What happens when your spouse refuses to follow the divorce decree?

Board Certified Family Law Specialist Matt Arnold answers the question: “What is an Absolute Divorce?”


A recent divorce debacle playing out in the UK represents an all too common reality for some. The husband in the case, a Russian billionaire, has utterly refused to comply with any aspect of the divorce decree. Despite a court order mandating that he hand over hundreds of millions of dollars to his ex-wife, along with vehicles and artwork, the man has simply said “No”. Now his former wife is forced to continue litigation, in the hope of collecting the money that is rightfully hers.


Judge-Gavel-Charlotte-DIvorce-Lawyer-Lake-Norman-Family-Attorney-300x200The case is an especially extreme example of what can go wrong when one party refuses to honor the divorce decree. In this case, the billionaire was ordered by a British judge to fork over $643 million, roughly equivalent to 41 percent of his total assets. The man was also ordered to give up an Aston Martin sports car and an expensive modern art collection.


The ruling, which occurred back in December of 2016, has so far resulted in not a single penny flowing to the billionaire’s wife. Her attorneys claim that the man moved all of his money to a bank account in Lichtenstein, the same place he relocated and hid all his artwork. These actions were made to make him judgment proof in the UK, preventing courts from seizing assets and giving them to his former wife. The woman must now continue fighting her case in the hope of receiving the money she was granted by the court.


Though the case is hardly ordinary, the story is a common one. A divorce can be a very stressful and emotional event and it can cause some people to act out. This is usually the result of hurt feelings or a sense of powerlessness. By refusing to follow the court’s orders, as it relates to child support, spousal support, division of assets or even visitation, the misbehaving party may feel like he or she is reasserting control over an out of control situation. This can also be a way that a spouse tries to punish his or her former partner. Whatever the reason, it can create serious problems for the spouse on the other side of the dispute.


So what happens if you are the spouse on the other side? The good news is you are not helpless. If your spouse refuses to comply with the terms of a divorce decree, he or she can be found in contempt of court. The decree is, after all, an order with the full weight of the law behind it. It is not optional. If you have tried reasoning with your spouse and failed, talk to your North Carolina family law attorney about other, more serious options.


The best way to force the issue is to file a contempt motion with the court. This is a way that a private person can enforce a court order against a stubborn spouse. A contempt motion can be used for a number of reasons, including non-payment of support (child or spousal), non-compliance with a visitation schedule and refusal to divide marital property.


After the motion is filed, a judge will usually hear testimony on the matter and then issue a decision. The judge will often allow the misbehaving party time to comply with the order and may hand down additional punishments, such as fines or a requirement that he or she pay the other side’s legal bills. If the person continues to refuse to comply with the order, the judge can consider garnishing the person’s wages or even order jail time. Again, a divorce decree is not optional.


If you find yourself facing a complicated family law matter, then you need the help of experienced family-law attorneys in Charlotte, North Carolina who can help guide you through the often confusing process of divorce. Please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 or find additional resources here.







The family law practice group at Arnold & Smith, PLLC includes two Board-Certified Family Law specialists and several attorneys with many years of family law experience that are committed to providing a powerful voice to individuals facing the often-tumultuous issues in this area of law. The range of issues our family law clients may be facing include pre- and post-nuptial agreements; separation agreements; post-separation support; child support (both temporary and permanent); absolute divorce; divorce from bed and board; military divorce; equitable distribution of assets; child custody (both temporary and permanent); retirement benefits and divorce; alimony and spousal support; adoption; and emancipation. Because this area of the law is usually emotionally charged and complicated, the family law attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC act with the utmost dedication to ensure that each client understands his or her options, and then act to achieve the best result possible for that client’s particular situation.






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