What if Your Ex Violates the Terms in Your Divorce Decree?

Your divorce decree serves as a final legal agreement between you and your ex-spouse. It’s meant to provide clarity and structure post-separation. But what happens if your ex-spouse violates the terms outlined in this crucial document? 

Your divorce decree is a legally binding document. Read more about that here.

Your ex has violated the terms of your divorce decree

Let's consider three hypothetical scenarios where an ex-spouse has breached the conditions of their divorce decree. In each case, we'll discuss the potential consequences and outline what you, as the wronged party, can do to seek justice.

Scenario 1: Non-payment of alimony

Imagine your ex-spouse received a court order to provide spousal support payments, but they have stopped making payments without any legal justification. This situation leaves you financially unstable and is a clear violation of your divorce decree.

What happens next? You can file a motion for contempt of court. The court will set a hearing date for both parties to present their case. If found guilty of failing to abide by a divorce order, your ex-spouse may face penalties, including wage garnishment or even jail time, in extreme cases.

What should you do? Document every missed payment. Gather any communication related to this issue. Contact a family law attorney to guide you through the process of filing a motion.

Scenario 2: Violation of child custody agreement

Suppose your ex-spouse is consistently late picking up or dropping off your children. Or worse, they've taken your children out of state without your consent. This behavior disrupts your children's routine and breaches your custody agreement.

What happens next? Similar to the first scenario, you have the option to file a motion for contempt. The court will review the evidence and, if your ex-spouse is found to be in violation, they could face fines, changes to the custody agreement, or in severe cases, loss of custody rights.

What should you do? Keep a detailed record of every instance of violation. This includes dates, times, and relevant details. Consult with your attorney to understand your options and the best course of action.

Scenario 3: Non-compliance with property division

Let's say your ex-spouse refuses to transfer the title of the shared car to your name as was stipulated in the divorce settlement. This refusal is a breach of the property division order.

What happens next? Once again, you can file a motion for contempt. If there is a finding of contempt by the court, they might be compelled to transfer the title immediately or face legal consequences.

What should you do? Maintain all paperwork demonstrating your ex-spouse's refusal to comply. Reach out to a legal professional to assist you in taking the next steps.

Free download: What to Include in Your Settlement Agreement

Actions you can take

When faced with a violation of your divorce decree, there are several strategic steps you can take to address the situation. Here's a brief overview.

Document the violation

The first action to take is to meticulously document every instance of the violation. For example:

  • If your ex-spouse has stopped making alimony payments, save all bank statements showing the missing payments. 
  • If they're breaching the child custody agreement, keep a detailed diary noting the date and time of each late pick-up or drop-off or any unauthorized trips out of state. 
  • In case of non-compliance with property division, hold onto any communication where your ex-spouse refuses to transfer the title of the shared car. 

Your documentation will serve as crucial evidence if legal action becomes necessary.

Communicate with your ex

If it is safe for you to do so, consider discussing the issue directly with your ex-spouse. They may be unaware of the seriousness of their actions, or there may be a misunderstanding that can be cleared up through conversation. 

Be clear about the issue. Refer to the terms of your divorce decree, and express your desire to resolve the matter amicably. It's essential to keep these communications respectful and professional, as they may be presented in court.

Try mediation or other forms of negotiation

If direct communication doesn't resolve the issue, you may want to consider mediation or another form of negotiation. 

In mediation, a neutral third party helps both sides communicate their needs and reach a mutual agreement. This process can be less adversarial and stressful than going to court, and it often results in a solution both parties can live with.

Read: 3 Little-Known Communication Tools to Improve Your Relationships

When it’s time to contact an attorney

Recognizing when it's time to contact an attorney can be challenging. However, if your ex-spouse repeatedly violates the divorce decree despite your efforts at communication and mediation, it's time to seek legal help. Other red flags include your ex-spouse retaining a lawyer, threats of legal action, or any form of intimidation.

Once you decide to involve an attorney, research lawyers with family law expertise. Schedule consultations to discuss your case and assess their approach. Choose someone you trust and feel comfortable with.

Consider the costs as well. Legal proceedings can be expensive, but affordable options exist. At Hello Divorce, we offer flat-fee legal services and online divorce plans so you know exactly how much you’re paying ahead of time. 


Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.