A divorce is not something you will look back at fondly in the coming years. The bitterness of the experience can be made worse by a spouse who refuses to accept the terms of the property division. If you anticipate you might have trouble with your ex where this is concerned, you should take steps to guarantee the final decree is very specific in who gets what and contains penalties for what will happen if there are violations of the decree.
There Should Be Absolutely No Room for Dispute
Enforcement should start before the divorce is finalized. This means making sure the decree is as specific as it can be. The terms of property division should be such that it should leave absolutely no room for dispute. Penalties for not abiding (or refusing to abide) by the decree should be severe and should include an award of attorney’s fees and other expenses related to the lawsuit to the winner.
Every Asset and Liability Should Be Taken into Account
The decree should take into account all the different assets and liabilities owned by the former couple. These include real estate, residential property, rental property, cash, bank balance, investments, vehicles, business entities, retirement plans, 401(k), pensions, stocks, futures, bonds, IRAs, SEPs, mortgage, and personal loans. All assets and liabilities should be traced, characterized, valued, and divided in a fair and just manner. No asset or liability should be concealed from either partner or shown as having a value that is lower or higher than its true value.
The Language Used Must Be Clear and Unambiguous
Ambiguity in language can lead to a dispute in the future. Therefore, the language used in a decree must be specific and unambiguous. When an asset, such a bank balance, house or car is awarded to a spouse, its decree should state that very clearly and order the removal of the other spouse’s name from the ownership document. Every word, phrase, and sentence matters. There should be no ambiguity.
Where and When to File the Enforcement Motion
In case your ex-spouse violates the provisions of the divorce decree, you must file the enforcement motion in the same court that the divorce was filed. However, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if both ex-spouses have moved to another state, it may be necessary to register the decree in one of the states and file the motion that state. The motion must be filed within two years of the signing of the final decree by the court; otherwise, it won’t be enforceable.
Texas Courts Cannot Change the Contents of The Decree
One thing you must remember is, in Texas, the courts do not have the authority to change the contents of the divorce decree. They only have the right to clarify the order to make the language more specific, so the division of property can be enforced. It is because of this limitation that you must ensure the decree is as specific as possible to the smallest detail.
Ways That the Court Can Enforce the Division of Property
A Texas court may enforce the division of property in one of the following ways:
- If a spouse refuses to abide by the decree, the court may award a judgment for money to the wronged party.
- The court may order the violating spouse to hand over the disputed property, or an equivalent sum of money, to the wronged spouse.
- If a spouse was ordered to pay a certain amount of money to the other spouse and failed to make the payment, the court may order him or her to pay the unpaid amount to the wronged party.
- The court may order incarceration or probation or both for the violating party if he or she was found to be in contempt.
- The court may award attorney fees and costs to the wronged party.
In Texas, a final decree of divorce has a better chance of being enforced if it is specific and unambiguous. But, rather than getting a court order, mediation or binding arbitration may be a better option if you anticipate problems with enforcing a property division. Texas divorce attorneys Bennett, Weston, LaJone and Turner, P.C. can assist with a divorce decree or the filing of an enforcement motion.