As matrimonial attorneys, our legal partners Lyons & Associates, P.C., unfortunately find that it is common for a former spouse to violate the terms of the divorce agreement in the months and years following the divorce. We are here to guide our clients through their options when violations occur so we can help effectively and efficiently guide them to what will be a beneficial outcome. Here are 3 tips from Lyons to help guide you through this process & what happens next.
1. Know Your Agreement Terms
A. Parties’ Obligations: It is most beneficial to clients that they fully understand the terms of their agreement and what their former spouse is obligated to do following the divorce. The more obvious examples are payment of spousal support and child support, and payment of the agreed upon portions of children’s out-of-pocket medical expenses and extracurricular activities. Less obvious examples may include cooperation and execution of Qualified Domestic Relations Orders (known as “QDROs”) that will equitably divide retirement assets pursuant to the terms of your agreement, establishment and maintenance of a life insurance policy to secure a spouse’s alimony and child support obligations, and refinancing the former marital home.
B. Dispute Resolution: It is common for divorce agreements to have what is referred to as “dispute resolution” language or a mediation clause. These clauses require the parties to attend mediation to attempt to settle any issues and violations with an agreed upon neutral mediator before they can file the appropriate court application. It is very important for clients to know if such a clause exists in their agreement, so they save valuable counsel fees and time instead of rushing to file a court application only to be disappointed when the Court sends them to mediation to attempt to resolve the issues.
2. Keep Detailed Records
Whenever a former spouse is not abiding by the terms of the divorce agreement, it is extremely important to keep detailed records of these violations as well as any attempts the other party makes to remedy these violations, within reason, amongst the parties. Gathering of e-mails, text messages and other means of communication between the parties regarding these violations will shed light to the Court on the nature and extent of the violations.
Further, any attempts by a spouse to seek to remedy the other spouse’ violations outside of Court may look favorably upon them when a Court is assessing whether to award counsel fees to the non-breaching party. In fact, some divorce agreements include specific language that awards the non-breaching party with reasonable and necessary court costs and counsel fees when they prevail in Court.
3. Be Ready For Litigation
We understand that some clients are hesitant to enter into litigation following the divorce, as it forces them to be in continued, contentious contact with their former spouse. Clients need to be prepared that if their attempts at settling these violations at mediation or amongst themselves fail, their only recourse is to file the appropriate court application. We help put our clients in the best position possible.
This post was sponsored by Lyons & Associates, P.C.