“Life is like a box of chocolates…You never know what you’re gonna get.” Everyone probably knows this famous quote from the movie “Forrest Gump.” This simple, elementary view of life underscores the unpredictability of many aspects of our daily lives. How long will I live? Will he marry me in the future? Will I win the lottery ticket I purchased yesterday? Unfortunately, no one is equipped with sufficient foresight to answer these questions.
Life after a divorce, likewise, is no easier to predict. Obtaining a final order on divorce may not be the end to disputes between former spouses. New post-divorce problems may certainly arise. For example, a former spouse might not pay child support as ordered by the court. Or a former spouse might take the minor child and flee the country. Or a former spouse might refuse to pay alimony. And so on.
There are many ways to deal with these post-divorce issues. One of the most common legal vehicles used to address non-compliance with a final divorce decree is called contempt. Contempt means a wilful violation of a court order. Every court that issues a final decree of divorce has an inherent power to enforce its order and may find a former spouse in contempt for non-compliance with its order.
Modification of custody or visitation is also a common, post-divorce action. For example, a former spouse’s continuous and significant interference with the other former spouse’s custodial rights may provide the grounds for modification of custodial arrangements. Thus, the court has the power to enforce-and modify-its own final judgment on custody and visitation issues. This is why it is important for folks to keep gathering and maintaining relevant evidence.
When a divorce action comes to a conclusion, I hear many folks say “Now, I don’t have to deal with her (or him) anymore! I’m glad this is over!” Well, in many aspects, yes. But, too often, it really isn’t over. Divorce may spawn a new set of problems between former spouses-especially when there are minor children involved and especially when the former spouses aren’t getting along any better post-divorce than they were pre-divorce.
Just remember that a final judgment and decree of divorce does not mean that it is permanently carved in stone. There may be other things to do. In short, it truly ain’t over ’til it’s over.