What Happens If Your Ex Doesnt Follow Divorce Decree

What happens if your ex doesn’t follow the divorce decree?

Throughout the process of divorce proceedings, a number of issues are addressed and judgments made as to their status and enforcement going forward. If your ex-spouse doesn’t follow the terms of these judgments, you can file a motion requesting enforcement by the court. Examples of these kinds of scenarios include child support, child custody, debt repayment, and parenting time.  

All judgments or decrees declared by a Michigan family court judge are legally binding and the recipient is required to do whatever is noted in the order. Depending on the severity of the issue and related laws, disregarding a divorce decree will cost a lot of money in legal fees and might even result in jail time. Let’s look closer at some consequences if your ex-spouse refuses to or cannot follow the terms of a decree.

Division of property

If a divorce decree orders your ex-spouse to return specific property or give property to you and they do not, a motion may be filed specifically outlining property division. A judge can enforce the decree through a variety of methods including:

  • Appoint the third party to physically receive the property, preserve it, and deliver it to you
  • Award you accumulated interest on any overdue payments
  • Declare the ex-spouse in contempt of court and order them to pay a fine or be sentenced to jail
  • In the event of failure to sign a transfer of title paperwork, you can file a motion requesting enforcement of title transfer

Child support

Violating a family court order typically does not result in a visit from the police, unless it involves child support. If your ex-spouse is far behind in support payments and the divorce decree allows for bench warrant arrests, your ex may be arrested. A likelier outcome, however, is that you inform the court of the issue and Michigan courts will issue an “enforcement motion” or “motion for contempt.” This process allows you to petition the court to force your ex to follow the decree.

Affirmative defense

In some cases, an ex-spouse might be genuinely unable to follow the divorce decree, in which case they can submit an affirmative defense. For example, a child support order based on a specific income can be modified if that person is now out of work and is unable to make the payments. The same protocol is followed in other scenarios such as the inability to make equity payments by a specific date and other related matters.


If your ex-spouse does not follow the decree, the court will order them to do so and potentially also order payment to you of attorney’s fees and related court costs. This sometimes takes the form of wage garnishment in support or property settlements or adjusting visitation time with children. If issues persist and require additional court visits, your ex risks contempt of court charges and possible jail time.

Keep in mind that nearly all court orders can be modified if you return to court ahead of time, rather than letting an issue deteriorate.

Questions about divorce decree procedures in Michigan? Contact The Gucciardo Law Firm today at (248) 723-5190.

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