Understanding Your Final Decree Of Divorce
A decree of divorce is a legal document issued by the California court system. It can be used to prove the dissolution of your marriage in most circumstances where you might need to present a divorce certificate.
Your divorce decree is a legally binding document between yourself and your former spouse (the previously married parties). The document will cover several important topics, including the distribution of your assets and debts, any spousal support terms, and child custody arrangements. Since it is a legally binding document in California, failure to adhere may find yourself facing considerable consequences, including, in some cases, a misdemeanor offense that could have you spending up to six months in jail.
What Does Your Final Divorce Decree Include?
Your relationship, your finances, and your needs on divorce are unique, so your divorce decree will be, too. Take a look at these elements that may be included in your divorce decree
Distribution of Assets and Debts
Typically, your divorce decree will lay out how you will handle your property following the divorce, including marital assets (your vehicles, home, retirement accounts, savings, bitcoin, and ready funds, for example) and marital debts (the money you owe).
Child Support or Spousal Support
Support agreements can be critical following your divorce. Child support dictates the support paid to take care of any minor children, and is usually based on who has custody of the kids and both parents’ income. Spousal support, on the other hand, is designed to support a spouse who has much lower income than the other, usually because that spouse took care of the home and family during the marriage. Spousal support gives the lower-earning spouse time to get back on their feet after the divorce
Child Custody/Parenting Plan Information
If you have any minor children, your final divorce decree will also lay out a clear parenting plan and guideline. It may include things like whether one parent has primary custody of the child or children, how the other parent will get access to those children, and whether the other parent has specific visitation rights. Generally, the court pushes for child custody plans and parenting plans that are in the best interests of the child.
What Happens if You Do Not Follow the Terms of the Final Decree of Divorce?
While a final decree of divorce lays out clear terms related to the divorce that both parties must follow, sometimes, the other party might not adhere to those terms.
The party responsible for paying child or spousal support to the other might not pay on time, or might try to avoid paying at all. Parents might find themselves constantly arguing over the exchange of children, or one parent might not show up when they are supposed to take the child or children. The party responsible for delivering specific assets to the other might refuse to deliver those assets in a timely manner. All of those challenges can lead to immense frustration, especially on the heels of what may already have been a difficult period of time.
If the divorce decree is not followed, the other party may need to pursue enforcement. While that may mean going back to court, it also means that your spouse will be held accountable for the terms of the divorce decree, as laid out by the court.
Seek a Motion for Enforcement
Sometimes, you may need to file a motion for enforcement in order to get the other party to adhere to the terms of your divorce decree.
What happens after you file a motion for enforcement may depend on what element of the divorce decree the other party fails to follow.
If Assets are Not Delivered On Time
Your spouse is withholding assets that you were assigned during the divorce: refusing to fill out paperwork to transfer an account, for example, or refusing to turn over a physical asset, like a car or keys to a home.
The court may require the two of you to come to court in order to exchange those assets, or set out a designated time when your spouse has to turn those assets over. If you do not have the asset anymore, the court may require the other party to pay fair market value for that asset.
If Your Spouse Fails to Pay Support
Failure to pay support, including both child support and spousal support, is considered a misdemeanor. In some cases, including ongoing refusal to pay, it can result in up to six months in jail. In others, the court may choose to garnish your former spouse’s paychecks so that you receive those funds directly and your spouse does not have the opportunity to withhold them.
In addition to the immediate consequences of failing to follow a divorce decree, the spouse that fails to fall in line with the decree may find themselves facing other consequences.
Often, you have already spent a considerable amount on your divorce, and you may find yourself with further fees as you try to enforce the terms of the decree. In some cases, you can have the courts order the breaching party to pay any attorneys’ fees associated with that need.
Held In Contempt
In some cases, the court will hold the party that violates the divorce decree in contempt. Being held in contempt can have several consequences, depending on the type and severity of the violation. For example, an individual who consistently violates a parenting plan may end up paying more in child support or having custody or visitation reduced in an effort to better provide for the children, while an individual who fails to pay spousal support on time may end up paying penalties for that lack of financial support. Furthermore, in some cases, a judge may actually send the violating party to jail for contempt.
Contact a Divorce Lawyer for Help Understanding or Enforcing Your Final Decree of Divorce
If you are ready to file for divorce, need more help understanding a final decree of divorce, or are struggling to get your former spouse to adhere to the terms of a divorce decree, an experienced divorce lawyer can help. Contact Pedrick Law Group, APC at 818-325-3934 to learn more about your rights during and following a divorce.