The goal in most family law cases is to have finality when your final order is entered. Unfortunately, that is not always possible. Post Judgment litigation can occur when one party fails to comply with the order, or when the order needs to be changed.
Enforcement: When one party is not complying with the final court order, the other party can file an enforcement action. Enforcement actions ask the Court to enter an order directing the non-compliant party to do whatever it is they have failed to do, or to stop doing whatever they were doing that was in violation of the order. Enforcement cases should be laid out and filed with specificity and detail, and when the initial paperwork is not done properly, the case can fail in court. Defending enforcement cases is also important, as you may be accused of not complying with a court order, without justification. If a valid defense is not properly brought to the court, you may end up with an order against you that could have been avoided. Enforcement actions are done by a motion, and are often much faster than an initial case, as they do not always require the exchange of financial information or a mediation conference. These matters can be as simple as filing a motion and scheduling a hearing on the motion. It is also possible to obtain a reimbursement of any attorneys’ fees and costs incurred as a result of this type of action, whether seeking the enforcement or defending against it.
Contempt: Similar to enforcement, contempt actions are appropriate when one person is in violation of a court order. They are similar in procedure to an enforcement action, as they require only the filing of a motion and the scheduling of a hearing on the motion. However, contempt actions seek more than just a directive telling the non-compliant party how to act, they seek a punishment or sanction. The punishments or sanctions for contempt matters are often related to the improper behavior (e.g. makeup timesharing for improperly withheld timesharing, or bearing the cost of activities or medical expenses when a unilateral decision was made.) Depending on the specific accusation, some exchange of financial information, or other relevant information, may become necessary. Some Courts also require a mediation conference for contempt matters. Contempt matters also require the Court to find that any violation was willful before being able to place certain language in an order finding a party in contempt. If a contempt action is filed against you, it is crucial to explore all possible defenses with a skilled attorney, so that an order is not improperly entered against you. Conversely, it is also important to consult with an attorney before filing a contempt action, as these motions need to be detailed, complete, and specific. It is also possible to obtain a reimbursement of any attorneys’ fees and costs incurred as a result of this type of action, whether seeking the enforcement or defending against it.
Modification: Modification of a final order is more complex than enforcement and contempt. It requires filing a Supplemental Petition, alleging that there has been a change in circumstances, exchanging financial information, attending mediation, and a trial if necessary. Modification is almost like a “mini-divorce”, as the procedure is almost identical to that of the initial case. The reasons why a modification of a final order is allowed depends on what you are trying to modify. Almost all parts of an initial divorce or paternity case can be modified, as long as there is a legal basis to do so, meaning that something has changed and the original terms of the order are no longer practical or in the best interests of the minor children, or that a party’s income has changed significantly. It is rare that modifications are done by agreement, but uncontested modifications can be done by a very simple stipulation. Each modification action is unique, contact us today for a free consultation and analysis of your case to determine is a modification is the right choice for you, or to determine what defenses you may have to a modification that was filed against you.