Is there a Difference between a Motion to Enforce and a Motion for Contempt?

A gavel sits on a wood surface in front of a line of law books

When attempting to force a former partner to comply with a prior court order, many ask if they should file a Motion for Contempt or a Motion to Enforce. However, there are not many differences between the two options, and in fact, in the State of Florida these motions filed by private parties are designated together as Motion for Civil Contempt/Enforcement. However, there is a distinction that may need to be made before filing your motion. If you are in a position where a partner is refusing to comply with support orders or equitable distribution of assets determined by your divorce decree, seek out the advice of an experienced attorney to discuss your situation and begin the process of Enforcement and or Contempt.

The basis for both of these motions require the party to show that there is a valid judgment in place and a party has failed to comply with the provisions of this order. However, the distinction made by courts is that enforcement is used to enforce orders of equitable distribution and contempt motions are made when a party is failing to meet their financial support obligations.

Enforcement is used in cases where a party is failing to comply with an order of equitable distribution or property settlement. This may include a spouse’s refusal to refinance a mortgage, distribute the awarded proceeds from a pension or retirement account, pay an assigned debt, or sign the deed of a home over to the other spouse. The court is limited in their enforcement of these orders and contempt may not be used in equitable distribution enforcement scenarios because of the rights and protections afforded under the Florida Constitution. The Florida Constitution provides that individuals are protected from punishment or imprisonment for nonpayment of a debt. Therefore, the distribution of assets and debts, are considered debts that are removed from contempt orders, and you must seek out enforcement, or further legal action through liens to obtain your proper distribution.

In contrast, payments of alimony or child support are monetary support and are not considered to be debts. Therefore, contempt is used in these cases where a party has failed to fulfill their court ordered support obligations. These obligations may include child support, alimony, attorney fees, health insurance, child care, or other specific financial payments for the child or spouse. If your former partner is found by the court to be in contempt, they may face significant consequences. These consequences may include imprisonment, fines, or sanctions.

If your former partner is failing to abide by your final divorce decree in any way, a Motion for Enforcement or Contempt may be filed on your behalf by your Orlando Divorce Attorney. It is important to seek action when you have not obtained your rightfully gained support awards or property settlements. Discuss your divorce decree with your Orlando Divorce Attorney and the steps needed to ensure you protect your rights.

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