How Are Divorce Settlements Enforced?
We often find people having trouble with enforcing divorce settlements. When you finalized your divorce, you signed a settlement agreement. This is essentially a court-approved contract that outlines how your assets and debts should be split.
You also set up a schedule for items like alimony and child support. Whether your divorce settlement was reached amicably or after a difficult trial, it’s supposed to be a binding document that you both follow.
Unfortunately, for one reason or another, an ex-spouse may refuse to abide by certain parts of the divorce settlement, failing to pay alimony or hiding assets so they can’t be divided. In these situations, you may need the advice of a Minnesota lawyer who can help you with enforcing the agreement.
Child Support Enforcement in Minnesota
If your ex is not paying child support, the Child Support Enforcement Division (CSED) of the Minnesota Dept. of Human Services may get involved. Typically, they get involved when either party is on some form of public assistance or when a party requests help.
Family court judges also have the power to enforce child support orders. Therefore, if your situation is urgent or complicated, going to a judge can often be better than waiting for CSED.
Both CSED and judges have the power to enforce child support orders by taking steps such as garnishing wages and bank accounts, suspending driver’s licenses, charging interest on unpaid amounts, and taking other enforcement steps. It is even possible that a non-paying party could be held in contempt or referred for criminal prosecution.
Enforcing Alimony/Spousal Support
If you are owed spousal maintenance, and your ex refuses to pay, you can consult a Minnesota lawyer and initiate a contempt proceeding. While this will involve some expense on your part, it enables the court to hold the non-paying spouse in contempt. A spouse found in contempt faces fines, payment of attorney’s fees, and possible jail time.
Another option is to schedule a spousal maintenance judgment. This judgment involves serving your ex with certain documents and notices. Your former spouse then has 20 days to either pay all amounts owed or request a hearing. This process is usually less expensive than a contempt proceeding, but it lacks the penalties that can be assessed in contempt actions.
Either way, if you obtain a judgment, the alimony can be collected through wage and bank account garnishment by the judge directing the sheriff to sell your ex’s personal property to raise the money.
Enforcing Property Settlements After Divorce
You have options if your ex is refusing to turn over property that was awarded to you in your divorce settlement. One is to ask the court for a writ of execution. This court-issued writ directs the sheriff to accompany you (for a fee) when you go to retrieve the property.
Another option is to give your ex a financial disclosure form, which they must then complete and return to the court within 10 days. If they fail to fill it out completely, they can be ordered to come to court and could be held in contempt.
These are just two options; others are available in certain circumstances, so your best course of action is to discuss your situation with a lawyer.
Get Help Enforcing a Minnesota Divorce Settlement
Initiating an enforcement action, whether for child support, alimony, or property division, should be done with the assistance of a qualified Minnesota attorney. The team at White & Associates, based in Elk River, helps people in Sherburne County and throughout Minnesota to enforce their divorce agreements.