What to Do if Your Ex-Husband Refuses to Pay Your Divorce Settlement

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When the dust from your divorce proceedings settles, you may sigh with relief. All of the emotional and psychological effort you put toward your split is in the past. Divorce settlements may just be a notarized piece of paper to some, but to people whose exes don't uphold their end of the settlement, that piece of paper represents enforceable action that can legally compel them to pay up.

Divorce settlement agreements can cover anything from child support to the division of marital debt, to custody of the family pet. There may even be so many clauses in that your ex could easily overlook one of them and violate the agreement. Hopefully, you'll never have to turn to the family court system to enforce your agreement, but if you need to prepare for the worst, consider this your guide. Here's what to do if your husband or wife refuses to pay any post-divorce financial obligations outlined in your divorce settlement.

Child Support or Alimony

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If your ex isn’t complying with court-ordered child or spousal support, you will need to hire a divorce attorney to file a petition for contempt. Once the report is in the system, a judge can legally compel your ex to pay by garnishing his wages or even sending him to jail until he agrees to make regular payments. 

Shared Debt

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This issue can be tricky. If your spouse refuses to pay a debt that is in both your names, be prepared for your credit score to drop. The worst part about this kind of problem is that you won't have any recourse with the financial institution because it generally doesn't recognize divorce court orders as a valid excuse for not paying. Fortunately, there is a way around being strapped with your ex's debt so that you don't have to end up in a financial hole.

If you have any shared accounts, try to close them or put them in one of your names before the divorce becomes final. Otherwise, you can request that the judge divide the debt evenly between you and your ex so that you are both responsible for what you owe as individuals.

In some states, you can report non-payment of child support to your local child support enforcement office. There are steps the office can take to collect child support on your behalf. Check to see if your state offers this service because it can save you the money you'd have to spend going the court system route.

Marital Property

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Unless you signed a prenuptial agreement that specifically outlines what each person's property rights will be after the marriage, the judge would usually divide the marital property evenly between you and your ex. A prenup keeps your ex from taking any wealth (real estate, family heirlooms, and money) that you acquired before the marriage. If you didn't sign a prenup and your ex refuses to give you any property that's rightfully yours, you can invoke replevin, a legal term also known as "claim and delivery."

Replevin is a legal remedy that allows you (or your ex) to legally recover any personal property that was either wrongfully taken or kept from you during or after the divorce.

Pension Assets

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Like any other property or wealth, a pension earned during the marriage is generally considered a joint asset. It's referred to as a qualified domestic relations order (QDRO) when it appears in a divorce settlement. Similar to marital property, states can choose how pension assets are divided among the ex-spouses. Unlike spousal and child support, your ex can't exactly refuse to split his pension assets with you because the QDRO allows the court to take the agreed-upon amount directly out of his retirement plan with or without his consent.

However, lawyers won't necessarily assume that you want to include certain clauses like a QDRO in your settlement, so make sure you ask your attorney to file one if that's what you want.

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