Post-Judgment Modification and Enforcement in Los Angeles Family Law Cases
Unfortunately, many divorce and paternity cases do not end once judgment is entered. It is extremely common for one or both parties to later request modification or enforcement of an order contained within their judgment. These post-judgment matters include modification of custody and visitation, modification of spousal or child support, adjudication of omitted assets, and enforcement of specific terms of a judgment. Such requests can be resolved by agreement of the parties or through a hearing after a noticed motion is filed with the court.
It is important to note that not all issues in a judgment can be modified, and those that can be often require certain conditions to be met otherwise modification is not warranted. The most common requirement for a modification is that the moving party demonstrates that there has been a change in circumstance (or a material change in circumstance in some cases) from the facts and circumstances that existed at the time of judgment.
In custody cases, a change in circumstance could include the following: one or both parents have moved; evidence of emotional, mental, or physical abuse by a parent or someone who spends time with that parent toward the child; drug or alcohol use or abuse by a parent; evidence of neglect by a parent; unsuitable environment for the child; the child’s wishes (once he or she has reached a certain age and/or maturity level). In support cases where the order is modifiable, a change in circumstance could include the following: a change in custody or visitation; loss of job or decrease or increase in earnings by either party; and unforeseen expenses. Generally speaking, even if there has been a change in circumstance, division of property and debts in a judgment is non-modifiable except in rare cases. Demonstrating a change in circumstance is largely fact based and may require evidence obtained through informal or formal discovery. Our attorneys can help you gather the evidence needed to demonstrate the change in circumstance.
There are several instances where post-judgment enforcement proceedings may be necessary due to a party’s non-compliance or default of an order. The most common examples include the following: failure to pay child and/or spousal support; failure to pay reimbursements for medical and/or childcare expenses; failure to comply with custody and visitation orders; failure to make an equalization pay or buyout payment; and failure to comply with an order related to division of assets and debts. In many of these cases, interest accrues on the unpaid judgment.
There are many enforcement mechanisms available when there is noncompliance with an order including filing an enforcement motion with the court, filing a contempt action, filing and recording liens, garnishing wages, and levying accounts. Our experienced attorneys can help determine which of these methods is best for the specific facts and circumstances of your case.
In some circumstances, our office offers “contingency” fee arrangements for enforcement and collection cases, subject to the California State Bar Rules of Conduct. In other cases, you may be entitled to attorney’s fees as a result of the other party’s violation of the order or breach of agreement.
New Procedures for Post-Judgment Proceedings
It is important to be aware of a recent change to the procedure for post-judgment proceedings in Los Angeles County. Because the Los Angeles Family Court found post-judgment requests to consume a large percentage of its court time, effective October 1, 2018, the courts require a comprehensive case management program for all post-judgment proceedings.
This new requirement mandates that the moving party serve and file a Case Management Statement (FL-119), as well as meet and confer with the opposing party or counsel about issues related to the Request for Order motion (RFO). Specifically, the parties and/or counsel for the parties must discuss the request made in the RFO, suggestions for how to resolve the dispute outside of court, issues of agreement and disagreement, whether discovery will be propounded, exchange of documents necessary to the motion or response, whether testimony will be taken at the hearing, and whether third parties will be included in the hearing. Failure to comply with this requirement could result in sanctions. Our experienced attorneys can help you navigate the process of modifying or enforcement your judgment from start to finish.