How To Enforce A Court Order - Contempt and Collections
The answer depends on what you are trying to enforce. We will discuss the three most common: custody orders, support orders, or property orders.
1. Custody Order. If the other party will not give you the child during your designated parenting time, he is violating the custody order. This can also be called violating the parenting time or visitation order. How you get this enforced? Practically, you need to take reasonable steps to encourage the other party to perform as required. Tell them they need to improve. Do it in writing. If they still will not perform, you may need to seek court intervention. You will need to file a motion for rule to show cause (a/k/a a contempt motion). Once filed the Court will set a hearing for the other party to show cause as to why he should not be held in contempt for not performing. The Court can use its coercive powers to cause the other party to comply, including ordering attorney fees paid, jail time, or some other specific act. The Court could also award you make-up time. Should you just call the police to have them enforce the order? I usually do not recommend this. Law enforcement will come out not to play judge or jury, but rather to diffuse the domestic disturbance. It is possible the police will help you get the other party to perform, but at what cost. Will the child get to watch you call the police on your ex?
2. Support Order. What if the other party will not pay you support on time? Again, you can file a motion for contempt. You can ask the court to apply its coercive powers. You can ask for interest. You can ask that the other parties income be garnished. To recover the amount they failed to pay you will need to ask for an arrearage order. Arrearages can be paid a little bit at a time or all at once. If they have a retirement account maybe you can use the assets they have to pay your support arrearage, see previous posting here.
UPDATE 10/7/09: New Indiana Supreme Court Case regarding enforcing a support order held that the trial court contempt order requiring the father to pay less than the full amount of the Florida support obligation to avoid incarceration did not impermissibly modify the foreign judgment. Also, it held that the Federal Consumer Credit Protection Act, which limits the amount of wages that may be subject to garnishment, does not restrict the amount of support that may be awarded.
3. Property Order. If the other party is not giving you property you were granted in the divorce decree how do you get it? One option is to call law enforcement, but, as stated above I do not recommend this. It is generally a poor use of law enforcement resources and can unnecessarily escalate disputes. Two wrongs do not make a right. You can move the court to hold him in contempt, and ask for coercive remedies. The more difficult issue is generally where the other party is ordered to pay a (nonsupport) debt and they fail to do it, or maybe they are supposed to pay you a lump-sum property buyout and fail. How do you collect your money? You will need to file a motion for proceedings supplemental. This will put the collection of the judgment squarely before the court and allow you to get information about income and assets from the other party. At hearing, you can ask for property or income to be seized.
For all of the above actions you will likely need a private attorney. The enforcement of orders is an unintuitive process and can be frustrating.
Another option for collection of child support is to use the 4-D Court prosecutors in your county. They may be able to help you collect your child support. Hamilton County child support collection questions go here, and Marion County child support collection questions go here.