Enforcing a Divorce Judgment or Order

Enforcing a Divorce Judgment or Order

Last updated: September 2011

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You may ask the court to make someone who is not following a divorce judgment or order to follow it. You may ask the court to do this if:The other party is not following a judgment or order The other party is not following the judgment or order on purpose and without a good reasonYou want the judge to make the other party follow the judgment or orderYou should first try to work out the problem with the other party before going to court. If you are having trouble talking with the other party, you may want to try mediation. If mediation does not work, going to court may be the best option to enforce your judgment or order.Click on words that appear like 'this' to learn what these words mean.Can I enforce my judgment or order? Yes, if the other party is not following a divorce judgment or order, you may ask the court to make them follow it. You will have to show the court a specific part of a court order or judgment which the other party has purposely violated without good reason. Should I do anything before I go to court to enforce the judgment or order? You should try to work out the problem with the other party. It is always better if you can work out your problems without going to court. Do not threaten or argue with the other party. If you are having trouble talking to them, you may want to try mediation. In mediation, a third party will help the two of you work out the problem. Referrals for mediation are available through the Center for Conflict Resolution. Their telephone number is (312) 922-6464. Referrals to private mediators are available through the Mediation Council of Illinois at (312) 641-3000. If this does not solve your problem you may want to go to court to enforce the judgment or order.Will I have to give information about my finances to the other side? If you are trying to enforce a financial or support provision in an order or judgment, the judge will likely order the exchange your financial information with the other side.The judge may order the parties to complete a Financial Disclosure Statement, an Asset Disclosure Statement, or both. In Cook County there is one form called the "Disclosure Statement Pursuant to Rule 13.3.1" in which you state your income, expenses and assets. If you need to get financial information from the other party, be sure to ask the judge to order the exchange of financial disclosure forms.If the judge orders the exchange of forms, you need to put this in a court order which includes the date by which the forms must be exchanged.How do I have the judgment or order enforced? To enforce your judgment or order, you must complete and file a petition with the court that says that the other party is not following the judge's instructions. This petition is called the "Petition for Rule to Show Cause." The Petition asks the judge to make the other party come to court and explain why they did not follow the instructions in the judgment or order. You must attach a copy of the Judgment or Order to your petition and tell the court exactly which parts are not being followed. Then, the other party must then tell the court why they should not be held in contempt for purposely violating a court order.See the "Forms/Letters" section of this guide to find the petition. What if the other party does not come to court? If you gave the other party notice, but they do not appear in court, the judge may take steps to make them appear. The judge may enter an Order on Rule to Show Cause which requires the other party to appear in court for a hearing to respond to the Rule to Show Cause. If the other party fails to appear in court after receiving the Order on Rule to Show Cause, the judge may find them in contempt of court. The judge may also enter an order for body attachment which will result in the other party’s arrest by the sheriff. What will happen in court? You may have to go to court several times to enforce a divorce judgment or order. If the other side comes to the court and the judge believes that they had a good reason for not following the judgment or order, you could be sent to mediation to try to solve the problem.If the other side does not come to court, the judge can enter an Order on Rule to Show Cause, or give give the other side another chance to come to court. The judge may also enter an Order on Rule to Show Cause if the other side appears in court and the judge decides that the other party did not have a good reason to violate the judgment or order. You must complete the Order on Rule to Show Cause and serve it on the other side.Once the Order on Rule to Show Cause has been entered, the other side has to prove that either:They did not violate the order or judgment, or They did not purposely violate the order or judgmentIf the other side does not do this, they can be held in contempt of court.What happens if the other side is found to be in contempt of court? If the judge believes that the other party did not comply and did not have a good reason, the judge could find the person in contempt of court. The judge will then decide on a punishment, which could be a fine, counseling for the offender or even time in jail. The court must also enter a “purge” provision which gives the parent who has been found in contempt a way of avoiding jail time. In cases where the other party has violated a financial or support provision of a judgment or order, this usually means the judge will tell the other party that they can be released from jail if they pay a certain amount of money. Determine Whether You Qualify to Enforce Your Judgment or Order Make sure of the following applies to you before you proceed:The other party violated the judgment or order by not doing something it told them to do, or by doing something it told them not to do, andThe other party violated the judgment or order on purpose and without good reason.Try Using Mediation to Solve the Problem You should try to solve the problem outside of court first. This can save you time and money. You may want to try mediation. Contact the organizations mentioned in Question 2 of the "Common Questions" section, or see the "Related Articles" section for more information about mediation. If mediation does not work, however, you will still have to file a case in court.Prepare Your Forms Before you file your case in court, make sure you have at least two copies of each completed form:Petition for Rule to Show Cause. Remember to attach a copy of the order or judgment which you allege the other party has willfully violated;Notice of Motion. Do not fill out the Certificate and Affidavit of Delivery at the bottom of the Notice yet. This will be filled out after you send the Notice of Motion to the other party;Order for Rule to Show Cause.File Your Case in Court Once you have filled out your Petition for Rule to Show Cause and Notice of Motion, make three copies of each, along with three copies of your Judgment of Dissolution of Marriage or three copies of your last order requiring certain action by the other party.Go to the clerk's office of the court where you received your judgment or order in your divorce case. Give the clerk your original Petition for Rule to Show Cause and Notice of Motion and two copies of each. The clerk will tell you who your judge is and give you a court date. The clerk will keep your original forms and give you back stamped copies. Send the Other Party Notice of the Court Date After you are assigned a court date, staple the copy of the Notice of Motion to one copy of the Petition for Rule to Show Cause. Mail these copies to the other party at least 7 days before the court date. Fill out the Certificate and Affidavit of Delivery at the bottom of the Notice of Motion. Sign the document in both places. Make two copies. Bring these copies with you to court to show to the judge. If you do not have them, the judge may not let you present your case.Go to Your Court Date Go to court at least 15 minutes early. Dress as you would for an important business meeting. Go to the clerk in the courtroom where your case is being heard. If there is a sheet with cases listed on it posted (this is called the “call sheet”) outside the courtroom or in the courtroom, locate your case on the sheet and note the line number. Check in with the clerk by telling the clerk your line number, that you are there and that you are representing yourself. Sit down and wait for your case to be called. When the clerk calls your case name, step up in front of the judge. Introduce yourself. Speak loudly and clearly. If the other party or their attorney is there, let them introduce themselves.Give the original of the Notice of Motion and a copy of the Petition for Rule to Show Cause to the judge. Tell the judge that the other party (your former spouse), with no good reason, has not obeyed the judgment or order. Ask the judge to enforce the judgment or order. If the judge decides that the other party has not obeyed the judgment or order, the judge may issue an Order on the Rule to Show Cause. Have an Order filled out for the judge to approve.Go to Your Hearing Go to the hearing as instructed on the Order on the Rule to Show Cause issued by the judge. At the hearing, if the judge believes that the other party did not comply and did not have a good reason, the judge could find the person in contempt of court. If the judge finds the party to be in contempt, he will decide on a punishment or remedy. The judge can also throw your case out if he believes that the other party did follow the order, or if the order is not specific about what the other party should have done.

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