Enforcement of Divorce Court Orders
Once a divorce court issues an order, the court expects those orders to be followed. Judges do not like it when one of the litigants fails to abide by the court's orders. In divorce cases judges can be a little more lenient and understanding the first time this happens because of the emotional and extremely personal nature of the issues involved. However, after that, the courts tend to take increasingly strong measures against husbands, wives, mothers or fathers who continue to refuse to follow court orders.
The first step is typically the award of attorney fees to the other party. For instance, if my spouse violates the orders by withdrawing $10,000 right after I file for divorce and my attorney spends time discovering that and then filing motions to bring that $10,000 back. In that instance, the court could order my spouse to pay for all of my attorney fees associated with discovering and rectifying this problem. If she then continues to refuse to return the funds or fails to do so in a timely manner, the court could order that I will be awarded the whole $10,000 rather than just half of it (in most cases, the assets are divided relatively equally, so that $10,000 would be split $5,000 each) in addition to all of the attorney fees paid to deal with this foolishness.
Finally, refusing to follow court orders after being held in contempt is by law the easiest way to be imprisoned. This is because a civil contempt proceeding provides the court the ability to throw someone in jail with a lower burden of proof and lower standard of due process. For instance, a party charged with a crime or even criminal contempt is presumed innocent, enjoys the right against self-incrimination, and the contempt must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Further, a party accused of criminal contempt must be informed of the nature of the charge against him or her and provided adequate opportunity to prepare a defense and to secure the assistance of counsel. In contrast, in a civil contempt proceeding (divorce cases), the accused must be accorded rudimentary due process, i.e., notice and an opportunity to present a defense, and the party seeking enforcement of the court's order bears the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the order was violated. So if my wife continued to refuse to return the $10,000 or testifies that she spent the money after she was ordered to return it, the court can throw her in jail, award me $10,000 worth of other assets and order her to pay my attorney fees and all I would have to prove is that she did not return the money.
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