Q: My husband divorced me 14 years ago. I am still living with him because he never paid me my settlement. Can you help me
I stayed because he kept promising to remarry me, to go to therapy, etc. I can't take it anymore.
A: You should have filed a motion to enforce your settlement 14 years ago. You never enforced it till now. Many changes have occurred between your divorce and your cohabitation. I think you really should retain a lawyer who focuses on matrimonial law and post-judgment divorce actions.
A: Of course. Although it was signed fourteen years ago, you may wish to enforce the settlement agreement. In the divorce context, settlement agreements are enforceable to the extent they are deemed fair and equitable by the Court. Seeking enforcement would require filing a motion with the Superior Court under Rule 1:10-3 or Rule 5:3-7. You have not disclosed the terms of the agreement, but certain terms remain enforceable. For example, while custody and financial support are generally modifiable based on changed circumstances (which likely have occurred over the past fourteen years), equitable distribution is not modifiable based on changed circumstances.
But depending on how the facts and circumstances have changed in the interim, you may not wish to enforce the settlement agreement. For example, it is possible that your ex-husband's income has improved dramatically over the course of fourteen years, or perhaps he has accumulated substantial assets. You will need to evaluate the terms of the document with a qualified divorce attorney to determine whether enforcement or non-enforcement would serve your best interests. Develop a strategy to accomplish your goals, and pursue it.
When you move forward, I strongly recommend that you take the matter seriously and retain an attorney. Strategic and aggressive counsel will help to maximize your odds of success in Court. Many of the attorneys here on Justia, including me, would be willing to sit down with you free of charge to explore the facts, explain the law, and address the likely timeline, costs, and range of possible outcomes. Please reach out to one of us.
A: I am sorry to hear that you are going through this stressful situation. If your former spouse refuses to follow the official settlement terms of your divorce, you may be able to go to the courts to ask a judge to enforce the terms. For example, if your settlement called for the marital home to be sold and profits split, but your former spouse refused to follow the order, a judge can issue an enforcement order for the house to be put up for sale at a fair market price within a certain time frame. To understand your rights and enforcement options, I encourage you to schedule an appointment with an attorney to discuss your specific situation.
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