Enforcing a family law order in California is a relatively straightforward process if you know what you’re doing. This article will provide three essential steps that can help you acquire a successful enforcement order.
Here are the most important things to consider in successfully achieving the enforcement of any California family law court orders…
1. Get a clear original order issued from your family law judge.
While this step sounds obvious, on more than one occasion I have encountered court orders that were unclear or unfinished. This results in confusion on how the judge is to interpret the court order in an enforcement hearing. A vague order is an unenforceable order. For example, if you’re trying to specify a visitation plan in your original order, detailed information and specific parenting time tables will make a big difference in enforceability of the order. If you create an order that only says something general like “reasonable visitation”, you are doomed when it comes to trying to interpret what the order means at a later time.
2. Document violations of the order.
Before returning to court on a violation, you should have a record of how the court order was not followed by the other side. For example, if there are certain expenses such as medical bills that are supposed to be paid as ordered by the court, you should send an email or letter to the other side describing what the order was, along with the fact that the other party has not complied with the order. Give the other side an opportunity to remedy the problem with a specific deadline and state what the consequences will be if they don’t comply by that deadline. You can use a copy of the written communication as an exhibit to your enforcement motion
If you’re having difficulty following the visitation order yourself, set out in writing what part of the order isn’t being followed. For instance, if you’re accused of showing up late or not at all for a visitation, memorialize those events by sending something in writing to the other side establishing that fact. This written information will be helpful when you go to court since you can attach the information as exhibits to your request for enforcement.
3. Specify in your enforcement motion what remedies you would like to resolve the non compliance problem.
You are now at the stage where you are returning to court and are ready to file a request for order. Of course you’ll be including in your Judicial Council forms the reasons why you’re returning to court but just as importantly, you should include in your enforcement motion proposed solutions on how to remedy the problem that you’ve encountered. For example, if the other side hasn’t paid certain bills or hasn’t paid support, you should not only specify all of the amounts that were due but also lay out in your declaration the best approach on how these overdue amounts can be paid to you.
If you’re having problems with child custody or visitation, not only do you set out what the problems are but your remedies. For example, if there’s been difficulty communicating with the other parent, you might want to propose coparenting counseling and a return hearing date in case the counseling process is unsuccessful.
If you apply these three principles set out in this article, you have a very good chance of getting the relief that you may want to return to court on an enforcement order. The best chance you could ever have on accomplishing the outcome that you seek would be through the assistance of an experienced family law attorney.