Property Division Contempt Proceedings in Seminole County
A final decree of divorce almost never ends a marriage dissolution matter. Generally, these orders should be legally modified every few years. Additionally, a motion to enforce the decree, particularly property division matters, is often necessary. That’s especially true following either default divorces or trial resolutions. Many respondents do not fully acknowledge the court’s authority in these situations.
Frequently, enforcement and contempt actions involve the failure to pay an assigned debt. Such refusal can have significant consequences for the innocent spouse, and these consequences often require legal remedies.
A Maitland contempt & enforcement attorney is often able to resolve contempt matters with a simple demand letter. If further action is necessary, contempt matters are rather easy to establish, provided that all the required legal groundwork is in place.
Contempt Elements in Florida
Generally, contempt has nothing to do with the ex-spouses’ feelings toward one another. Rather, contempt is a straightforward matter which involves the failure to obey a lawful court order. The specific elements are:
- Clear and Unequivocal Order: The order to be enforced must clearly state what the respondent is to do, and when s/he is to do it. For example, policy statements like joint responsibility for health insurance are not enforceable by contempt. Rather, the order must plainly state the respondent’s financial obligations. For this reason, motions to clarify language often accompany motions to enforce the decree.
- Actual Knowledge: If the respondent signed the decree, the respondent has actual knowledge of everything in that document. Actual knowledge, or willful blindness, may be inferred in other situations as well.
- Intent: The respondent must have intentionally failed to comply. There is a difference between intentionally and maliciously. In this context, “intentionally” basically means “not accidentally.” If the order is clear and the respondent knew about it, intent is fairly easy to establish. It’s hard for respondents to argue accidental failure in these circumstances.
The movant must normally establish each element by a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Generally, judges like to give wayward respondents the chance to make things right. That means creating new deadlines to vacate premises, allowing the respondent to make catch-up installment payments, and so on.
Such remedies are usually in the movant’s best interest as well. After all, most movants are not interested in punishing the respondent’s wrongful conduct. They just want the respondent to obey the court order.
Typically, contempt orders include probated sentences. If the respondent misses another deadline, the contempt provisions go into effect automatically. These provisions could include a financial penalty or even jail time.
Many contempt motions do not get this far. Most of them are settled out of court. These settlements usually include roughly the same provisions. However, if the respondent agrees to the contempt provisions, further enforcement proceedings are often not necessary. Voluntary compliance is usually rather high in these situations.
Connect with a Tenacious Lawyer
Property contempt motions are often a part of the divorce process. For a confidential consultation with an experienced family law attorney in Maitland, contact The Troum Law Firm, P.A. We routinely handle matters in Orange County and nearby jurisdictions.