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What If My Ex-Spouse Doesn’t Follow The Divorce Decree?

by Sharon Jackson  on May 22, 2023 under 

Some couples feel so relieved once their divorce has become finalized. But some ex-spouses are just getting started. Divorce can continue to be difficult if your ex-spouse doesn’t follow your divorce decree. What are your legal options if you find yourself in this situation? Is there a way for you to resolve this issue outside of the courts? Let’s find out in today’s blog.

What Is A Divorce Decree?

A divorce decree is a legally enforceable order. It symbolizes the end of your marriage. A divorce decree is where you’ll find specific information like the division of assets, division of properties, child support and child custody.

Your divorce decree is valid as soon as a judge signs it. That means that the conditions of your divorce decree are enforceable by law. You and your ex-spouse must comply with the conditions of your divorce decree.

What If My Ex-Spouse Doesn’t Follow the Divorce Decree?

When your ex-spouse fails to comply with the divorce decree's obligations, he or she is disobeying the judge and the court. A court order is mandatory, not optional. When your ex does refuses to play by the rules, you may be tempted to take matters into your own hands. You might be thinking about altering the parenting schedule in retaliation for non-compliance. Don’t give into this temptation. Unilaterally changing the parenting schedule or taking actions to punish your ex may put you at risk of being held in contempt of court. Both you and your ex must follow the terms set in the divorce decree. If your ex-spouse is violating the terms of your divorce decree, there is one legal right that you can exercise.

Your Legal Rights After a Georgia Divorce Decree Violation

You have the right to hold your ex-spouse accountable for failing to comply with your divorce decree. The best way to do that is by having your lawyer file a motion for contempt on your behalf. Filing a motion allows the courts to ensure that the terms of the divorce decree are being met. If you can prove that your ex had the ability to meet the requirements, but failed to do so, the court can find your ex in contempt.

The judge has three options in contempt cases.

  • First, he can find that the other party is not in contempt. 
  • Alternatively, he can find that your ex is in contempt and willfully violated the court order. Willful means that the court believes your ex had the ability to comply but deliberately chose not to comply with the court order. 
  • The third option is that the judge can find that your ex did violate the court order and is in contempt, but the contempt was not willful.  An example of non-willful contempt would be if your ex failed to pay for child support because he or she became disabled and no longer had the ability to work and pay for the child support.

What Is A Modification?

Because the divorce decree is enforceable by law, you and your ex-spouse are allowed to change it. The only legal way to make changes is through modification.

A modification is a legal change to a court order. This can be for any portion of your divorce decree, like child support. It is common for a person’s situation to change over time. Your ex-spouse may have been laid off or experienced a serious illness. These circumstances are legitimate reasons for your ex-spouse to request a modification. No changes can be made to the divorce decree unless a modification is granted.

Hearing and Consequences

After you’ve filed a motion for contempt of court, the judge may request a hearing. As the injured party, you will be responsible for proving two things. 

  • First you have to show that there was a court order requiring your ex to perform a certain action such as paying child support, refinancing the home out of your name, paying alimony, or picking up the children at a certain time. 
  • Second, you have to prove that your ex failed to comply with the order of the court in the time and manner required. 

While you can do this on your own, you also have the option of working with a family lawyer. If the judge decides to hold your ex-spouse in contempt of court, they can face several consequences. The judge can order a large range of remedies including changes to parenting time, changes to child support, requiring property or assets to be sold, fines, and even jail time.  One of the most important remedies in Georgia law for contempt cases is the award of attorney fees.  If your ex is found to be in contempt, Georgia provides for the award of reasonable and necessary attorney fees.

Other Factors to Consider

When figuring out how to proceed with a divorce decree violation, there may be other factors that you want to weigh. One of those factors involves what you truly want from your motion. Let’s say you want to ensure that your ex-spouse pays child support. However, filing a motion may result in temporary jail time. Your ex-spouse may also risk losing their job if they are incarcerated. You will want to instruct your attorney to specify that you are not seeking jail time and the judge will consider your wishes if you win.

How Hiring a Georgia Divorce Lawyer Can Help

Handling a divorce decree violation can be complicated. You may be frustrated with your ex-spouse and not know how to proceed. Working with a divorce lawyer can help ensure that your ex-spouse follows the requirements of your decree. A divorce lawyer can help you determine whether it makes financial sense to file for contempt and whether it is in your best interest based on your specific circumstances.

Contact Attorney Sharon Jackson Today

Don’t leave your divorce decree to chance. When your ex-spouse has failed to comply with the terms of your divorce, contact Attorney Sharon Jackson at (678) 436-3636 to schedule a consultation today.


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