved because you do not have to worry about your ex forgetting to mail a check and ORS diligently keeps of log of what has been paid so there is not a he said / she said spitting match later on.
However, if your ex is self-employed or works under the table in cash it may not be practical to go through ORS to collect child support.
If your ex is required to sign a document to comply with the Court’s order (e.g. a tax return, quit claim deed to a house, passport application, etc.) but refuses to do so then the Court has power to authorize the Court Clerk to sign that document on your ex’s behalf with the same legal effect as if your ex had signed it. In essence, you can ask for permission to legally forge your ex’s signature on a document to ensure the Court’s order is followed.
Once the Court has awarded you a “judgment” there are several ways to enforce it if your ex does not voluntarily pay what is owed. We can request a supplemental order from the court allowing us to seize money from your ex’s paycheck, bank accounts, etc., put a lien on any real estate your ex owns, and in some cases have the sheriff go out to your ex’s home and start seizing property to satisfy the judgment.
Get an Experienced Family Law Attorney On Your Side
Enforcing court orders can be a complicated process regardless of whether you are enforcing the order or defending against a claim that you are not doing what you should be doing. Give the smart, experienced lawyers at Wiser Family Law a call today for help. 855-254-2600