Equally as important as obtaining an appropriate and effective order in a custody, dissolution, or support case is making sure the other party follows the court order. For support orders, the most reliable way to get the money to the supported party is to serve a wage assignment on the other party’s employer. Immediately after the court makes a support order, our paralegals prepare an Earnings Assignment Order, and file it with the court clerk. When the conformed Earnings Assignment Order is returned from court, we then serve it on the other party’s employer with an explanatory letter to the party’s payroll department indicating that the company is obligated by law to follow the terms of the order, and provide a support check directly to our client in the amount permitted by law.
Self-employed support obligors present a more challenging problem. If there is no employer to serve, we work with our clients to assist them in receiving their support when they inform us that the other party has not paid their child or spousal support obligation on time. We may file an Order to Show Cause to determine what amount of support is owed, and then record a support judgment against any property owned by the other party. We may request that the court enforce its own orders through a contempt proceeding, in which the most drastic remedy is putting the non-paying party in jail. Before the court sends anyone to jail, the court will first attempt to take less drastic steps to get the party to follow the court order.
If an opposing party fails to follow the terms of a custody or visitation order, we consider the option of filing an Order to Show Cause to notify the court of the offending party’s non-compliance with the order and request that the existing order be modified to meet the best interests of the children. Oftentimes it is appropriate to request attorney fees from the non-complying party, for having to go to the expense of enforcing a valid order that the court already made.
If a party fails to follow an order dividing real or personal property, relief can be sought by asking for an order that the court transfer the property, without the other spouse’s signature on the transfer document. This often occurs when a piece of property, such as an automobile, a boat, or the family residence is awarded to one party, either after trial or by way of a property settlement agreement, and the spouse that did not receive this piece of property refuses to sign the transfer documents. In these situations, we prepare a motion and request that the court clerk sign the transfer documents. We provide the transfer documents to the court in advance of the hearing date, and on the day of the hearing, the transfer documents are signed and provided to our client. It is typical to request attorney fees in the form of a sanction from the non-complying party, because if they would have complied with the order, the motion would not have been necessary.