If you handled your divorce without the involvement of an attorney, you or your former spouse may well have prepared your Judgment of Divorce. That “JOD” sets the terms for your divorce, including the division of assets and relative responsibilities for debts.
Most people who prepare their own Judgment of Divorce are doing it for the first time. You or your ex may not have had the experience or foresight to lay out what would happen if he was not able to get the mortgage refinanced and buy you out. Or, one of you could have lost that strong, steady job and the accompanying income that you had, and have been unable to make the payments as agreed. What happens now?
If you did prepare your own Judgment of Divorce, and things have changed or not worked out as you had agreed, all may not be lost. In Michigan, divorce courts retain jurisdiction and power to enforce and, in some circumstances, even modify a Judgment of Divorce. You might not be limited to the exact language of the judgment if there is no practical way to fulfill a term or provision of it. Or, you might be entitled to use some extraordinary remedies to complete and enforce the terms of that Judgement.
What happens if your ex, who was supposed to foot the bill for your kids’ college, has taken his self-employed business and assets and fled to another state? Are you stuck? Maybe not. You might be able to use some interstate collection tools and procedures to collect what is owed to you. If you agreed to take payments over time but he hasn’t made them, can you force him out of the house and sell it? Maybe. There are some extraordinary remedies available for some cases and circumstances.
If the “strings” of your divorce are still loose, you may want to speak with a lawyer, starting with one in the state where your divorce was entered. You may need to talk with an attorney in the state where your spouse now lives also. These days, legal representation isn’t always an “all or nothing” proposition. Some lawyers, for some types of cases or questions, will agreed to deliver a la carte legal services. And maybe, just maybe (especially if you did not do your own divorce judgment), your JOD does include a provision by which you could recover some or all of the attorney fees you incur if you have to take your ex back to Court for enforcement. Maybe.
Rosi & Gardner, P.C.
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