As Atlanta divorce attorneys, we are often contacted by former clients who, now that their divorce is final, are having problems getting their ex-spouse to comply with the court’s orders concerning child support, child custody and alimony. “How can she get away with that?” “What can I do to make him pay?” and “Do I need an attorney to enforce my Divorce Order?” are questions that we often hear.
The very brief answer to those questions is there is a process available to enforce you divorce decree, and you may undertake that process yourself. But, it is most prudent to seek the assistance of a Georgia divorce attorney to assist you with enforcing your child custody, child support or alimony order.
Georgia courts have the power to enforce their orders and judgments. Thus, if your former spouse has failed to adhere to the court’s order regarding child support, child custody, or alimony, he or she may be found in contempt of court. See generally O.C.G.A. § 19-6-28. In order to enforce your divorce order, you must file a Motion for Contempt in the appropriate jurisdiction. Generally, to prevail in a contempt action, you must show the court that your ex-spouse has failed to comply with the court’s order and that the failure to comply was willful. For example, if your ex-spouse was ordered to pay child support, but has failed to do so despite having the financial ability to do so, you may prevail in a contempt action.
However, as with many issues concerning divorce and post-divorce issues, the facts of most cases are not that clear cut. For example, in cases where the offending party claim his or her failure to abide by the court’s order was not willful, the court may require additional evidence or proof that the offending spouse’s claim in without merit before issuing a contempt citation. The legal analysis necessary to determine whether certain defenses to contempt are meritorious is very complex. Thus, although it is possible to seek and obtain and order of contempt on your own, seeking the help of a divorce attorney will greatly increase your likelihood of success.