The divorce process can be complex and stressful for everyone involved. This can be true even when you and your ex part on relatively good terms. This is why it is so important to work with an experienced divorce lawyer for men to achieve a fair final agreement. It’s vital for everyone involved to walk away from the situation with the correct division of assets and debts, alongside clear expectations for responsibilities moving forward.
Nevertheless, this isn’t always the end of the story. Even when a fair and equitable agreement is in place, your ex may not hold up their end of the contract. One of the most common forms this can take is the failure to refinance a joint house loan. This isn’t necessarily to say they’re being malicious in this action. They may be struggling with finances or have overlooked the matter. In either case, you may still suffer as a result. A tool you can utilize to address the situation is initiating proceedings to hold them in contempt of court. Let’s take a closer look at the issue. Under what circumstances should you seek contempt of court for your ex not refinancing and what does the process involve?
Why is Refinancing Part of a Divorce Agreement?
It’s worth taking a moment to look at why this situation might be relevant to your divorce at all. During the agreement negotiations, your family home is likely to be one of the most valuable shared assets. However, many couples do not own this asset outright. Particularly with younger divorcing couples, it’s common for the home to still be subject to a mortgage or other form of home loan. As such, the negotiations usually address not just who retains final ownership for the property, but also who bears the responsibility for the debt.
In some circumstances, the fair division of assets and debts may result in you taking responsibility for other loans, while your spouse takes those relating to your house. This may be acceptable to you but, under Florida law, the mortgage provider is under no obligation to alter the current loan agreement to reflect the decision of the divorce courts. The only real way to place final ownership and full responsibility for the debt into your ex’s name is to refinance the loan.
Another common scenario is that your spouse wants to continue living in the property, but in order to maintain a fair division of assets, they must buy you out. This can also result in a requirement for your spouse to refinance the property loan to gain enough capital to see this through.
In the first circumstance, your ex’s failure to correctly refinance the loan puts you at significant financial risk. If they default on payments, the loan provider could come to you for debt recovery. This can not only see you suffer financially, but also impact your credit score. In the second scenario, not refinancing means you don’t receive the fair share of the assets as determined by the court. In either case, there are consequences for you as a result of their actions. It’s only right that they should be compelled to act responsibly.
What is Contempt of Court?
The phrase “contempt of court” is familiar to most people as a result of courtroom dramas and movies. But many aren’t familiar with the details of what this actually means. In essence, it means that a party is disregarding the authority of the court or disobeying the court’s requests. This doesn’t have to be limited to people’s actions in the courtroom itself. Parties can be found to be in contempt of court if they fail to act in accordance with a court order beyond a hearing.
There are also a couple of different forms of contempt — civil contempt and criminal contempt. The latter naturally holds more severe consequences with fewer opportunities to avoid direct punishment through addressing the situation. Though it’s worth noting that both forms can result in fines, sanctions, or imprisonment. When it comes to the matter of an ex not refinancing a loan, your family law attorney can help you to pursue a ruling of civil contempt with the intention of compelling your ex to comply with the order.
What is the Contempt of Court Process?
Contempt of court doesn’t automatically arise because your ex hasn’t refinanced in accordance with your agreement. Just as with your divorce itself, there are various legal structures and processes involved in reaching this point. It can take some time, but it’s important to make certain everybody involved receives fair treatment.
In certain circumstances, the process may not begin with the pursuit of contempt of court motion. If your ex’s failure to refinance results in their inability to pay you the fair division of funds ordered by the court, contempt of court is not the most appropriate first action. This is because there are certain protections in place under the Florida constitution that prevent people from facing punishment — specifically imprisonment — for failure to pay debts. As such, your family attorney may advise you to pursue a motion for enforcement in the first instance. This is similar to how a loan company would treat a defaulted debt.
That said, while the debt itself may be protected under the constitution, the requirement to sign a contract or file paperwork is not. Where the court order specifically states that your spouse must seek refinancing within a set period of time, this may be sufficient to initiate a civil contempt motion. Your attorney will file a motion with evidence of both the court order and the failure to comply. From there, a contempt hearing will take place, during which both parties will be given a fair opportunity to make representations. The judge will then decide on the most appropriate ruling and punishment for the circumstances.
Remember, though, that the judge cannot directly intervene in compelling the loan company to refinance the home or remove your name from the mortgage documents. The punishments and directions from a civil contempt hearing are designed to persuade your ex to perform the actions as previously agreed.
How Should You Proceed?
Your most important first step is to respond calmly to the situation. There’s no doubt your ex’s failure to refinance can be frustrating and even disrupt your life to some extent. However, you won’t help your case or maintain your peace of mind if you personally respond with threats or aggression.
Instead, keep copies of all communications you have with your ex on the matter, along with any letters or emails you receive from the loan provider. This is especially important if they’ve contacted you with regard to a default on the loan. However, the court order is likely to state that your ex must refinance within a set period of time, so it’s not practical to take legal action before this point.
If the set time period has passed or is closing in, you should then seek assistance from an experienced divorce lawyer for men in Florida. Provide them with the evidence you’ve collected and provide a full and clear account of the situation. They will be able to talk you through your options and the legal obligations for this state. Together, you can then devise a strategy for further action. This may begin with letters to your ex reminding them of their obligations and the potential consequences. From here, they can begin arrangements to file enforcement or contempt motions.
Call The Family Law Attorneys Men Trust (813) 652-0598
In Law We Trust Divorce and Family Lawyers is a premier firm of divorce lawyers representing men in family law proceedings. We have the knowledge and skills to guide our clients through contempt of court motions and address the challenges men often face following divorce. Call us today and get the proper representation men need and deserve.