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Introduction: In addition to being life-changing, emotionally charged events, divorces involve complex legal issues that parties resolve in court proceedings. One of the central aspects of divorce proceedings in each state, including Illinois, is court orders. Regardless of the nature of divorce (contested or uncontested), court orders are crucial for ensuring parties comply with the court decision. In other words, they are not mere suggestions, but legally binding documents parties must comply with or otherwise face legal ramifications.
This article will explore the meaning of court orders in Illinois and emphasize the immediate and long-term consequences of ignoring court orders while suggesting ways to address potential non-compliance. Read on to learn more.
Before digging deeper into the legal consequences of ignoring court orders, let us explain what they are and what their purpose is in court proceedings.
Court orders are legally binding documents that resolve and direct various aspects of divorce and post-divorce life for both parties. A judge issues court orders to provide clarity, order, and structure to what is often one of the most turbulent periods for ex-spouses and their children.
Some typical examples of court orders include child support, alimony, property division, custody, and parenting time (previously referred to as parenting time) arrangements. An Illinois court can award custody over minor children to one parent and order one or both parents to pay a specific amount for child support. Likewise, the court can order temporary or long-term alimony, depending on the circumstances of the case. An Illinois property division order directs property distribution between spouses after the divorce.
Non-compliance with court orders results in immediate and long-term consequences. Legal repercussions immediately affecting the non-compliant party include contempt of court, financial penalties, changes in custody or parenting time, and enforcement measures for child support and alimony. Let us investigate each in more detail.
Courts issue legally binding decisions, affecting both parties. Not everyone is satisfied with the outcome, so the courts have legal means of enforcing their rulings. When a party abuses or misuses the legal process by ignoring court orders, they are in contempt. Illinois law recognizes two types of contempt of court: civil and criminal.
Disobeying a child support order is civil contempt, triggering civil law consequences, such as financial penalties. When determining whether the non-compliant party is in contempt, the judge considers various factors, including the history of violations, whether it was intentional, and the severity and nature of the abuse. The judge also evaluates all mitigating circumstances that justify court order violation. If the party disobeyed a court order intentionally, they are held in contempt and issued a financial penalty. Failing to pay child support despite the financial penalty can lead to imprisonment, but (unlike criminal contempt), the non-compliant party can avoid going to prison if they comply with the order by paying the child support. Persons found to be in contempt of court could also be ordered to pay the other side’s reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.
Violating court orders can lead to other serious consequences, such as modifications in child custody or parenting time arrangements. Child custody and parenting time are closely associated – the non-custodial parent has parenting time rights according to the schedule determined by the court order. On the other hand, the custodial parent must not interfere with scheduled parenting time. Non-compliance with court orders can result in suspension, modification, or termination of custody or parenting time rights, depending on which party has disobeyed the order. For example, the judge can modify the parenting time schedule, changing the dynamics and reducing the visit time for non-compliant parties.
Child support and alimony order non-compliance often have significant implications for persons depending on the financial support. Disobeying the court order by failing to pay support for a child or former spouse can result in contempt of court, financial penalties, and even jail time. However, the court can authorize measures that prevent negative consequences for persons receiving financial support. Below are the most common:
Non-compliance with court orders often results in consequences beyond the immediate implications. Disobedience of court orders can produce long-term repercussions, damaging the relationship between parents and children, leading to loss of credibility in court, and even criminal charges.
Any modification or suspension of custody or parenting time rights disrupts the relationship between parents and their children. That applies to both parents, custodial and non-custodial. When non-compliance with court orders results in a change in parenting time rights, both parents feel the implications of such changes. The non-custodial parent gets to see their child less frequently, which negatively affects their relationship. On the other hand, the custodial parent is under fire, too – a child can hold them responsible for not seeing their other parent.
Consistent violation of court orders can undermine the credibility of a non-compliant party in future court proceedings. That is especially important in cases related to family matters. For example, the parent who consistently disobeys court child support orders can hardly expect to have a favorable outcome in the proceedings where they seek parenting time schedule modification.
As mentioned, failing to comply with court orders can result in contempt of court and further lead to financial penalties. If the non-compliance continues, the court can consider such intentional disregard for the law as a criminal offense, issuing a prison sentence as a last resort.
Life often puts hard choices before us. Sometimes, we find ourselves in situations where we violate the court order. Other times, the other spouse is not complying with the court decrees. Here is what to do when you experience either of the two scenarios:
Whether you face a situation where you cannot comply with a court order or allege non-compliance, you need to seek and consult with an experienced divorce attorney. A well-versed family lawyer will assess your situation and recommend the steps to help you avoid legal consequences (or compel the other side to comply with court orders).
Sometimes, disputes over court order enforcement can arise around minor issues. In such situations, spouses can resolve infractions through open dialog and mutual understanding. Entrusting your dispute to a mediator can also help deal with minor disagreements.
Because life circumstances change constantly, former spouses often find themselves in situations where complying with court orders is no longer possible or represents an unreasonable burden. In such a scenario, seeking order modification is necessary to avoid non-compliance and potential legal consequences. An experienced divorce attorney can help you come up with the right solution.
Whether you suspect your former spouse is not complying with court orders or you find yourself in such a situation, it is vital to protect your interest by taking these protective measures:
If you notice your ex-spouse developed a non-compliance pattern, make note of each instance of disobeying the court orders. Your records should include precise dates, times, and the content of your communication regarding the enforcement of orders. Detailed notes can prove invaluable evidence in potential court proceedings.
Keeping your attorney up-to-date with the latest developments is crucial. Communicate regularly and inform your lawyer of potential or actual non-compliance.
Regardless of the relationship with your former spouse, always prioritize the well-being of your children. Putting their interests first can help reduce the harmful effects of non-compliance.
Susan and Daniel have been married for 15 years and have two children. Their divorce is underway, and the court issued orders addressing child custody, parenting time arrangements, and marital property division.
Daniel, the non-custodial parent, constantly ignores the parenting time schedule defined by the court order. He refuses to pick up the children every second weekend and fails to return them on time.
Susan has two choices. She can file a motion for contempt against Daniel, seeking the court to issue financial penalties or sentence Daniel to imprisonment. The other option is court order modification – Susan can ask the court to change the parenting time schedule, claiming that his behavior harms the interests of the children.
Illinois is an equitable distribution state, meaning the court ordered equitable division of marital assets (family home, retirement savings, and bank accounts). But Daniel refuses to comply with the order by hiding assets and hindering division efforts in other ways.
In this scenario, Susan can file a motion to enforce the court orders. Further refusal to comply can result in financial penalties or imprisonment. Alternatively, the court can order the sale of marital property, awarding each spouse their fair share.
Daniel has a court-ordered obligation to pay child and spousal support. He consistently refuses to comply with the order, claiming financial difficulties prevent him from paying for the ordered amounts.
Susan has two alternatives. She can file a motion for contempt against Daniel. If the court finds his non-compliance unjustified, the judge can order wage garnishment, asset seizure, or even imprisonment. In the second scenario, Susan can seek the court to modify the court order due to a change in the financial situation of her former spouse.
Illinois court orders are vital legal instruments ensuring a smooth and harmless transition in post-divorce reality. Ignoring them can result in severe financial, legal, and personal repercussions.
Thus, whenever you face issues related to court order enforcement, seek legal advice from experienced professionals who can help you avoid immediate and long-term consequences of non-compliance. By hiring proven legal experts, you ensure a harmless transition in the post-divorce future, protecting the peace of mind and well-being of those you care about the most.
In Illinois, a court orders non-compliance cases, choose the legal team at Cooper Trachtenberg Law Group, LLC.
With a proven record of success and multi-decade experience stretching back to 1988, our legal team is experienced in all divorce order enforcement-related matters. Whether your spouse is repeatedly ignoring court orders, or you find yourself in a situation where complying with orders is challenging – consult with our divorce specialists to help you through the proceedings unharmed.
Please reach out to us today at 847-995-8800 to schedule your consultation.