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Enforcement of a Settlement Agreement

Most divorce cases do not end with a trial by the judge, but by agreement. The agreement establishes the rights and obligations of the parties. When one party fails to live up to their obligations, it becomes necessary to enforce the agreement. That means filing a request with the court to compel compliance. However, enforcing a non-support obligation is much different than enforcing a support order. Under such circumstances, a judge has a few tools at his or her disposal to order compliance. For example, if the judge allocates certain debts to a particular party and that party fails to pay, usually the only thing the judge can do is to enter a judgment against the non-paying party for the amount of the unpaid debt. This is what happens if someone fails to pay a credit card and then gets sued by the credit card company. Unlike enforcing a support obligation, the judge cannot find the non-complying party in contempt and cannot order incarceration. Therefore, it is important to fully understand exactly how a particular obligation is characterized to understand how it may be enforced. Further, a non-support obligation may, under some circumstances, be discharged in bankruptcy.

You need to consult with an expert family law attorney when considering any proposed settlement or you may be disappointed to learn of the limited tools available to enforce the obligations of the other party. This becomes particularly troublesome if your credit is being adversely affected because your former spouse is not paying what he or she is supposed to pay.


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