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Order Enforcement in California

The times following a divorce are emotionally draining, and the last thing you need is to work with someone who cannot follow agreements. An ex-spouse violating the court orders issued in divorce court can be very frustrating. When a person receives an order in divorce court, the order is backed by the court's power, and failure to obey this order could result in severe consequences. Common order violations may include failure to pay child support, denying child visitation, or failing to pay spousal support. 

When your ex-spouse violates a divorce court order, you will need an attorney to help you prove that you both knew of the existence of the order and they deliberately violated it. On the other hand, if you find yourself in contempt, you must seek the guidance of a knowledgeable divorce attorney to clear the matter and avoid the harsh punishment that accompanies a contempt of court. At Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer, we will be your advocate and adviser as you take steps towards dealing with the legal matters associated with divorce court orders in Los Angeles, CA.

Order Enforcement in California

All decisions made at a divorce court must be followed by all the parties involved. Undergoing a divorce can be a rough process. However, you will need to be on different issues around the divorce, especially when there are children involved. The court allows you and your ex-spouse to agree on these matters out of court. However, if you fail to reach common ground, the court will decide on your behalf and make orders that most parties must abide by following the divorce.

Sometimes, one or both parties involved in a divorce could decide to ignore the court order for their benefit, and this is where the order enforcement law comes into effect. When a court's decision becomes an order, it is signed by both parties. If your ex-spouse violates a court order from your divorce, you can take action against them.

Under the order enforcement law, a court order is a legal document issued by the court and is aimed at any of the following actions:

  • Requiring a person to take a particular action like paying alimony and child support
  • Setting specific court dates that the parties involved in the order must attend
  • Prohibiting a person from contacting or harassing another individual
  • Establishing legally acceptable relationships between parties after a divorce

Signing a court order acts to notify both parties involved in a divorce of the potential consequences of violating this order.

Divorce Court Orders that are Enforceable by Contempt in California

The court could issue a wide variety of orders to serve different purposes following a divorce in California:

Child Custody and Visitation Order

Child custody issues are one of the many battles between divorcing couples. After the divorce, the court will allow you to discuss child custody issues with your ex-spouse. However, since most divorces will end with parties, not on good terms, you may be unable to agree between yourselves. In this case, the court will decide and force an order that both of you must follow. Child custody and visitation orders stipulate where a child will live and who will make decisions for them.

There are two types of child custody in California:

  • Physical custody. The court's physical custody order specifies where the child will live primarily. The court can award one parent full physical custody while others could share it.
  • Legal custody. A legal custody order is made to stipulate that the parent must make important decisions about the child's life.

Unless one parent is proven to be a threat to the child or incapable of caring for them, California courts often award joint physical and legal custody. In such an arrangement, the child spends specific days in your home and other days at your ex-spouse's home. 

In cases where one parent receives sole physical custody, the other parent will have visitation rights. When the court gives a child custody order, they will also provide a visitation order. This ensures that the divorcing parents have a right to see and spend time with their children. With these orders in place, you would be held in contempt of court if you fail to avail a child for visitation or custody exchange with the other parent. Even when you do not get along, you must always follow these orders.

If you have physical custody of the child and you prevent the other parent from visiting with them, your ex-spouse may report you and seek a modification of the order. On the other hand, if you feel that your child has been taken illegally by your ex-spouse and is keeping you away from them, you can take the matter to court for order enforcement. Even when your child is kept from you, you should never stop paying child support since that violation could be used against you.

Child Support Orders

A child support order is a legal court order requiring one or both parents to make monthly payments to help cover the costs of raising their child after a separation or divorce. In most cases, the non-custodial parent will be required to pay child support for all the children until they turn eighteen years. The court requires one to pay child support to ensure that both parents contribute to supporting the child even after the dissolution of the marriage.

The amount you or your ex-spouse must pay may vary depending on the number of children in the household and your income. When the judge issues a child custody order, the paying spouse must provide the exact amount stipulated in the order. It is essential to understand that you must continue to pay child support even when you lose your job. Additionally, filing for bankruptcy will not be able to eliminate your obligation to pay child support.

If your circumstances change and you cannot pay the amount indicated in the court order, you must go through the court to have the amount reduced. This petition will be subject to review, and the court will decide whether or not to modify the order.

Failure to pay child support can inconvenience the receiving parent. Therefore, if the court orders you to pay the child support and your financial situation does not allow it, it would be wise to seek a modification rather than stop paying.

Failure to pay child support is viewed as contempt of the court and will result in severe consequences, including jail time. Additionally, this action could place liens on your property and damage your credit score. When your ex-spouse fails to pay child support for your children, you can seek to enforce the order by bringing a copy of the child support court order to a child support agency. Mostly, filing criminal charges will come as a last resort when other methods of enforcing the order fail.

Alimony Orders

An alimony or spousal support order is issued to ensure that you and your ex-spouse maintain a similar living standard following separation or divorce. Spousal support can either be permanent or temporary, depending on the length of the marriage and the parties' financial situations. Financial issues are a common cause of divorce, and these issues could continue even after the divorce.

For this reason, many divorcing couples cannot agree on spousal support, and the court's insight will be necessary. When the court orders you to pay spousal support, you must pay it in full and on time, failure to which you could be held in contempt.

Property Division Order

A couple undergoing divorce must decide on property and debt division. If an agreement is not possible, you can ask the court to do it for you. Under California community property law, all the property obtained during the marriage should be divided equally between you and your ex-spouse. Whether you agree between yourself or allow the court to do it for you, you must determine what each party receives. You will be held in contempt of the court if you fail to facilitate a transfer of property to the other person. 

Divorce Restraining Orders

Divorces cause significant challenges, especially when domestic violence is involved. Divorce restraining orders protect the alleged victim of domestic violence and order the other party to avoid any form of contact. The law views restraining divorce orders as lifesavers and is strictly enforced.

Under California law, abuse is anything that puts you, your property, or other people close to you in danger. If your ex-spouse is a threat to you, you can seek a restraining order for yourself and other family members. A restraining divorce order works differently from other types of restraining orders. With the guidance of a competent divorce attorney, you can file a restraining order. After the court makes a divorce restraining order, the relevant person will be served, and the court expects them to follow everything written on it.

Order for Payment of Attorney Costs and Fees

When you are undergoing a divorce and incapable of paying for an attorney, the court can order the other party to pay the fees. Failure to do this could result in order enforcement by contempt.

Order to Seek Work 

When a couple undergoes a divorce, one of the spouses, especially the one who earns more, may be ordered to pay alimony to the other spouse. However, if the supporting spouse loses their job or goes bankrupt, the court will require them to seek full-time employment to be able to pay their obligations. When the court orders that you seek employment or meaningful training, this is not a suggestion. Like all court orders, failing to seek a job as directed could result in civil and criminal penalties for contempt of court.

Depending on the length of the marriage, the court could order temporary alimony and order the receiving spouse to seek employment later. If the court orders that you seek a job and start supporting yourself after a particular time, you will stop receiving spousal support when that time comes. For this reason, you must keep your employment skills updated because court orders are not optional.

Contempt of Court in California Divorce Courts

Like other court orders, violation of a divorce court order is an offense that has both criminal and civil consequences. If an ex-spouse fails to obey a court order given during your divorce, you can report it to the relevant authorities. Some of the common contempt of the court that could mandate order enforcement include:

  • Failure to pay child support
  • Failure to pay spousal support
  • Failure to execute marital property transfers
  • Denying child visitation
  • Failing to drop a child off to the custodial parent after a visitation
  • Failure to pay attorney fees

When you petition the court to hold your ex-spouse in contempt of a divorce court order, you need to prove that:

  • There was a valid court order. For a court order to be valid, it must be signed by both parties involved, and it must be clear on what each party is required to do. Vague court orders which are unclear may be challenging to enforce in a contempt proceeding.
  • The accused knew about the court order. When the divorce court has an order that affects you, they send a copy of the order to you. A person can be held in contempt of a court order if they received the order and failed to obey it. In special circumstances where you or your attorney was not in court and did not receive an order, you can use this fact to defend yourself against the contempt proceedings.
  • The accused violated the order voluntarily. Contempt of divorce orders can be very complicated. When one of the parties faces legal proceedings for contempt, it must be clear that the violation was willful.

Rights of an Individual Charged with Divorce Order Contempt

The same protections in criminal court exist in family and divorce court. Even when you are facing charges for violating a divorce or family court order in California, you have the following rights:

  • Right to legal counsel. The matters surrounding a divorce can be complicated for all involved. While a violation of a court order may be intentional, there are times when an accidental act like failing to return a child on time after visitation could attract legal proceedings for contempt. Therefore, it would be wise to exercise your legal representation right by hiring and retaining a divorce lawyer throughout the proceeding.
  • Right to be notified of the charges. If your ex-spouse takes you to court for violating a court order associated with your divorce, you have a right to know that you are facing charges on the same.
  • Right to a hearing. While the court orders, especially those involving children after a divorce, are enforced harshly, some contempt cases stem from falsified allegations or some mistake of fact. Therefore, if your ex-spouse takes you to court for an order violation, you have a right to a hearing. Both sides will provide evidence on the matter at the contempt hearing, and the court will determine whether the allegations are valid.

Consequences of Contempt

Violation of court orders is serious, and you could find yourself in legal trouble. Committing contempt could attract both civil and criminal penalties. When one party reports the contempt, the court may take civil action to coerce the other party to comply with their obligations. Criminal action could be taken if civil enforcement fails to yield a positive result.

Some of the expected consequences of contempt will include:

  • Wage garnishment. In California, a person who fails to pay child support and alimony as ordered by the court could be subject to wage garnishment.
  • Reduced custody time. If you violate the custody orders by denying your ex-spouse access to the children, they could seek a custody order modification where your custody time will be reduced.
  • Fines. If your court order violation caused a loss or inconvenience to your ex-spouse, you could be subject to fines.
  • Jail time. Spending time in jail may seem harsh, but it is a possible consequence of violating a divorce or family court order.

Find a Skilled Divorce Lawyer Near Me

The issues around divorce in California are very complicated. Since most marriages do not end on a good note, you and your ex-spouse will likely not be able to agree on different factors around the divorce. Some of the issues that must be resolved during a divorce include child custody and visitation, child support, alimony, property division, and payment of attorney fees. If you cannot agree on these issues between yourselves, the court will be involved and give orders on how these issues must move forward.

Violation of a court order is a severe offense, and you could pay dearly for it. Therefore, acts that may seem minor, like failing to show up for a pickup or drop off of a child for custody exchange and visitation, could be detrimental. Contempt of the court could attract both civil and criminal penalties like jail time. If your ex-spouse fails to obey the court orders or they accuse you of contempt, you will need guidance from a skilled divorce attorney. At Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer, we are committed to helping families around Los Angeles, CA, resolve the legal challenges accompanying a divorce. Contact us today at 310-695-5212.



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