You’ve finally legally dissolved your marriage through a divorce, and now you reside separate and apart from your spouse, but you left certain personal property at the marital home. Before the judge assigned to your case dissolved the bonds of matrimony between you and your husband, you both signed off on a marital settlement agreement that was approved by the court. Everything has been finalized except for the return of certain personal property that he stipulated he’d return to you. Now he won’t comply with that stipulation, and you want to know what remedies might be available to you. Here’s what you need to know.
A stipulation is an agreement between two parties to a legal case. That agreement is usually made before a hearing or trial, but stipulations might also be agreed upon during the course of a trial. Parties might stipulate to certain facts, or they might stipulate to a certain remedy. In your case, your stipulation provided for the remedy of the return of your personal property that you left in the marital home.
Your remedy upon breach
Your marital settlement agreement was incorporated into your divorce decree, so that makes the stipulation to return your personal property part of a court order. Since your former husband is failing to comply with a court order, he’ll be required to show the court cause why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court. That’s going to take time and money. You’ll need to file a motion to have your former husband show cause why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court, and you must give him notice of your intention to do so.
Issuance of a rule to show cause
Your former husband need not appear in court on your motion to bring him into court to explain why he didn’t comply with the court’s order, but failure by him to appear should be noted in the court’s order. Another court date will be set, and at that time and date, your ex-husband will be required to be present to explain to the judge why he shouldn’t be held in contempt of court for failing to comply with his stipulation and the court’s order to return your personal property. You must serve your ex-husband with the order to show cause. The court will tell you what kind of service is necessary. To be held in contempt of court, a willful failure must be shown.
What if he fails to appear on the hearing date too?
If proper service was had on your former husband, and he doesn’t appear for the contempt hearing date, it’s likely that he’ll be held in contempt. A body attachment could issue, and the sheriff of the county that he lives in could be ordered to take him into custody and brought before your judge. It’s likely that he’ll be required to post a bond once he’s picked up. Assuming that he’s arranged for you to get your personal property back, he’ll purge himself of contempt, but there’s still the issue of the bond. Ask for a turnover order before he can seek release of that bond money.
The turnover order
Judges frown upon their orders being ignored. That’s why your ex-husband was taken into custody and had to post a bond. You were required to retain an attorney, take off work and return to court at least two times to enforce a stipulation. If the bond that your former husband posted is turned over to you or your attorney, legal fees can be paid or reimbursed to you along with compensation for your time away from work.
Don’t try to enforce a stipulation yourself by going to your ex-husband’s residence and banging on the door. You could get yourself arrested. The contempt process is complicated, and your former husband has rights too, but there’s a right way of obtaining your property and a wrong way. The right way will eventually get his attention, and we do things the right way.