If your ex-spouse won’t comply with your Financial Court Order after you get divorced, what are your options?
You have an Order from the Court telling you who should pay what and when. You’re finished with all the stress and uncertainty of resolving financial matters with your ex now, right? For the vast majority of people, the answer to this question is a resounding yes.
If the Court has made an Order, that is generally the end of the matter. There are an unfortunate few, however, whose ex-spouse chooses to ignore the Financial Court Order and/or fails to comply with the terms.
So, what can you do if one party is in breach of the terms of the financial order?
Enforcing the Financial Court Order
This largely depends on exactly which term of the Court Order has not been complied with, but, importantly, the Court does have ways of enforcing any Order it makes and it is important to seek legal advice as early as possible to remedy the matter.
This can include –
- The Court signing documents on the ex-spouse’s behalf where they refuse to do so (for example, in respect of a property transfer);
- In respect of regular payments, the Court can require the employer of the non-compliant ex-spouse to pay the sums due directly from their earned income, so that the money comes to you before the ex-spouse has a chance to choose not to pay;
- Requiring fines to be paid or ordering that assets belonging to the non-compliant spouse are seized; and
- In particularly serious circumstances, ordering that the non-compliant ex-spouse be committed to prison.
The importance of taking legal advice
Proceedings involving the enforcement of a Financial Court Order can sometimes highlight ambiguities in the drafting of the Financial Court Order in the first place, which can often be the reasoning (or excuse) for non-compliance.
It is therefore important to take legal advice at the time of reaching a financial agreement so that future potential non-compliances can be anticipated and dealt with at the time of drafting the Financial Court Order.
How the Courts view non-compliance
When the Court makes an Order, it expects that all parties abide by its terms – this is whether it is an Order agreed by consent between the parties, or an Order made by the Court.
Any failure to follow the terms of an Order will be treated seriously.
The Court understands that there are circumstances where one ex-spouse may make the implementation of any agreement very difficult. The Court also understands that it should not be necessary to return your case to Court in order to receive what is rightfully already yours.
The Courts, therefore, are often more open to ordering that the non-compliant ex-spouse pays your legal costs for making the application.
The longer matters are left, the more difficult it can be to remedy the situation and, in some circumstances, there are cut off points for bringing the matter before the Court.
As such, it is important to seek legal advice as soon as possible after the breach, so that all of your options can be explained to you.
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