If your ex-spouse doesn’t obey the property terms of your Judgment of Divorce (JOD), you can file a motion asking the judge to enforce the JOD. This article talks about JOD enforcement issues you might face, and how to ask for a change in spousal support. If you need help enforcing child support, custody, or parenting time, see Enforcing Orders for Child Support, Custody, and Parenting Time.
If your ex-spouse doesn’t pay a debt assigned to them in the JOD and you pay it, you can file a motion asking the judge to make your ex-spouse repay you. Continue reading to learn more.
If the JOD ordered your ex-spouse to return or give certain property to you and they have failed to do so, you can file a motion asking the court to enforce the terms of the JOD. To enforce property provisions of your JOD, the judge can take actions such as:
- Appointing a receiver to take physical control of the property, preserve the property, or deliver it
- Awarding you interest on overdue payments
- Finding your ex-spouse in contempt of court, and ordering them to pay a fine or spend time in jail
If your ex-spouse doesn’t sign the paperwork needed to transfer title to property you were awarded in your JOD, you can file a motion asking the court to enforce the title transfer.
Filing a Motion to Enforce Your Judgment of Divorce
If there are property, debt, or other terms from the JOD that your ex-spouse doesn’t obey, you can file a motion asking the judge to enforce those terms. Complete the following blank forms:
If you want to ask the judge to find your ex-spouse in contempt of court, resulting in a possible fine or jail time, you can file a Motion and/or Order to Show Cause instead.
The earliest you can file a motion to enforce your JOD or a motion to show cause is 21 days after the judge signs the JOD.
Notice of Hearing and Motion
If you are filing a Notice of Hearing and Motion, give your motion a title that says what you’re asking the judge to do for you (for example, Motion to Enforce Judgment of Divorce). Explain in the body of the motion what your JOD said and how your ex-spouse has not complied. Include what you are asking the judge to do (for example, award interest on overdue payments, etc.).
File your forms at the court and ask the clerk for a hearing date. You must mail a copy of everything you file to your ex-spouse at least 9 days before the date of your hearing.
At the hearing, you and your ex-spouse will each have a chance to speak. Then the judge will decide whether to grant your motion. If the judge grants your motion, they may order reimbursement or other remedies.
Motion and/or Order to Show Cause
If you are filing a Motion and/or Order to Show Cause, complete the top part of the form above the "Order" section. Sign the form in front of a notary, and file it at the court clerk's office. After the judge has reviewed your motion, typically court staff will contact you to let you know if the judge has signed it. If the judge signs it, they will also set a date for the hearing and indicate on the order portion of the form when and how you must serve the other party with a copy of the form. Then you will need to get a copy from the court, serve it according to the judge's instructions, and file a Proof of Service. The Proof of Service is the second page of the motion and order form.
A notary can usually be found at a bank or the court clerk's office.
You and your ex-spouse will each have a chance to speak at the hearing. Your ex-spouse could be held in contempt of court and ordered to pay a fine or sent to jail.
Changing Spousal Support
Unless your JOD says spousal support cannot be changed, either spouse can later ask for it to be changed. Generally, spousal support can only be changed when there are new facts for the judge to consider. Asking for a change in spousal support is not easy. You may need to find a lawyer to help you.
Finding a Lawyer
You might decide you want a lawyer to help you. If you have low income, you may qualify for free legal services. Whether you have a low income or not, you can use the Guide to Legal Help to find lawyers in your area. If you are not able to get free legal services but can’t afford high legal fees, consider hiring a lawyer for part of your case instead of the whole thing. This is called limited scope representation. To learn more, read Limited Scope Representation (LSR): A More Affordable Way to Hire a Lawyer. To find a limited scope lawyer, follow this link to the State Bar of Michigan lawyer directory. This link lists lawyers who offer limited scope representation. You can narrow the results to lawyers in your area by typing in your county, city, or zip code at the top of the page. You can also narrow the results by topic by entering the kind of lawyer you need (divorce, estate, etc.) at the top of the page.