At the beginning of May 2020, the City of Orlando gave thousands of nominees to a very specific categories for Orlando Weekly’a Best of 2020. And because of your love and support, The Law Office of Erin Morse was able to lock in two very important categories; Best Kept Secret and Best Local Big Shot Who’s Not an Elected Official. We are honored that we have been nominated with some of Orlando’s biggest personalities, businesses and organizations. The final round runs June 24 through Aug. 2 and only you can help us. Just like last time, click the link below to the Local Color Section and scroll down to Best Kept Secret and Best Local Big Shot Who’s Not an Elected Official and vote Erin Morse.
Every year the Orlando Weekly Magazine give the citizens of Orlando the opportunity to put the spotlight on and celebrate what makes The City Beautiful unique by nominating locally owned businesses and certain individuals. This year, The Law Office of Erin Morse has been nominated in two great categories; Best Kept Secret and Best Local Big Shot Who’s Not an Elected Official. We are honored to have been nominated by our clients and the great people of Orlando, but we still need your help. Click the link below and scroll down to Best Kept Secret and type in “The Law Office of Erin Morse” then hit the nominate button. Then, Scroll down to Best Local Big Shot Who’s Not an Elected Official and type in “Erin Morse Esq.” and hit the nominate button. Thank you for your support.
While your divorce decree is a court order you and your spouse must act in accordance with, violations can occur that will require steps to enforce.
Have you or someone you know recently been through a divorce? If so, you know that things can get ugly – quick.
Even for couples with the best intentions, legal separations are both emotionally and financially draining.
But when the dust settles and all the matrimonial baggage is decided, you’re left with what’s known as a divorce decree.
A divorce decree is the court’s final ruling that officially and legally terminates the marriage. The decree summarizes what both parties have agreed to and what they’re entitled to.
You can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Or can you?
What happens when your ex refuses to abide by the judgments listed in the divorce decree? What are your legal rights and what action can you take?
Keep reading to learn how to enforce a divorce decree when your ex-partner won’t comply.
A Divorce Decree is a Legal Document
Not adhering to the guidelines of a divorce decree is a crime. Whether or not you wanted to agree to it, you did. And you’re now legally bound to uphold whatever ruling’s it states.
The same goes for your ex. If he/she chooses not to comply with the divorce decree arrangements, you can take legal action. The decree is enforceable in court, which means your ex will be held liable for noncompliance.
The problem is, getting justice can be a lengthy, expensive process.
The Steps You Need to Take
Before you call your ex in a rage or show up at their front door, take a deep breath. If you want to stay in the good graces of the judge and courts, it’s best you take the right legal pathway to justice.
That means following the below steps, in order.
Contact the Court System
The first order of business when enforcing a divorce decree is to contact the justice system. Be sure to notify the courthouse in the county where you received the divorce decree.
The best point of contact is the judge’s clerk since you can’t speak directly to the judge. If the judge’s clerk is unavailable, the next best person to speak with is the court clerk or an office member.
Be specific about which part of the decree your spouse is violating. The type of divorce decree violation will determine your next legal recourse.
Common violations include refusal to pay a debt, child support or alimony, and refusal to sell marital property, including real estate.
File a Motion of Contempt
You’ve probably heard the term “contempt of court” before but do you know what it means?
The most basic definition is failing to satisfy a court order. Since a divorce decree is a court order, your ex’s refusal to comply places them in contempt of court.
It’s now your job to file a motion of contempt. This is also known as a motion for enforcement. The court officer you speak to will guide you on which avenue to take. They might also provide you with the necessary forms.
Be sure to include all pertinent information on the documents including a copy of the divorce decree and a docket or case number. This will help expedite the process.
Show Up to Court on the Scheduled Day and Time
The quickest way to lose a case is not showing up for court on your scheduled day and time. Once you receive your scheduled court date, make sure you’re present and prepared for the court proceedings. This is your chance to present your case to the judge.
One thing to keep in mind on your court date is that you may not get exactly what you’re asking for. Don’t get your hopes up.
In most cases, the judge will issue a warning to your ex-spouse – giving them the opportunity to make right on their end of the agreement. The judge will also set a deadline that your spouse needs to meet. He/She is required to perform what the decree orders them to do by a specific date.
Start the Process All Over Again
In a perfect world, a warning from the judge and extended timeframe is enough to convince your ex-partner to do the right thing. But that’s not always the case.
If your ex still refuses to comply with the divorce decree – even after being ordered by the judge – you’ll be forced to start the process all over again by filing another motion.
You already know the right steps to take. After filling out the motion paperwork, be sure to attach not only a copy of the divorce decree but also the most recent court order that your spouse has violated.
If you end up back in court, chances are the judge will now rule in your favor and show your noncompliant ex much less sympathy. The judge may even order sanctions, requiring your ex to pay your court costs. In more serious cases, your ex might even face jail time for contempt of court.
Depending on the violations, the judge can use several different methods to help make you whole again. If your ex owes you money, the judge can issue a lien against their property or force them to use their tax refunds to pay their debts.
If children and visitation are involved, visitation may be restricted or granted based on who’s in contempt.
Reasons to Contact the Courts
Before you get the court system involved, make sure that your ex is actually committing a crime. Carefully look over the divorce decree to determine the rules and guidelines your ex is bound to.
Here are a few common ways that people violate divorce decrees.
Refusal to Pay Debts
Money, money, money. In most cases, divorce decree violations are connected to money and one party refusing to pay the agreed-upon debt.
Some judges show special leniency to those who recently lost their jobs. As long as the individual shows an effort to find employment, the judge will rarely enforce jail time.
But that doesn’t help you if your ex’s inability to pay debt puts you in your own financial pickle.
There are a few techniques in place to protect your rights and ensure that your ex makes good on their financial obligations. Some especially stubborn and vindictive individuals would rather face jail time than pay their ex a single dime.
In these cases, the judge may decide to seize your ex’s property as collateral. This is a slightly more complicated legal battle and might require an experienced attorney.
This process involves a writ of attachment issued by the court. This permits that any property owned by the noncompliant party can be seized and used to pay off outstanding debts.
Property can be anything from personal items to physical property like a home or piece of land. In this situation, the court will appoint a third-party recipient and that person will take custody of the land. They’re responsible for selling it and then paying you the owed amount.
Selling the family home is another point of contention in many divorces. If both you and your ex are listed on the title and/or mortgage, you both need to agree to list the home for sale.
In some cases, one party is too emotionally attached to comply with this part of the decree. But if both parties are financially dependent on the sale of the house, it must be done.
Similar to paying off debt, the judge will issue an agent or receiver to handle the sale of the home and divvy up the money accordingly.
These proceedings don’t happen without a little leg-work on your end. You’re responsible for proving that you tried, on numerous occasions, to convince your ex to pay their debts or sell the home prior to filing a motion of contempt. This could include proof of communication in the form of letters, emails, or text messages.
The court wants to see that you made an effort to resolve the issue on your own before asking them to intervene.
Failure to Properly Divide Retirement Accounts
Another common item listed in many divorce decrees is retirement accounts belonging to both parties.
Retirement accounts, including 401k plans, are often divided in the divorce decree. If your ex-spouse fails to give you half of the retirement funds, you can take legal action.
One reason why a traditional motion of contempt might not be the best approach is that if your ex spends all the money before you get a court date, they’re no longer obligated to pay. After all, half of zero is zero.
When dealing with retirement and other savings accounts, you need to prepare a QDRO or Qualified Domestic Relations Order. This will protect your rights to the money and prevent your ex from spending it. The QDRO informs the plan administrator how the retirement fund should be divided as outlined in the divorce decree.
What to Do When Your Ex Won’t Play Nice
Divorces rarely proceed without any complications or hurdles. Even after the divorce decree is drafted, trouble can still lurk.
If your ex-partner decides not to follow the rules and judgments of the court, you can enforce a motion of contempt and have your case heard. Just be sure to make a valid attempt to solve the issue directly with your ex before involving the courts.
Document any exchanges between you and your ex as proof of your efforts.
Divorce can be ugly – but it doesn’t have to be when you have a qualified attorney on your side.
Contact one of our professionals today and let us help your legal case run smoothly.
There are many different and important things to know about divorce in Florida. If you want to learn more, you should click here.
Studies have shown that 12.6% of married couples in Florida will wind up getting divorced. If you find yourself potentially facing a divorce in Florida, it’s important to know the ins-and-outs of the state’s law to better equip yourself of what may be ahead. Whether your divorce is ending with feelings of betrayal or indifference, you’ll need to know exactly what rights you have under Florida state law in order to come to an amicable agreement in which both parties receive exactly what they deserve.
If you’re going through or about to go through a divorce in Florida and would like to learn more about what to expect read on for some important information on what your divorce proceedings may entail.
1. What to Consider When Going Through a Divorce in Florida
Before diving into the following laws, it’s important to try and have a clear and mature conversation with your former spouse in order to reach a peaceful agreement.
Divorce is known to come with its fair share of hurt feelings, especially when children are involved. For the sake of all parties involved, being able to have a civil conversation is always the best option.
In the event the civil conversation is not possible, it’s best to speak directly with your lawyer to avoid any further confusion or problems from arising.
2. The Amount of Time Spent in Florida
Whether or not Florida state laws on divorce apply to you depends on the amount of time that you’ve been living in Florida. However, this does not necessarily mean that you had to live in Florida as a couple. At least one of the divorcing parties is expected to provide proof of them living in Florida for a minimum of six months before the divorce petition was filed in order for the Florida state laws to apply.
3. Divorce Court or Family Court
When it comes to determining whether or not your divorce is a matter for standard divorce court or family court, it’s a simple matter as to whether or not there are children or minor children involved.
The State of Florida considers the matter of child custody in the best interest of the child to be of the utmost importance and in divorce cases which is why the presence of children or miners would dramatically influence the proceedings of a divorce. Being able to come to a strong agreement over custody and joint parenting outside of court, with or without the help of legal counsel, is one of the best things you can do to help reduce the emotional effects of the divorce on your children.
If there are no children shared between the married party, then the couple may apply for a simple dissolution of marriage application. From there the divorcing parties can come to an agreement on what will be done with their remaining assets and discuss alimony and further payments. In this case, the family court is not necessary.
If the divorcing party has trouble reaching an agreement on such matters, then divorce court may be an option worth pursuing.
There are still some factors that come into play for whether or not a couple is eligible for a simplified dissolution.
These factors include
- whether or not the wife is currently pregnant
- whether there any minors or dependent
- whether or not both parties can agree that the marriage is broken
- no partners are requesting alimony
- no partners are requesting information aside from the court-approved financial affidavit (more on this below)
- both Partners have surrendered their right to an appeal
- both partners are willing to go and sign the petition
- and both partners are present at the final court hearing
If all of these factors are approved, the couple may be eligible to dissolve their marriage.
It’s important to remember that the only two grounds accepted by Florida law for the dissolution of marriage state that the marriage is irretrievably broken or that one of the spouses has been mentally incapacitated for over 3 years.
4. Matters of Custody
In the event that there are children and custody needs to be negotiated, this decision is typically decided among the couple. In the event that the couple cannot come to a shared agreement as to how the custody of the child will be divided, the courts may appoint a mediator or counselor to help make the final decision.
The opinion of the mediator or counselor will then be presented to the judge who will appoint custody to one or both of the parties.
A custody agreement will also include other important decisions such as the amount of child support that may be ordered, visitation schedules, and who will be in charge of primary decision-making over the child.
Once again, if the couple is unable to make this decision together, the court will have to make one on behalf of what is healthiest for the child.
5. The Division of Assets
When it comes to dividing assets between the couple, it’s best to have any documentation that proves liabilities, transactions, and original ownership. These documents will be used to assess what’s fairly divided among the couple.
These documents may also be used with a tax attorney as your current tax status and filing situation may be affected once the divorce is complete.
Some factors the court may look into while determining the division of remaining assets include
- the partner’s contributions are sacrifices that were made during the marriage.
- how long the marriage lasted
- if either partner contributed towards the enhancement of the others career or education
- Deteriorating a business or home when there is a dependent child
- any acts of waste or destruction that were done after filing for divorce or two years prior to filing from one party to another
- any additional factors that may be defined as equity
If required, the court may also need to look into testimonies provided as character witnesses or in the form of provided documents.
6. Submitting an Affidavit
Couples divorcing in the state of Florida are required to submit an affidavit. This is a document that contains all of their financial information in order to ensure the division of assets and finances is done so in a clear and transparent manner.
This affidavit is used as the basis for determining the amount of alimony, child support, and how the division of other assets may be computed.
7. Divorce and Taxes
Among the financial documents that may be submitted, tax returns dating up to 3 years ago may also be submitted with the affidavit.
This is to fully take into account all expenses and earnings that may have taken place among the couple.
It’s suggested to speak with a tax accountant if you have any questions on pending tax matters post-divorce.
8. Remaining debt
In the State of Florida, all debt such as mortgages and car payments are typically divided evenly among the divorcing parties.
Still, it’s important to remember the debts that had occurred before the couple came together are typically exempt from being divided. This may include things like student loans or business loans that were taken out and can be easily traced to before the date of marriage.
9. College Payments
While alimony and child support may be enforced by the court, the state of Florida plays no part in determining whether or not either parent is required to pay for college.
This is a matter that must be agreed upon between the couple and must be recorded in the original divorce agreement.
Finding Legal Counsel You Need
Divorce in Florida can be messy enough without issues being dragged into court. However, in the event that your divorce requires a court proceeding or you find it necessary to fight to receive the adequate amount of alimony or child support, it’s in your best interest to find the legal counsel that can help.
It’s important to have a lawyer behind you that understands the ins and outs of the Florida state laws, and that can adequately assess the documents and affidavit provided to help you claim what’s rightfully yours.
From child custody to dealing with issues of alimony our team is here to help you every step of the way. We understand the emotional rollercoaster that comes with divorce and are here to bring you some peace of mind while fighting on your behalf.
If you would like to learn more about how our team can help you both in and out of the divorce court contact us today for more information on how we can be of assistance.
If you are looking to learn more about child custody cases in Florida, you should click here for information on how a judge will decide who gets custody.
Divorce and child custody are ranked very high on the Holmes and Rahe Life Change Stress Units scale, with divorce ranking number second in terms of the most stressful life events. The only other thing in life more stressful than divorce according to this scale is the death of a spouse.
One of the reasons these breakups are so stressful is because child custody becomes a life-changer.
Parents wonder if they are going to lose their child or see that relationship changed forever.
Under this pressure, you want to be sure you are equipped with the best information possible. Find out here what to expect in your child custody matter when a Florida judge decides the rest of your family’s life.
Florida Child Custody Basics
When it comes to child custody in Florida, there are a few basic terms you need to learn right away. There is legal custody, physical custody, sole custody, and shared or joint custody.
Then you need to understand the differences between custody and responsibilities. Parenting time is not the same as parenting responsibilities.
The one thing that often muddies all of this up for parents is the emotional factor of divorce and custody. Breakups are emotional and painful, and many parents go into a divorce or child custody matter feeling contentious and vengeful.
Going into a custody matter with this mindset will work against you. Florida judges don’t care about how sad you are about a breakup when determining which parent gets custody.
They are only looking for a solution that fits the best interest of the child. And the term “best interest of the child” should be at the top of your mind when you are in the middle of a heated custody battle.
The definition of “best interests of the child” is defined by the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act.
There are exceptions to this, such as abuse and domestic violence. Those factors too will be considered by your Florida judge, when you have evidence to substantiate those claims.
Defining Custody Terms
In Florida, judges will decide who gets legal custody, who gets physical custody, and whether or not joint custody will occur.
Custody is a decision on where the child lives, and when they live there. In addition to custody decisions, judges will determine who has parental responsibilities.
This is different than determining where a child lives. Parental responsibilities decisions involve determining who is responsible for what in the child’s life.
Responsibilities determine who decides what in the child’s life, including school choices, dentist appointments, medical decisions, and more.
So even if your child does not live with you full-time, you can negotiate what responsibilities are yours when it comes to determining child custody.
In most cases, by the time these decisions are made before you go before a judge, the two parents and their lawyers can hash something out that makes everybody happy.
What is Joint Custody?
Joint or shared custody is the most common form of custody in Florida, as Florida judges want to ensure that both parents are taking an active role in a child’s life. Joint custody usually means you share both responsibilities and access times with your child.
It is not called “visitation.” When your child is with you, you are their parent.
You are not visiting them. You are not babysitting them. You are performing your legal responsibilities to your child.
Judges do not look kindly on actions that include shutting a parent out of a child’s life because you are emotionally upset with them.
So it is in your child’s best interests to avoid an acrimonious situation.
And that’s a good thing. You are entitled to help from the other parent when you are raising a child.
Joint Custody Example
For example, let’s say enrolling a special needs child in an extracurricular activity would help them socially, emotionally, and behaviorally. But the activity sometimes falls on the access times of the other parent, who isn’t interested in doing this because they are feeling spiteful towards you.
You want a judge telling that parent, this is not okay, wise up.
The more conciliatory and harmonious you are with the other parent, at all times, and in custody court, the more you are going to look like the winning party. And, the more likely you are to get what you want.
Remember that in child custody court, the only party that is supposed to win is the child.
Can I Get Sole Custody?
Sole custody in Florida is possible, but it is often an uphill battle. It is rarely granted unless you can prove to the court that the other parent is simply unable to or unwilling to share responsibilities of parenting.
Sole custody often involves one parent taking on the most time with living with the child, and also becomes the main decision-maker of the child.
But this does not mean that the other parent disappears from the child’s life. If this is the mindset you go in with when seeking sole custody, you are going to be disappointed.
Judges will often grant sole custody in matters that are high conflict, entail abuse or violence, or when a parent is an absentee parent.
Many parents are able to negotiate sound parenting plans with the other parent in a custody matter. Florida requires a parenting plan, and Florida judges expect you to be able to reach this plan in a sound way with all parties.
Sometimes This is Not Possible
If this is impossible, either due to an absentee parent or a high-conflict situation, then you are getting closer to sole custody. Other situations such as abuse, domestic violence, incarceration, or drug abuse could also lead to sole custody.
Judges also look at moral fitness when determining custody. If one parent, for example, has a revolving door of boyfriends or girlfriends, a judge may not be keen on permitting a child to live there most of the time.
At the same time, sole custody does not mean the other parent disappears from the child’s life. It means the child lives with you the most, and you make big decisions.
The other parent is still permitted access time, and judges even expect and encourage this when possible.
Leave Emotions Out of It
How you feel about the other parent is not a factor in determining the best interests of the child in child custody.
But the reality is that sometimes you just can’t do that. As in the example above, if another parent is impeding with your child’s best interests, a Florida judge is not going to have that and will grant sole custody to the parent that is contributing the most to the best interests of the child.
If that is repetitive and consistent behavior by one parent, this could be determined to be a high conflict situation and sole custody could be the outcome.
Judges Are Tie-Breakers
Florida judges consider the law, that stipulates that it is your responsibility to protect your child from pain during divorce and custody matters. If one parent is unable to do that, it is going to harm them in a custody matter.
When that happens, a Florida judge will be the tie-breaker on custody decisions and will do so with protecting the child in mind at all costs.
This is why it is always best to be conciliatory in court, and when mapping out a parenting plan. The last thing you want is for the control of the rest of your life to be taken out of your hands and determined by a judge.
But if you are in a custody matter, this is the risk that you take. Be rational and fact-based, and not emotional.
This is why divorce lawyers are worth it. It gives you peace of mind as someone takes the problem out of your hands while you sort out the specifics and resolve the emotional battles on your own, outside of court.
Determining Best Interests of the Child
Florida judges move to protect the child at all costs at first and will use the legal definition of the best interests of the child to determine sole custody.
That usually involves looking at a child’s life to see what would lead to the least amount of emotional disturbance for a child. If a child has been living in one home their entire life, without frequent moves, for example, that home will likely be the home for primary custody and access.
But that alone is not going to get anyone sole custody, it’s simply used as a guideline by judges when determining the legal specifics of best interests of a child.
At the same time, the judge will want to decide on an environment that ensures the child has regular contact with the non-residential mother or father. This is the legal rights of the child.
Where the child is going to school will also play a role, as most judges do not want this disruption.
The strength of the relationships between the child and parent also plays a role in the best interests of the child. The parent that is providing the most basic necessities to the child will also be the residential parent that is in the child’s best interests.
Moral fitness is also a factor in determining the best interests of the child.
Contact a Custody Lawyer Today
Florida is ranked in the middle of the road when it comes to overall happiness in America. One of the things impacting this rate is its divorce and child custody rates, which rank among the highest in the nation.
Child custody matters are matters that change everybody’s life, in a way that permanently alters them. This is why divorce ranks so high on the Holmes and Rahe scale.
Many Florida residents think representing themselves in court will make the process easier and less expensive. But the truth is, child custody matters are determined by a Florida judge who looks at the facts at hand, and not the emotions.
Self-representing could lead to emotions getting tangled up in your matter, which could lead to decisions that are not in the best interests of your child.
Give yourself and your child some peace of mind. Custody lawyers are worth their weight in gold, and can even pursue costs from the other party for you if this is a concern.
Sleep better tonight and contact a Florida child custody lawyer today.
You might assume that hiring a divorce attorney isn’t a necessary step if you and your spouse have decided to get a divorce. Many people assume they can handle all the detail and the paperwork, especially if they don’t consider the split to be acrimonious. But this can be a costly misconception. A divorce attorney can be a vital resource for making sure your divorce is handled professionally, responsibly, and will no future unforeseen recourses. In this video, we talk about some of the reasons why hiring a divorce attorney is always a great idea when you are going through a divorce, regardless of how contentious the split will be. We go over some ways that a good divorce attorney will take the burden off of your shoulders, and help make sure that all the necessary legal steps are followed. So check out this video today, and for more info, head here: (insert link here)
About The Law Office Of Erin Morse
Erin E. Morse, Esquire is a highly knowledgeable, aggressive Orlando Divorce & Family Law Attorney that is passionate about helping families move forward through their most difficult time. Her natural talent of providing creative legal strategies, innate business acumen and prowess as a litigator combine to offer unparalleled legal protection to her clients.