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Michigan Family Law Blog

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

What Happens if My Husband or Wife Does Not Follow Court Orders in a Divorce?

When someone wants to start a divorce, he or she files a complaint for divorce with the appropriate circuit court.  The court then has authority to issue orders which the parties (the married couple getting the divorce) are required to obey.  One type of such order is a restraining order that states neither party is allowed to take money out of bank accounts or run-up credit card debt outside of their normal ordinary daily expenses while the divorce case proceeds.  In most instances, the spouses simply obey the court's orders and the case proceeds relatively smoothly.  Unfortunately, sometimes one party does not obey the court's orders and further steps are required.  It is always a very good idea to have a divorce lawyer represent you but If you are concerned that your spouse may not be inclined to follow the court's orders, then it is absolutely essential to talk with a Michigan divorce lawyer to learn about your rights and obligations.

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.

Contact a Michigan Divorce Attorney to Discuss a Divorce Strategy That Is Right for You

Conducting a thorough examination of one's husband or wife's financial dealings is not necessary in every case but if it is necessary, then it is absolutely essential to have an attorney that knows how to discover if he or she has been engaging in inappropriate conduct that must be addressed. Contact Michigan divorce attorney Cameron C. Goulding today. He can explain the divorce process and start making it work for you.  

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