At the end of your divorce, the Judge will sign a Final Decree of Divorce (“Divorce Decree”). This is true whether you went to a trial and the Judge made a ruling or whether you came to a settlement and entered into a Property Settlement Agreement or Marital Settlement Agreement (“Settlement Agreement”). If you did sign a Settlement Agreement, your Settlement Agreement should have been merged with your Divorce Decree and became part of your Divorce Decree. If there are sections of either the Divorce Decree or Settlement Agreement that your Ex is not abiding by, then you have the right to file a Petition for a Rule to Show Cause against him/her.
As your Divorce Decree is a Court Order, by not paying child support, spousal support, allowing you visitation per your Divorce Decree, or any other responsibilities your Ex has, he/she is violating a Court Order and can be held in contempt.
Filing a Petition for a Rule to Show Cause can be a confusing process and it is best, to ensure it is done correctly, that you hire an attorney to complete the filing. However, if your Ex has truly been violating the Court Order, the Court has the ability to award you attorney fees. In fact, most Settlement Agreement state that if one party has to bring a Court action to enforce the Settlement Agreement, then the party breaching the Settlement Agreement is responsible for the costs, including attorney fees.
When filing a Petition for a Rule to Show Cause, you can ask for your Ex to be held in civil contempt or criminal contempt. Civil contempt is requesting the court hold him in contempt and make him pay a monetary amount for violating the Court Order. Criminal contempt is asking the Court to put your Ex in jail if he doesn’t abide by the Court Order or simply for violating the Order in the first place. Typically, only in extreme cases, will a Court hold someone in criminal contempt, especially if this is the first time you are back in Court for a violation. However, I have seen people go to jail for failure to pay child support and for failure to retain health insurance for an Ex when ordered to do so by the Court. The Court take child support very seriously and will put people in jail for failure to pay.
In most cases, the Court will order that the past due amount be paid by a certain time, and then if your Ex continues to ignore the Court then the Ex will end up in jail.
If you are also in contempt of the Final Decree, filing a Show Cause may not be the best idea, as your Ex is likely to file one against you as well. If you have kept up with your responsibilities, it is not far that your Ex has not and filing a Petition for a Rule to Show Cause is the best way to show your Ex you’re serious.
If you’re ready to get a enforce your Final Decree of Divorce, Contact Keithley Law, PLLC, PLLC today by calling (703) 454-5147 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office with one of our Virginia divorce attorneys. We can walk you through the steps to get the most out of your divorce.