Collection and Enforcement of Asset Division
Feb. 21, 2023
Divorce is never easy. You go through months or perhaps even years of negotiating who receives what marital property and who assumes what debt. The life you built with someone comes down to who gets the treadmill and who has to pay off a credit card. Still, once the court has approved the division of assets and the divorce is final, what can you do if your ex drags their feet on complying with it?
It happens, and there may be several underlying reasons for the delay. The ex may be holding assets or debt payments hostage out of anger, resentment, or revenge. They may be lazy or forgetful. They may be holding out on liquidating certain assets, hoping to get more money from them.
The issue is further complicated because couples these days often have ample time to accumulate more separate property before they marry. The median age of those married for the first time in the United States continues to rise, and Illinois is among the states with the highest average age at marriage for women and men. Separate property often gets muddled once a couple marries, which can make it not only more difficult to separate in divorce but more emotional. Add to that the fact that the older we are, the harder it is to let go of things we have become used to and start over.
All this aside, the court’s order regarding the division of assets and debts in divorce cannot be ignored. Spouses should abide by the agreement, divide assets, and assume payments on debt as prescribed within a reasonable time. If they do not, there are ways to enforce the agreement.
At Goldstein Law Office, we help clients in Lake County and Cook County, Illinois, including Waukegan, North Chicago, Antioch, Lake Forest, Deerfield, and Highland Park, when they need help collecting what they are due in assets following divorce. We understand that it is tough to start over without having what you are owed. Let us help.
How Does Asset Division Work in Illinois?
Illinois is an equitable distribution state in marriage dissolution. Unlike community property states, where assets and debts are divided 50/50, equitable distribution states divide marital assets and debts equitably or “fairly,” according to the contributions of each spouse during the marriage and the needs of each spouse after divorce.
If couples can agree to the division of assets and debts, they can submit the agreement to the court for approval. If they cannot agree, the court will review their assets and debts and decide how to distribute them fairly. In either case, the arrangement is ordered by the court, and as with any court order, it must be obeyed by both parties.
Can an Asset Order Be Enforced?
The failure of an ex-spouse to comply with a court order regarding the division of assets and debts can be fixed by notifying the court, which can find the noncompliant party in contempt of court. The failure must be willful, which means it cannot be due to circumstances, such as the ex-spouse’s military deployment or incapacitating illness or injury.
You and your family law attorney can file a petition that asks the court to require your ex to show cause for why they have not complied with the court-ordered asset division. The court will schedule a hearing on the matter. If your ex is found to be in contempt, there could be criminal as well as civil repercussions. The judge could sentence your ex to jail pending their compliance with the order if there are criminal charges.
There are also ways the court can prompt civil enforcement of its order, just as it can enforce the terms of any legal contract. For example, the court can compel the discovery of the ex’s assets and income and order they be used to satisfy the judgment regarding the assets owed to you. Moreover, the court can freeze assets if your ex refuses to comply.
The court can order your ex to make payments on what is owed to you and if necessary, garnish their wages to ensure payments are made. This is similar to what a court would do in a collections case for outstanding debt owed to a creditor.
Are There Penalties for Delaying Turnover of Assets?
Interest and penalties are common in collection cases, so you may be wondering, “Can I collect interest on unpaid assets and debts from my ex-spouse?”
Once the court enters a judgment against your ex in the contempt action, Illinois law provides for the imposition of 9% interest per year on anything owed to you in the judgment. That is a significant interest rate, intended to prompt your ex to pay what they owe you quickly.
Moreover, because your ex’s noncompliance forced you to seek legal recourse, the court may award you reimbursement of your attorney’s fees and other costs related to the prosecution of your claim.
Speak With an Experienced Attorney
Hospitals hire attorneys to be awarded and collect judgments from people who owe them money. So do banks, lenders, credit card companies, and other businesses people enter into contracts with. There are good reasons for that. If you want to enforce your divorce agreement, you should hire a family law attorney to help.
If you want to enforce a divorce agreement in Lake County or Cook County, Illinois, call Goldstein Law Office today to schedule a consultation. Let us get started on the work it takes to ensure you receive what you are owed. Call now.