As a divorce attorney, my emphasis is on resolving the big issues a couple faces when splitting up: Spousal support, child support, custody, parenting plans. The end goal is to have a legal judgment or agreement spelling out everything known at the time.
Although this is the “end goal,” for many couples having the signed judgment does not always signify the true end of their involvement in the legal process. Sometimes once the judgment is signed, the divorced couple willingly abides by the terms of the judgment for many years, and perhaps for their whole separate lives (or at least until the children turn 18). All too often, however, I see recently divorced clients back in my office again, needing help because their ex-spouse won’t comply with the divorce judgment.
Common issues I see arise around finances and property:
• Failure to pay spousal or child support
• Incorrectly claiming children as dependents on tax return
• Failure to obtain life insurance as ordered
• Failure to appropriately split retirement accounts
• Refusing to hand over personal property
Common issues I see arise around parenting time/custody:
• Failure to adequately care for children during parenting time (issues around sleep, food, neglect, harm)
• Not showing up for visits with the children
• Inappropriate communication with the children (e.g. texting or calling during times prohibited by the court)
• Inappropriate communication with the co-parent (name calling, blaming words and actions, excessive communication)
• Appearing at children’s school and extracurricular activities when prohibited by court
• Refusing to allow the other parent visitation as authorized in judgment
• Refusing to hand over child’s passports, medical documentation, etc.
• Non-custodial parent making decisions about the child’s education, religious instruction, health
Fortunately these clients have legal remedies. Although it means going back in the courtroom, the former spouse can be forced to comply with the divorce judgment.
Another common scenario I see is that although the other spouse is abiding by the terms of the judgment, years later, with the many changes life brings, the divorce judgment no longer works well for the client. Wife has lost a job and can no longer afford to pay the ordered support amount. Husband has remarried and moved away and the parenting plan is no longer effective. If the situation warrants a change, the judgment can be modified.
Divorce may be the end of a marriage but it does not always signify an end to interaction between former spouses. Frequently there is an ongoing financial relationship (e.g. spousal support) and where there are children involved, there may still be years of co-parenting, and a lifetime of sharing children. It’s good to know that there is legal help available to resolve a couple’s issues, even after the divorce is final.
Robert (Bob) Good has practiced law in Jackson County for over twenty years, specializing in family law, estate planning and business law. Contact him at his Ashland office at (541) 482-3763.