One of the toughest things for people to understand when going through a divorce (and afterward) is that sometimes people just don’t do what they are supposed to do, even once a court tells them to. One would think that if two people disagreed on things enough to end a marriage, they would certainly not be surprised by their ex-spouse refusing to do something like pay alimony or child support. Nevertheless, the question always seems to arise: why won’t they pay? The good news is, there are ways to make the person comply. The bad news is, it’s not as easy as you might think.
Fortunately, a skilled divorce lawyer can help you enforce the court order or settlement agreement. To get started, here’s what you should expect.
Before you can get a court to enforce anything, you should first understand what you are seeking to enforce. Is it a judgement from a trial verdict, or is it a settlement agreement that the court reviewed and ordered? While both have the same legal effect, they may come with different emotions attached. After all, a verdict means that the provision your spouse is refusing to honor was forced on them. Whereas, if it’s an agreed settlement, then your spouse actually signed the agreement, committing to be bound by it.
Once you and your attorney determine that your ex (a) has the ability to pay the ordered support (whether child support or alimony) and (b) is willingly refusing or failing to do so, then the next step is for you to file a petition with the court that rendered the initial order that is being violated. The petition will seek to force that person to come to court and explain the reasons for his (or her) failure to comply. This is often called a contempt proceeding or “Rule to Show Cause.”
Under Maryland Court Rules, you may bring a civil contempt petition which will then be served on your ex. They will have to show up and defend your allegations. You are the petitioner, and your ex is the respondent. A hearing is held to determine whether the respondent was indeed in contempt or whether there is good cause to modify the agreement or court order.
Unfortunately, while you may be the one harmed by the failure to pay, judges are fair and want to be sure no one is being unduly placed in a position of hardship. Often, respondents show up to these hearings unprepared, unrepresented, and with no documentation. The court is generally willing to grant time for the respondent to hire an attorney or reschedule the hearing to get more time to gather their paperwork for a defense.
In the meantime, your ex may be able to cure the contempt by making catch-up payments or renegotiating the settlement agreement. Either way, the process will not happen overnight. A lot depends on the court’s schedule, and the judge’s willingness to entertain negotiations.
With offices in Columbia and Glen Burnie, you can count on the Law Offices of Todd K. Mohink, P.A. to deliver effective, aggressive, and caring representation when you need it most. While we can’t guarantee everything will work out the way you want, we will fight hard to make sure your rights are protected from start to finish. For a consultation, call or visit us online today.
7310 Ritchie Highway, Suite 910
Glen Burnie, MD 21061
30 Corporate Center
10440 Little Patuxent Parkway,
Columbia, MD 21044