Contempt & Enforcement
Compliance with valid court orders and/or agreements is often an afterthought to clients who are in the midst of the divorce process. The reasonable expectation is that your ex-spouse or the opposing party will do as they agreed or were ordered, particularly when those obligations relate to care and support of the minor children, spousal support, and/or distribution of marital property. However, the reality is that non-compliance is a risk to contemplate, both at the time the agreement and/or order is finalized and when non-compliance issues arise.
The equity court's powers to enforce its own orders and/or agreements are expansive. However, additional protections can be included in most agreements and/or consent orders that offer built-in remedies, such as recovery of attorney’s fees in the event of non-compliance, liquidated damages, and/or means for enforcement and/or collection that are outside the court's powers. This is something our team can address with you before any consent orders or agreements are finalized, in the hopes of deterring non-compliance and creating an efficient means for enforcement, should the need ever arise.
When non-compliance issues occur, our team will work with you to determine the swiftest and most cost-effective means for making you "whole". That includes assessment of obligations due per the order or agreement as well as the potential to recover any damages, attorney's fees, and/or costs you've incurred during the enforcement process (to the extent available to you via Maryland law and/or the provisions of your agreement).
Enforcement of a court order or agreement is asking the court to take appropriate steps to ensure that the other party timely complies with his or her obligations under the order or agreement. Maryland law allows you to ask the court to order the other to pay attorney's fees and costs you incur to enforce an order or agreement concerning custody or payment of child support. Unless you have an agreement that allows this, you may not be able to recover attorney's fees and costs to enforce provisions relating to property or alimony.
Contempt relief is only available when you are seeking to enforce a valid court order (or agreement that has been incorporated, or merged into a court order). The court will issue a show cause order directing the non-compliant party to, to the extent applicable, explain why he or she should not be held in contempt of the court order. If you can prove that the other party is willfully violating the order in question, the court can find him or her in contempt and order that they perform acts or pay money to purge their contempt. In extreme cases, the court may incarcerate a non-compliant party to compel him or her to act in conformance with the purge provision and/or order being enforced.