Attorneys
Divorce and Family Law

What happens when your ex-spouse won’t surrender your property?

A divorce decree is a legal document that represents orders from the judge and court. However, some people seem to think that they can just ignore any part of the decree that they don’t like.

This often happens in high-asset cases when one spouse has been ordered to turn over significant assets to the other. For example, your ex-spouse may suddenly claim that a bad business deal swallowed up the money that used to be there, a valuable painting was accidentally destroyed or a significant piece of jewelry has somehow gone missing. You know that your ex-spouse’s actions are purely out of spite, but what can you do?

Well, you can take the issue back to the judge. That act alone sometimes makes an uncooperative ex-spouse settle up and turn over the property that’s due. If not, however, the judge can start to apply significant pressure through an order of contempt.

Civil contempt proceedings are not designed to punish. Instead, they’re meant to do one of two things:

  • Apply enough pressure to move a party into action or move proceedings along
  • Restore the rights of whichever spouse has been deprived of them according to the court’s order

People subject to civil contempt proceedings don’t have the same constitutional rights as those subject to criminal contempt. Sanctions against the uncooperative spouse can continue indefinitely, until the court order has been satisfied or the judge decides that nothing further can be done.

If you’re frustrated by your ex-spouse’s refusal to comply with the court’s orders regarding the division of property in your case, it may be time to consider heading back to court.