There are two types of enforcement actions. If you have a Separation Agreement that the other party is refusing to comply with, then you can sue for breach of contract. If you have a court order, even a consent order, then you can enforce it by pursuing a contempt action. Always remember: If you do not enforce agreements and orders, then the other side will usually see no reason to comply with anything you agreed to do.
Breach of Contract
Contracts are enforced by actions for breach of contract. A separation agreement is basically just a contract and is subject to contract law. If you find yourself in a situation where a former spouse has refused to comply with a separation agreement, then breach of contract is the way you force them to do it. You can get either damages or an order for what is called Specific Performance. Damages are just what they sound like. If the other party to the contract didn’t do something they agreed to do, and you suffered some sort of measurable financial loss, then you can sue for those damages. If it is something less easily measured, like damaged credit, withholding visitation with a child, or an ongoing problem such as a failure to pay alimony or child support, then you can ask for an order telling the spouse to do what he or she agreed to do in the contract.
The way to enforce an order is to ask for the other party to be held in contempt. In North Carolina this is typically done through a Motion and Order to Appear and Show Cause. The penalties for contempt range from an order requiring a party to pay arrears or comply with a previously issued order to jail time for the person who is violating the order. Contempt actions are very specific in the way that they are filed and presented to the court. The outcome is also determined based on a different standard than it is in regular civil court. It is important to consult an attorney if you are trying to enforce an order or if someone is trying to hold you in contempt. The lawyers at the Palmé Law Firm are here to help you.