Often the divorce process is not as difficult as the actual enforcement of the settlement agreement particularly when one person believes the settlement is unfair. It is not uncommon for non-custodial parents to withhold child or alimony payments. Child visitation can be particularly volatile when one parent refuses to allow the child to visit the other parent even if it is court-ordered. A dangerous situation can arise if the non-custodial parent decides not to return the child to the custodial parent as required in the settlement agreement. These are not rare occurrences with divorced spouses who remain hostile toward one another long after the divorce has been finalized. If the parties are unable to work amicably on any of these issues, it may be necessary to seek legal action.
Enforcement of Divorce Agreements in California
When a divorce agreement has been violated, the ex-spouse that has been aggrieved can ask the court to find the offending ex-spouse in contempt of court. The intent of the contempt charge is to force the offending spouse to follow the dictates of the divorce settlement including paying all child and spousal support, enforce visitation rights, abide by with visitation schedules, and pay for attorney fees including those related to filing the contempt charge. The ex-spouse that files the contempt charge is responsible for proving the other spouse did not meet the terms of the divorce agreement.
If the court finds the offending spouse in contempt, that spouse can actually be sent to jail until such time they agree to abide by the final divorce judgment, including paying all back payments owed for child and spousal support.