the family court has the power to make and enforce financial orders
what is an order?
The failure to comply with a financial order can have serious consequences.
Just as a military officer can order a soldier of lower rank to follow a command, the Family Court can order the parties in a family law proceeding to do or refrain from doing certain things. Orders might be contained in a decree, a decision, a declaration, or a judgment entered by a judicial officer. The Family Court is authorized to enter parenting orders (governing the conduct of parents regarding their children) and financial orders (governing the disposition of property and the payment of money).
In a divorce or other family law proceeding, it is usual for the Family Court to divide the property and debts of a divorcing couple and to require one spouse to make payments to the other. The Family Court imposes these requirements in the form of a financial order. A financial order might require someone to:
- Transfer property to another person;
- Pay an outstanding debt;
- Sign documents that affect the disposition of property or financial accounts; and
- Pay money to another person, including —
- Payments required by a maintenance agreement;
- Payments required by a financial agreement;
- Payments required by a parenting plan;
- Payment of child support liabilities;
- Payment of arrearages;
- Payments imposed by the court as part of a property division; and
- Fines and costs, including the cost of enforcing an order.
Financial orders impose legal obligations. If you fail to obey them, you face serious consequences. If a financial order has been entered for your benefit (for instance, an order requiring a former spouse to pay you a sum of money) and the order is disobeyed, you can seek enforcement of the order in the Family Court.
What is required before seeking enforcement of an agreement?
If you have a maintenance agreement, a financial agreement, or a child support liability that is not in the form of an order, you must take certain steps specified in chapter 20 of the Family Law Rules before you can enforce payment.
- A party to a maintenance agreement or to a financial agreement who seeks enforcement of the agreement’s terms must first apply to the Family Court for an order enforcing the agreement as if the agreement were a court order (Rule 20.02).
- Before seeking enforcement of a child support liability that is not in the form of a court order, you must obtain an order for payment of the amount owed by filing an Application in a Case and an affidavit explaining the facts upon which you rely in claiming your entitlement to payment (Rule 20.03).
Rule 20.04 of the Family Law Rules provides that a party in a case in which a financial order is entered may enforce the order. In addition, an order that requires money to be paid for the benefit of a child may be enforced by the child. A registered child support liability (one that is registered for collection by the Child Support Agency) can only be enforced by the Child Support Agency.
How do I obtain enforcement of a financial order?
Rule 5.01 of the Family Law Rules require the person seeking enforcement of a financial order to file an Application with the Family Court. In most cases, the Application must be supported by an Affidavit that meets the requirements of Rule 20.06.
How does the Family Court enforce a financial order?
The Family Court is authorized by Rule 20.05 to enforce an order requiring the payment of money by ordering:
- The seizure and sale of real estate that belongs to the party who has disobeyed the financial order;
- The attachment of earnings or other money owed to the party who has disobeyed the financial order;
- Sequestration of property owned by the party who disobeyed the financial order; or
- Appointment of a receiver (generally to take over the business or financial affairs of the party who disobeyed the financial order).
In addition, Chapter 21 of the Family Law Rules allows the Family Court to hold a person in contempt for disobeying a court order. Punishment for contempt of court can include imprisonment.
Disclaimer : This article provides basic information only and is not a substitute for a professional or legal advice. It is prudent to obtain legal advice from a family lawyer.