You may be well familiar with the fact that family courts retain jurisdiction to modify decrees that contain parent-child matters such as custody, access and possession, child support and medical/dental support. As circumstances change and as those circumstances materially affect children the courts may intervene to change prior orders to adjust custodial rights, to reset access and possession orders, to increase or decrease child support, and to secure new orders dealing with medical and dental insurance and/or costs for the benefit of the children.
Once a child ages out the court loses jurisdiction to address these issues except for child support arrears and medical cost arrears. The court can enforce the collection of arrears by contempt actions until the second anniversary of the child’s aging out. After that two-year window the court can still confirm arrears and order the collection of arrears through wage withhold orders and other levies and liens, but not by contempt.
What about property matters? Family courts also retain jurisdiction to enforce and clarify property awards. This commonly happens when a retirement order in the original decree is ambiguous and needs to be clarified before it can be enforced. This is usually accomplished when a party files a suit for clarification and enforcement. Some of these clarification and enforcement actions can become very complicated and costly to unravel.
The court can also enforce a turnover order. A turnover order addresses the failure of a party to turn over assets that were identified and awarded in the original decree. This could include cash accounts and such things as tangible goods (collections, vehicles, weapons, etc.).
The court also can hear cases in which the original decree failed to award assets that existed at the time of the original decree. Under some circumstances these suits could take place years after the date of the original decree. Care must be taken to insure that all assets of the marriage are identified and awarded in the original decree.
Sometimes a court will hear a case in which a divorce was granted in another state but where that state did not have jurisdiction to divide property. Parties can seek out the court in another state that would have jurisdiction to divide assets identified by the other court but that were not awarded by that other court.
So, it’s not over when the final decree is signed by a family judge. Be aware that there could always be post-divorce matters in the future for every party. This post-divorce world is fraught with risks and confusion. Be sure to consult an attorney when these matters appear in your case.
We are here to help. Call us at 915-593-6600 or 915-256-0579. We have handled literally 100’s of these post-divorce actions.