Your divorce is finished, a judgment is entered and your marriage is officially terminated. That’s the end, right?
A perfect divorce settlement does not just end a marriage, it prevents any need for future reference or alteration to that settlement. It is a clean break.
Unfortunately, most of these perfect divorce settlements always seem to happen in some alternate world. In the one we live in, people don’t often hold up their end of a bargain. All it takes is your ex failing to do something that’s in the terms of your agreement and, voila, you are back in court.
Here’s how it happens.
Failure to Comply with Judgement of Divorce
Let’s look at the legal divorce process as a whole.
You and your spouse end up in a courtroom, and your goal is to end your marriage. Since that marriage is a legal agreement (like a contract) you need the Court’s help.
Part of that ‘end’ involves taking all the “stuff” (both material, financial, and living) you have both acquired together over the course of your marriage… And dividing it up the fairest way possible (‘fairest’ meaning, as the Court sees it).
At the end of the day, the Court will consider all the circumstances and facts of the situation. Then, they decide the ‘terms’ of how that ‘stuff’ is split up. That ‘stuff’ can result in alimony, child support, visitation, etc.
That decision becomes part of your Judgement of Divorce, which officially ends your marriage. It also sets the ‘rules’ you and your now-ex-spouse have to abide by.
So we’re clear, that Judgement is a court order. Both you and your now-ex-spouse are legally required to follow it. It’s your new contact.
Well, we all know people aren’t perfect and one of you might decide to break the ‘rules’. In other words, one of you chooses to ignore the court order and fail to keep up your side. This is called “contempt of court” and can carry some hefty ramifications with it.
- Failing to pay support when it’s due.
- Interfering with parenting time.
- Not giving your children to the other parent when you are supposed to.
- Trying to prevent the sale of an asset by dragging your feet or being difficult.
- Refusing to sign the necessary paperwork to transfer ownership of an asset.
- The list goes on.
The takeaway being, if you or your spouse do anything besides following the order as written… You are in violation.
So, if your spouse fails to follow the ‘rules’ then there is a process for the court to step in and take further action. This is called “finding someone in contempt.”
Yep. Just like the movies, though usually not as dramatic
The reality is after you both leave the court with a fresh judgement in hand, the Court expects both of you to follow it. If you don’t the Court won’t know it until one of you tells them. Called “putting the court on notice.”
There is an important caveat here before you up and tell the Court your ex is being difficult…
Before notifying the court, you have to attempt to resolve the situation between the two of you. Without involving the court, first.
In other words, try and work it out amicably before notifying the court of the failure to comply.
In fact, if you reach the point where you need to involve the court, NJ law requires you to submit a ‘certification’ that you tried first. That certification will go with your notification to the court explaining exactly what part of the court order your ex-spouse is not following.
After notification, the circumstances of the situation will dictate the course of action the court may take.
Changing the Terms of Your Divorce Agreement
Now, let’s say that life changes.
Your spouse was broke when you got divorced but now they’re suddenly a self-made millionaire. Or you want more parenting time with your kids.
Whatever the reason, changing any of the ‘rules’ in the divorce agreement means asking the court if you can.
Here are the four most common reasons for modifying a divorce agreement:
Changing Child Support
The terms of a divorce settlement agreement can only be based on the circumstances at the time. You may have had to accept less in terms of child support because your ex is not making as much as he or she used to. The amount was arrived based on his or her current state of affairs at the time of the divorce, rather than the income that was truly earned during the marriage.
From the other perspective, if your ex was down on his or her luck but now finds business is looking better, you can ask for an increase in child support that was originally agreed upon because the children are entitled to benefit from both parent’s financial abilities.
Read more about changing child support arrangements here…
Changing Alimony Arrangements
Say your ex’s reversal of fortune goes the other way. Instead of business booming, it’s simply gone “boom.” In his or her current dire straits, bills might go unpaid. Expenses could pile up. What are the chances that alimony and child support get caught up in the mess? If you are on speaking terms, your ex may approach you about a decrease in alimony/child support. If not, he or she may simply make an application to the court for a reduction in the support obligation. Either way, it must be dealt with.
Read more about changing the alimony agreement here…
There’s no forgetting about the children. Children come first in all divorce proceedings, as well as all post-divorce matters. That’s how it should be. They had nothing to do with your marriage or its failure. They will always be granted the concern and protection they deserve.
In New Jersey, children are not automatically emancipated at age 18. There is no easy way out of being a parent, nor should you be looking for one. More so than ever, you will be expected to communicate with your ex on behalf of your children’s best interests.
Some common scenarios include:
- One parent moves. The parenting schedule must be modified to accommodate the new distance.
- One parent moves out of state. There is a court hearing to decide if that parent can take the kids.
- One parent wants to move with the kids against the other parent’s wishes.
- Direct disrespect of the parenting schedule includes not picking up or dropping off the kids at the agreed upon times.
- Direct disrespect of the parenting schedule also means frequent last-minute changes to the schedule, causing the other parent to have to change his or her plans.
One would hope that the kids bring out the best in divorced parents. One might also hail from that other universe mentioned previously. More so than lawyers, judges are overly familiar with parents that can’t handle post-divorce problems without applying for hearings. They even have a term for them: “frequent filers.”
Get more info about NJ child custody issues here…
Issues with the Distribution of Assets
It goes without saying that the marital home is the asset we choose to represent all other assets in these discussions. It tends to be presented as the crown jewel. Granted, disagreements or issues that arise in relation to any marital assets (such as retirement accounts, investment accounts, etc.) can just as easily end you up in court.
For now, let’s just stick to the home.
The home might not be distributed until a later date, after the divorce. A couple often comes to an agreement that the house will be sold after a certain time or event has passed. Until then, both parties still own the house.
With children in mind, it is common to agree that the custodial parent and the kids will remain in the house until the agreed upon date. Then, the house can be sold and the proceeds divided between the two sides. Selling a house is not so easy, though. The time may come and a realtor has not been agreed upon. The party living in the house interferes with the steps to sell the home. Once again, lives are put on hold and not necessarily the lives that were once bound by marriage. These are the entanglements that divorce court exists for.
Use Your Attorney for Post-Divorce Issues
Post-divorce issues are like the fight after the fight. Sometimes these issues can drag on for years, involving multiple court appearances and a massive amount of paperwork.
Missteps during this process can mean not receiving what you rightfully deserve, only because you don’t know what you don’t know.
Take advantage of our free consultation offer today, and get an experienced NJ divorce attorney on your side.