If you are currently in the court process for any type of litigation, you may have noticed by now that just because a judge has ordered someone to do something does not mean that person will do it. This realization can be very frustrating for many people and can make settlement a lot more difficult.
Before you can enforce an Order, you must make sure that there is actually an Order that contains specific language regarding the action you want taken. Just because you are entitled to some sort of specific relief, such as child support or maintenance, does not mean that there is a violation if its not in a court Order. Secondly, the Order must be very clear and should have definitive language such as “shall” or “shall not”. If the Order merely states that a person “shall make all efforts” or other language that implies anything less than a direct action, a judge will likely not find someone in contempt of the Order.
Once you have an Order that has direct language that has been violated by the other party in the case, you will have to file a Petition for Rule to Show Cause or a Motion to Enforce the Court Order. A Petition for Rule to Show Cause is used when the language is clear and the violation is clear. In that scenario, a judge will “issue the rule”, and your opposing party will have to show cause why he/she violated the court order. In these cases, a judge will likely hold the person in contempt and set a “purge”, which is the amount the person will have to pay or the action they have to take, to get out of the contempt. Once the purge is complete, the contempt is removed and the “rule” is discharged. You will also be entitled to attorneys fees pursuant to 750 ILCS 5/508(b).
If the language is not clear or the violation is not clear, a judge will likely re-order the party to take the action, or modify the prior court order to make the action more feasible. One way to avoid having to return to court is to incorporate consequences into the court order. For example, you could state that if the person fails to pay by a certain date, a Notice of Withholding against their employer shall issue. Or, if a person does not give notice of their inability to exercise their court-ordered visitation, they have to pay for the babysitter for that time.
It is always the hope that litigants will comply with court orders the first time around, and for the most part, most litigants do comply. If you are one of the few
dealing with a complicated Ex-spouse, talk to a lawyer about how to navigate the process of enforcing your court order.