What happens if a party fails to follow provisions of a court order or Judgement of Divorce?

An order, be it a consent order, a Judgment of Divorce incorporating a Property Settlement Agreement, or any order issued by a judge are all enforceable by law. Violation of an order can result in serious penalties. A person who violates an order can be held in violation of litigant’s rights or in contempt. Penalties for this include sanctions, attorney’s fees to be paid to the other party, and in some instances, incarceration. The severity of the consequences depend on the violation, and sometimes on whether it is a repeated violation.

Consequences of violating a custody or parenting time order 

Shared custody and co-parenting is difficult post-divorce. However, it is imperative that custody and parenting time orders be followed. New Jersey Court Rule 5:3-7(a) allows a court to order the following when a party has violated a custody order: 1. Compensatory, or “make up” time with the children for the time a parent missed with the children; 2. Economic sanctions; 3. Modification of the custody exchange arrangements (i.e. who picks up/drops off the child/ren) 4. Counseling for the parents and/or the children at the expense of the violating parent; 5. Community service for the violating parent; 6. Incarceration; 7. Issuance of an arrest warrant; and 8. Any other remedy the court may find to be fair or equitable. If your ex is continuously violating custody or parenting time arrangements it is important to consult with a knowledgeable attorney.

Consequences for failure to pay child support 

New Jersey Courts treat failure to pay child support seriously. Failing to pay child support can result in a multitude of serious consequences such as garnishment, suspension of licenses, and even jail time. If a payer falls behind in child support, the Court can order the following to ensure compliance with a child support order: 1. Garnishment of the child support obligation (and arrears) through one’s wages; 2. Suspension of a driver’s license or other professional license; 3. Issuance of a bench warrant for arrest; 4. Community service; 5. Intercept of a tax refund; 6. Suspension of a passport renewal and application privileges; or 7. Credit reporting. In addition, if a motion for enforcement is filed by the payee, the court can also require the defaulting party to pay the payee’s counsel fees and costs. A court may also arrest a payer for contempt of a child support order. An experienced attorney can make the appropriate application to ensure child support orders are enforced.

However, unpaid child support is sometimes a result of financial hardship. If you find yourself in this position it is important to consult with an experienced family law attorney immediately. In some instances, an application for modification of child support may be warranted but an application must be made as soon as possible to avoid arrears and enforcement measures.

Tanya N. Helfand, Esq. concentrates primarily in Family Law.  The firm works with clients throughout New Jersey and New York.  Helfand & Associates’ office is located at 575 Route 10 East, Whippany, New Jersey, telephone number 973-539-1000.  The firm works with a network of custody experts and has handled custody matters for over twenty-five years including international child abduction.

Tanya N. Helfand, Esq., is a Certified Matrimonial Attorney, a mediator and Panelist in the Morris and Essex County ESP Programs.  The firm welcomes your questions and inquiries at [email protected].