How to Petition to Collect Money in a Divorce Decree
By Jennifer Williams
Divorce is a difficult emotional process that can also take a terrible toll on the finances of both spouses. If one spouse is awarded money in the final divorce decree, that money might be necessary to pay essential expenses or even to avoid bankruptcy. But when the spouse who is ordered to pay does not, the other spouse is left to wonder: what happens now? Collecting the money awarded in a divorce decree requires the receiving spouse go back to court and file a Motion for Contempt.
Write a Motion for Contempt of the original divorce decree. Use a form provided by the family court or obtain one from an online legal document provider. Use the same case number assigned to the divorce action. State the spouse ordered to pay money, the payor spouse, has not paid in accordance with the terms of the final decree and, therefore, is in contempt for violating the terms of the decree. Ask the court to structure the payments, taking them through an income deduction directly from the payor spouse's paycheck. Provide the name, location and contact information of the payor spouse's last known place of employment. Be sure to ask the court to require the payor spouse to pay any attorney fees and court costs associated with going back to court to enforce the decree, since it was the fault of the payor spouse that such expenses were incurred.
File the Motion for Contempt with the same court that issued the final divorce decree. Most courts maintain their fee schedules on their court website. Look at the fee schedule to see if a filing fee is associated with returning to court to file a Motion for Contempt. If there is a fee, pay it when you file. Ask for a file-stamped copy of the motion and take it to a process server for service on the payor spouse. Usually, process servers are relatively inexpensive, but be prepared to pay an up-front fee for their service.
Wait for the process server to file a return of service as evidence the motion was served on the payor spouse. Wait the required number of days for the payor spouse to file a response to the motion. This is usually 15 days.
File a Motion for Hearing with the court after expiration of the required response time. The court will issue a Notice of Hearing and mail it to both spouses. The notice sets the date, time and place of the hearing on the Motion for Contempt. Appear for the hearing at the date, time and place provided on the Notice of Hearing.
Take three copies of the original divorce decree to the hearing: one to keep, one for the payor spouse and one for the court. It is likely the court will have the original divorce file and original decree, but it is considered a courtesy to provide copies of any document upon which a hearing is based.
An attorney for more than 18 years, Jennifer Williams has served the Florida Judiciary as supervising attorney for research and drafting, and as appointed special master. Williams has a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Jacksonville University, law degree from NSU's Shepard-Broad Law Center and certificates in environmental law and Native American rights from Tulsa University Law.