Contempt and Rule Nisi Petitions
If you and your spouse did not reach an agreement in your divorce, and a judge decided your contested issues for you at trial, then the divorce decree should state the judge’s decision concerning such contested matters and order both of you to comply with that decision. Alternatively, if the two of you reached an agreement in your divorce then that signed agreement would have been part of your divorce decree, and everything in the agreement would be ordered by the judge and binding on both parties. In other words, in some cases a judge orders both of you to do something or not to do something and in others the judge orders both parties to follow the agreement that they signed. Either way, if one of the parties refuses to abide by the judge’s decree, commonly called an order, they can be found in contempt of court for failing to follow the court’s demands.
When one party is not following the judicial order, then the other party can file a petition to find them in contempt of court, such petitions are sometimes referred to as Petitions for Rule Nisi. A Rule Nisi petition demands the other party to “show cause” as to why they should not be forced to act in the way previously prescribed by the court. In other word, they are not abiding by the order and they must show why they should not be forced to abide by it. An example of this is child support. Lets say that a couple agree that the husband shall pay $300 in child support to the wife in a divorce agreement, and a divorce decree is entered ordering that the husband pay this amount. Then a year down the road, the husband stops paying this amount and starts paying $100 per month to the ex-wife. The ex-wife can file a Petition for Rule Nisi and at the hearing, the ex-husband would have to show why he should not have to pay $300 month as was previously ordered in the divorce. If the judge is not convinced, then the court can find him in contempt of court for not following the prior order to pay $300 per month. In such a situation, the husband can be found in civil contempt of court and this is one of the main methods by which someone can enforce a divorce decree, including any settlement agreement reached in the case.
To file a Petition for Rule Nisi, you will have to pay a filing fee, since it is a separate action than the original divorce case. It is recommended that you hire a local divorce attorney to handle the Rule Nisi for you, but if you cannot afford one then there may be other options. For example, in the case of a spouse not following a child support order, you may be able to contact your local DHR office and they can sometimes help you if you cannot afford an attorney. Once the petition is filed, there will be a hearing. If at the hearing, the judge finds that the other party was disobedient, then the court will usually give the party a limited amount of time to comply with the court’s order. If the party refuses to comply, then the judge can have the party jailed until he or she is in compliance.
If your ex-spouse is not complying with the agreement that both of you reached in your divorce or by the decision of the judge in your divorce case, then you will likely need to file a Petition for Rule Nisi in order to make them follow the court’s order. If you have a former spouse that is refusing to follow their divorce decree, then give our office a call today and speak with one of our Alabama divorce attorneys.
Attorney Steven A. Harris regularly blogs in the areas of family law, bankruptcy, and real estate closings on this website. He is always available in any of the firm’s offices or by phone anytime for a consultation. Mr. Harris tries to provide informative information to the public in easily digestible formats. Hopefully you enjoyed this article and feel free to supply any feedback. We appreciate our readers and love to hear from you!