A divorce often doesn't entirely end a couple's legal obligations toward one another or to their children. As the former spouses continue with their lives, situations may arise that necessitate further legal action. For example, a spouse may lose his job, become seriously ill or perhaps marry again. California's Family Code contains provisions that address most common situations.
A party can appeal a divorce judgment, much as he can appeal an ordinary lawsuit, for a variety of reasons. He can argue for appeal based on a mistake of fact, such as a mislabeled asset, or a mistaken application of the law. Courts will sometimes grant an appeal when a party experiences a surprising and unexpectedly damaging turn of events, as well as when a litigant fails to take legally required action due to illness, language difficulties or other serious and unavoidable problems.
Appeal for Equitable Relief
In exceptional circumstances, a court may set aside a divorce judgment entirely because one of the parties was not able to properly participate in the original trial. These circumstances include fraud, such as when a party hides assets, fails to give notice of divorce proceedings, or manages to talk a spouse into signing an unfair agreement without the benefit of counsel. Courts may also set aside a judgment for excusable neglect, such as when a party relied upon an incapacitated attorney or the party was disabled at the time of the hearing. Finally, a court may set aside a judgment if a party was subject to death threats or her children were threatened with kidnapping.
Contempt of Court
Anytime a former spouse fails to meet legal obligations imposed by the court, the other party can file an action for contempt of court. For example, a former spouse can file contempt of court proceedings if the other party does not meet her obligations to pay spousal or child support, obey the terms of the child custody and visitation order, or fails to meet any other obligation ordered by the court.
Writ of Execution
If a former spouse refuses to meet her financial obligation for spousal or child support, the recipient ex-spouse can obtain a writ of execution. A writ of execution allows the sheriff to seize money and property owed from the former spouse who has refused to meet her obligations. Property can include physical objects, such as automobiles, or include such things as pensions or mutual funds. If necessary, a court may garnish a former spouse's wages within limits set by federal law.