Can I Sue My Ex-wife for Breaking the Divorce Decree?

By Heather Frances J.D.

Divorce decrees often contain details about property division, child custody, child support payments and alimony, but ex-spouses don’t always fully comply with the terms of the decree. Since a divorce decree is a court order, your ex-spouse may be guilty of contempt of court if she violates it. Therefore, you can go to court and ask for help with its enforcement.

Divorce decrees often contain details about property division, child custody, child support payments and alimony, but ex-spouses don’t always fully comply with the terms of the decree. Since a divorce decree is a court order, your ex-spouse may be guilty of contempt of court if she violates it. Therefore, you can go to court and ask for help with its enforcement.

Divorce Decree

The terms of a divorce decree are binding on both spouses, whether a judge orders the terms of the decree after a trial or the spouses agreed to the terms in a settlement agreement. Your decree may contain terms that require immediate compliance – such as turning over possession of a vehicle – and terms that require continual compliance – such as child support, alimony or custody arrangements.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More

Enforcing the Decree

Divorce is governed by state law, so if you want to sue your ex-spouse for not complying with your divorce decree, you must use state court procedures for alleging contempt of court. Contempt of court usually means that your ex-spouse knew about the court order but willingly failed to comply. Typically, you would file this action in the court that issued the divorce decree since it’s that court whose orders are being violated. You may have to file a motion with the court, serve your ex-spouse with that motion and appear at a court hearing.

Penalties

At the hearing, the judge may find your ex-spouse in contempt of court if you can show she violated the divorce decree. Penalties for contempt of court can include jail time, but depending on the type of violation, other penalties are often available, including seizing tax returns and denying or seizing passports, professional licenses and driver's licenses.

Modification

Your ex-spouse can’t simply ignore terms of the decree with which she disagrees. The only way to change the terms of a divorce decree is by seeking a formal modification through the court. This would involve returning to court and showing that a substantial change in circumstances has occurred since the decree was issued. For example, if your divorce decree establishes a child support amount but you or your ex-spouse have since received a significant raise in wages, the court may adjust the amount of the child support order.

Divorce is never easy, but we can help. Learn More
How to Enforce Divorce Judgments in Illinois

References

Related articles

How to Enforce a Breach of Contract in a Divorce

In the process of getting your divorce, you and your ex-spouse may have made an agreement – sometimes called a marital settlement agreement – to address the specifics of your separation. A marital settlement agreement is a contract and, like any contract, you have the right to enforce it if your ex-spouse breaches it.

What Happens if an Ex-Spouse Breaks Divorce Decrees in Tennessee?

Tennessee is one of the more unforgiving states when someone defies a court order, including a divorce decree. Penalties are multi-pronged, depending on how your ex breaks the terms of the decree. They range from paying your court and attorney fees to suspension of his driver’s license and even jail time.

How to Take a Husband Back to Court for Alimony in Massachusetts

Alimony is a payment of spousal support, usually paid by the spouse who earns more income. The law in Massachusetts permits several forms of alimony, and awards are made based upon a number of factors, such as the length of the marriage, the needs of the recipient and the payer's financial status. If you wish to obtain increased alimony from your former spouse, or you want to extend the length of time you can receive alimony, you must take your ex back to court. If your divorce decree does not contain language allowing for a future modification, it will be much more difficult to increase your alimony.

Get Divorced Online

Related articles

Can You Go to Jail for Not Making Child Support Payments?

If you have been ordered to pay child support, perhaps as part of a divorce, then nonpayment can result in stiff ...

Changing Divorce Decrees in Minnesota

A Minnesota divorce becomes final when the divorce decree is signed by a judge, entered into the court record and 60 ...

After a Divorce Is Final, Can Your Ex-Spouse Take You Back to Court?

If there is a substantial change in circumstances after a final divorce decree is issued, it is possible for your ...

How Do You Get Equitable Distribution Enforced in a Final Decree of Divorce?

During a divorce, the term "equitable distribution" refers to the division of assets and debts acquired by ...

Browse by category