Enforcement and Modification

Enforcement

There are remedies available if a party does not do what a family law order requires.

For Child Support, Alimony, and Time-Sharing orders, a court can enforce its orders through its "contempt" power. This means the Judge can hold a party in contempt for violating his or her order, impose fines and penalties, and ultimately put a party in jail for failing to comply with an order. The court can also require the party in contempt to pay the other sides attorney's fees and costs.

Orders to pay money that are part of the property division in a divorce are different, and cannot be enforced via a motion for contempt. These type of orders to pay are treated as orders to pay a debt, and the U.S. eliminated "debtors prison" in the 1800s.

An additional, important remedy available under Florida law when one parent does not comply with the Time-Sharing order, is that the court can modify the terms of the time-sharing order - basically put in place a fix to address the problem. There are Florida cases that give a court similar or related power under its contempt power, for example to clarify the terms of a time-sharing order, to help insure the rules are followed in the future. There are significant remedies available to enforce family court orders.

Modification

Orders for Child Support, Time-Sharing and Alimony (with some exceptions) are "modifiable", i.e. you can file a Petition with the court, for example, to change the amount of child support or alimony, or change time-sharing. There must have been a substantial and unanticipated change in circumstances, in order to qualify for a modification. The new alimony statute provides that some types or aspects of alimony cannot be modified, but the parties by an agreement they both sign can specify whether or not the alimony they agree to is modifiable.

Something important to remember about alimony, is that if there is no alimony included in your divorce order, and the court does not properly "retain" or "reserve" jurisdiction regarding alimony, the court cannot award alimony at a later date. The property division parts of a divorce order are also not modifiable, absent specific provisions in the order or settlement agreement providing for some type of modification.

There are remedies available to try to go back later and attempt to do away with an order - called "setting aside" an order, but those remedies are difficult to obtain without satisfying some very specific conditions - e.g. fraud, duress or certain kinds of mistakes in the original proceeding. It's important to get the order/settlement agreement right the first time around, and not expect to be able to go back later and fix things - unless you qualify for a modification of the prior order. On the other hand, if a party files a fraudulent financial affidavit in the original case, then the original order can be set aside. The financial affidavit is a form both sides are required to file in a divorce case and many other family law cases involving financial matters.

Call me at (954) 636-7498 or use the contact form, and we can discuss modification or enforcement of your family law order.