A divorce decree, once finalized by the court, becomes an order. And that order means that both parties are legally bound by all of the provisions listed in it.
If either party does not comply, he or she risks potential charges of contempt or an order to show “cause of action.” Cause of action means that there are circumstances that somehow “required” the breach of the decree provisions, and the party who has violated the terms of the decree must show compelling reasons for doing so.
Common breaches of a divorce decree
The most common breaches of a decree relate to money. An ex may not comply with spousal or child support payments. Another common breach may relate to visitation rights or other joint custody responsibilities related to minor children. For example, your ex may be responsible for health insurance, some part of child care expense, or college costs. If these responsibilities are not being met, it may be considered a breach.
Actions you can take when an ex breaches the divorce decree
Unfortunately, the first “burden of proof” lies with you. You must show the Colorado court that the decree has been breached by your ex and bring them into court. Certainly, you do not want to take this path without an attorney.
Then, it becomes the burden of your ex to show cause why he or she should not be held in contempt of court, if the evidence shows that a breach has occurred.
If the court finds that the breach is “valid,” your ex may be punished for contempt of court. And the consequences may include anything from a fine, to reduction of visitation time, a deadline for compliance, payment of your attorney fees, and, in extreme cases, imprisonment.
Colorado divorce law incorporates a wide range of discretion in determining punishments for obvious and willful breaches of divorce decrees.
What Your Ex May Do in Response
If you have made the decision to take your ex to court over failure to comply with your divorce decree, that ex may also petition the court for a modification in the decree.
Petitions for modifications must be based on some “material” change in circumstances. For example:
- If your ex has lost a job and is unable to provide health insurance for your minor children
- If your ex can no longer pay the support amounts provided in the decree
- If a geographic relocation warrants a change in visitation schedules, then your ex can show up in court and provide evidence of this change in circumstance.
Legal Counsel is Critical
You may not be an expert in divorce laws, but our seasoned Colorado divorce attorneys are. If an ex spouse is not complying or is requesting a modification, you must protect your rights. And the only way to do that is to find an attorney who will be a strong advocate for you in court.
Finding a Denver divorce attorney is not a difficult matter, if you reside in this metropolitan area. Tolison & Williams have the experts in divorce law that you need, along with a history of success in getting favorable court decisions in cases of divorce decree breaches. Contact us today for a free consultation.