Steps for Enforcing Property Awards in Divorce Cases

Divorce proceedings ultimately result in a final judgment that covers the parties’ respective interests regarding issues such as property division, spousal support, and child custody and support if applicable. A final divorce decree regarding the distribution of marital property and assets may provide for the sheriff to receive or take possession of the property from a party to give to the other party. A divorce decree can also direct the parties to follow a specific procedure for satisfying the court’s judgment regarding property transfers. When a party refuses or otherwise fails to comply with a property award in a final divorce decree, the other party can take steps to ensure enforcement of the court’s orders.

Writs of Garnishment

A party may enforce a property award from a divorce decree by using a court order for a bank or organization to withhold funds or payments and transfer them to the party seeking enforcement. This process is accomplished through what is known as a “writ of garnishment.” This method of enforcement is typically used regarding awards for spousal and child support or attorney’s fees.

To receive a writ of garnishment, you must file a motion with the court that entered judgment for your divorce. Upon issuance, the sheriff will serve it on the noncomplying party, who must then file an answer.

Writs of Attachment and Sequestration

Property awards may be enforced using a procedure allowing the sheriff to seize the noncomplying party’s property. The sheriff can hold seized property until the party posts an “attachment bond” which is money held in place of the seized property. Courts have the authority to order the sale of seized property, giving the proceeds to the party who obtained the writ of attachment and sequestration.

Writs of Execution and Levy

Property awards regarding assets such as real estate, personal property items, and corporate stock may be enforced using a writ of execution and levy. Here, a levying officer may impose a levy or lien on specific property and may sell it to satisfy the property award.

Contempt Proceedings

The use of contempt proceedings depends on the nature of the property award the other party is trying to enforce. Generally, courts may impose fines and jail time for contempt of court on a person who does not comply with a court order. A court’s contempt ability derives from its ability to punish individuals who disrespect the court’s power. However, courts may not use its contempt power in the context of repaying debts.

When a party seeks to enforce a property award for repayment of a property debt, the court may not use contempt proceedings to impose jail time on the noncomplying spouse. However, the court may hold a party in contempt for failing to perform a specific act pursuant to a property award. For example, a court can hold a spouse in contempt for refusing to pay child or spousal support, because such orders involve a party’s legal duty to provide support, and not for the repayment of a debt. Also, courts may hold someone in contempt for failure to comply with a court order directing them to name their former spouse as a beneficiary under a life insurance policy.

Get Effective Legal Counsel for Your Divorce

Property issues in a divorce can be complicated. When your divorce involves high-value property and assets, the legal issue involved can be a challenge even for experienced divorce attorneys. Luckily, Dale L. Bernstein, Chartered Law Office can give you an edge in your divorce. Led by Attorney Dale L. Bernstein, our legal team has the experience and sophisticated comprehension of complex divorce issues to provide you with reliable legal representation during your divorce proceedings. We can help you understand difficult legal and financial concepts so you can reach an informed decision about your case.

Contact our office at (727) 312-1112 to set up a consultation with Dale L. Bernstein to explore the merits of your case today.


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