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What to Do When Your Ex Doesn’t Follow a Divorce Decree

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Upon getting a divorce, ex-spouses can reasonably expect obligations outlined in the divorce decree to be honored. On occasion, however, an ex-spouse may fail to abide by the judge’s terms. In these scenarios, you have the right to seek enforcement of the divorce decree through the courts.

What is a divorce decree?

Divorce AgreementOnce the marriage legally ends through divorce proceedings, the court issues a divorce decree. This document contains various details, including the reasons the marriage dissolved. The decree indicates what each divorcee must do in terms of property division, child support and parental time.

An ex-spouse may not always fully comply with the terms outlined in the decree. Noncompliance with the court-issued decree may be handled by first referring to the decree to determine the ex-spouse’s responsibilities and then pursuing enforcement through the courts.

A divorce can take months or years to finalize. In the event of a trial, the judge evaluates all evidence and testimonies to arrive at a decision. Child custody, alimony, property division and child support are considered—and are written in a decree. Upon settling a case, the decree is issued.

Remember the divorce becomes final on the date the court signs the decree. The ex-spouses are likely to receive the decree a few days after the signing since the document is routed to the divorce lawyer. The attorney then forwards a copy of the decree to the client.

Read: What is the Wait Time of Divorce in Illinois?

What happens when an ex-spouse doesn’t follow the divorce decree?


When an ex-spouse does not fulfill the obligations as outlined in the decree, the other spouse should take action to get those needs met. Before taking steps to file a motion for the decree to be enforced by the courts, the ex-spouse should ensure all personal responsibilities are being satisfied.

The ex-spouse who violates the terms of the divorce decree without approaching the court for modification is in contempt of the court (which means the individual is guilty of disobedience to the courts). The court that issued the decree has the power to enforce all aspects of the divorce decree.

But here’s what to do if your ex doesn’t follow the divorce decree.

1. Determine the violations

Review the decree to see which provisions the ex-spouse has failed to fulfill. Examples of such failures include being late in paying child support or making spousal maintenance payments. The ex-spouse may have violated child custody or parental time as ordered by the judge.

Or, property distribution orders may have been violated. For instance, an ex-spouse may be guilty of neglecting to transfer title to real estate or other assets as awarded by the judge upon the divorce. Document these violations for support of your case.

2. Gather evidence

Serving-your-Spouse-Summons-How-to-File-for-DivorceAn important part of facilitating a successful intervention through the courts is to provide substantial evidence of the other party’s violations of the divorce decree. Examples of the types of documents that serve as proof of the ex-spouse’s noncompliance include written communications and financial records.

These documentations are critical and intended to support the injured party’s case once the court enforcement takes place. The burden of proof is on the injured party. Be prepared to back up all accusations of noncompliance with ample documentation and proof of contempt.

3. File a motion for contempt of court

Respond to the violation of the terms of the divorce decree by filing a motion for contempt of court. This process may be initiated pro-se litigant, and the injured party should call the court clerk for information about what forms to independently file.

The court clerk will help to determine whether the injured ex-spouse should file a motion for civil contempt of court, motion for enforcement or an alternate action. The clerk will also provide information about laws surrounding how the ex-spouse will be served the contempt motion.

Filing a motion for contempt of court may also be done through an attorney. The motion indicates which parts of the divorce decree were violated and the reason the ex-spouse should be held in contempt of court. Although the lawyer serves the ex, the injured party is responsible for proof.

The ex-spouse has the opportunity to respond to the motion. The judge may give the guilty party a chance to immediately rectify the aspect of the divorce decree he or she has violated; or, the judge may provide a time frame within which to do so.

The court will set a date for a hearing. If the guilty party is found to be in contempt of court, the judge can specify how the ex-spouse may purge himself or herself of the contempt. Jail time for as long as the contempt continues is also a realistic possibility.

Each state is different when it comes to jail time or early release for being in contempt of the court. No time in jail may be warranted when the guilty party has lost a job, sustained a physical or emotional disability, or has no one to care for dependent children.

Get Help from a Divorce Attorney

A divorce decree is legally binding, and the courts will uphold it with due process of law. If you are unable to comply with the terms of the decree, bring up the situation with your attorney or the courts. The divorce lawyers at Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd. will help.Client-Talking-to-Attorney-in-Office

Our firm of dedicated divorce attorneys will also assist you in the event your ex-spouse violates the terms of the divorce decree. If you have a post-decree issue, we will represent you in court and ensure you receive the benefits to which you are entitled.

In addition to divorce decree issues, Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd. provide expert legal counsel in regard to various divorce matters. Our experience includes working on cases involving domestic violence, spousal support, division of property, child custody and allocation of parental responsibilities.

Families and individuals living in Oak Lawn, Illinois, turn to Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd. for knowledgeable legal advice and competitive representation. Rest assured our divorce lawyers will work diligently to arrive at the most optimal solutions for your individual case.

Schedule an Initial Consultation

Give Berry K. Tucker & Associates, Ltd. a call at 708-425-9530 to schedule your initial consultation with our experienced divorce attorneys.

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