How Can I Enforce an Order for the Division of Property and Debt in Arizona?
Enforcement of Orders Dividing Property and Debt in Arizona
Whether you reached a Property Settlement Agreement providing for the division of your debts and assets or the court made those decision dividing your debts and assets, you may be faced with the problem of enforcing those orders if your former spouse is refusing to cooperate.
You have several options regarding enforcement of an order requiring your former spouse to return the property to you after a divorce in Arizona. You may, in certain circumstances, file a Petition for Contempt seeking the contempt powers of the court to persuade your former spouse to comply with the division of property orders.
If the court finds your former spouse has willfully and intentionally violated the court’s orders and had the ability to comply with those orders, the judge may issue a ruling finding your former spouse in contempt of the court. The court can order him or her to pay your attorney fees, and can even order him or her to be incarcerated until such time he or she complies with the orders. Alternatively, you may file a Writ of Special Execution, which enables you to use the sheriff’s office to physically go to the location where the property is located to return that property to you.
Some Limitations on Enforcing an Order Dividing Debs and Assets
There are some limitations, however, to what a court can do to enforce a property settlement agreement in Arizona. For example, some judges may order one spouse to pay the other spouse an equalization payment if the physical division of assets is not fair or equitable. The order requiring the remittance of an equalization payment may not be enforced by contempt proceedings, based upon the Arizona Supreme Court’s ruling in the Proffit v. Proffit case.
Another problem occurs when a spouse damages the property before turning it over to the other spouse. In such cases, the Arizona divorce court would be able to hold that party in contempt of court for violating the Preliminary Injunction, which is issued at the beginning of the case and precludes, among other things, either party intentionally causing damage to property during the divorce.
The Arizona Supreme Court in the Weaver v. Weaver case concluded, for example, an Arizona court lacks the statutory authority to order one spouse to pay the other spouse for damage done to his or her separate property. In such a case, a separate civil lawsuit would need to be filed to obtain a judgment for the damaged property.
Chris Hildebrand wrote this article about enforcing orders dividing property and debt in Arizona to ensure everyone has access to information about community property laws in Arizona. Chris is a family law attorney at Hildebrand Law, PC. He has over 24 years of Arizona family law experience and has received multiple awards, including US News and World Report “Top Arizona Divorce Attorneys”, Phoenix Magazine “Top Divorce Law Firms”, and Arizona Foothills Magazine “Best of the Valley” award. He believes the policies and procedures he uses to get his clients through a divorce should all be guided by the principles of honesty, integrity, and actually caring about what his clients are going through.