Post Judgment Enforcement and Modification of Court Orders
A divorce action ends with a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, which typically involves prospective provisions concerning parental responsibility and timesharing with minor children, child support, spousal support, or a combination of such things.
Ideally, following the entry of a Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage, the divorced spouses will comply with all of the support and parenting provisions, and there will be no unforeseen circumstances that may necessitate a modification, and the divorced spouses will not need to return to court. But because the parenting and support obligations will continue for years following the entry of the Final Judgment, it is not uncommon for the parties to have to return to court at some point regarding (i) enforcement and/or contempt of the Final Judgment; and/or (ii) modification of the Final Judgment.
Enforcement/contempt: When one party fails to comply with his or her obligations as set forth in a Final Judgment, or when the parties disagree regarding compliance or non-compliance with such obligations, it may be necessary to seek a court order enforcing the obligation. In the event one party willfully violates an unambiguous obligation set forth in the Final Judgment, the other party may seek not only an order enforcing the obligation, but also an order holding the non-complying party in contempt of court. Post-judgment motions for enforcement and/or contempt most commonly involve allegations that one party has failed to pay the other party the monthly alimony or child support ordered by the Court. To resolve such motions, the court must define and interpret the obligation set forth in the order, determine whether the obligor has complied with the obligation, and if not, determine whether such non-compliance was willful. The court has various tools to enforce its orders and/or to punish a party for non-compliance, including attorney’s fees, fines, and even incarceration.
Modification: As noted above, the parenting and support obligations set forth in the Final Judgment are intended to set forth the parties’ rights and responsibilities for several years. In some cases, a subsequent change in one or both parties’ circumstances may warrant a modification of the previously entered Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage—for example, a different amount of child support, a different amount of alimony, or a different timesharing schedule for the parties’ minor child(ren). Absent the parties’ agreement, a modification to the Final Judgment of Dissolution requires the case to be re-opened with a supplemental petition for modification. The supplemental petition must allege, and the petitioner must ultimately prove, that, since the entry of the Final Judgment of Dissolution, there has been a change of circumstances that is (i) substantial, (ii) unforeseen, (iii) involuntary (from the perspective of the petitioner), and (iv) permanent, and that such change warrants a modification to some aspect of the Final Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage—most often the provisions for child support, spousal support, timesharing, or parental responsibility.
The family law attorneys at Older, Lundy & Alvarez bring the same experience, expertise and passion to post-judgment enforcement and modification issues as they bring to issues involved in the original divorce proceedings. As in the original proceedings, many post-judgment disputes can be resolved through negotiation or mediation, and ultimately a settlement. When those options have been exhausted or are not possible, our attorneys stand ready and prepared to present a persuasive case in court in pursuing or defending against a motion for contempt, motion for enforcement, or supplemental petition for modification.
Call Older Lundy & Alvarez for Help with Enforcement And Modification Issues
For advice and representation regarding enforcement, contempt, or modification of Final Judgments of Dissolution of Marriage, call Older Lundy & Alvarez at 813-254-8998 to speak with a dedicated and effective Tampa family law attorney.