Modification or Enforcement of a Court Order in a Wisconsin Divorce

Can you change a court order in a divorce in Wisconsin?  If so, how is this done?  What if someone isn’t following court orders?  How can you enforce an order?

Orders regarding property division are permanent and generally cannot be changed unless you file a Motion to Reopen.  A waiver of maintenance at the time of the divorce judgment is also a final order and cannot be changed except upon extreme or unusual circumstances.

However, spousal support, child support, custody and placement (visitation) arrangements do not have to be permanent. They can be outdated, changed or violated. When this happens, individuals must ask the court to grant a modification or to enforce the decree.  You must do those by filing a Motion with the court.

The court will entertain a request for a modification of an order if, after a required period of time, there has been a substantial change in your life or the life of the other party that justifies altering the decree. Any of the following may qualify as a significant change:

-A substantial change in either spouse’s income or employment status

-A new health problem which impacts the ability to work

-Moving to a new location

-Substance abuse problems or criminal activity

The exception to this rule is for a period of two (2) years after an original custody or placement order, you must show that the current custody or placement arrangement is harmful to the child(ren).

If one party asks for a modification and the other party doesn’t agree, this dispute can be resolved through negotiation or through the courts.  At Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC, we always try to minimize conflict and are local leaders in using collaborative and cooperative techniques to resolve disputes.  However, we will also vigorously represent you in court whenever necessary.

If one party fails to pay child or spousal support or refuses to honor the custody and placement (visitation) order, the law provides a remedy through a finding of contempt.  Again, a Motion must be filed with the court. If the violation involves child or spousal support, the court can garnish wages or force the violator to pay in other ways.  Sometimes, the violator is sentenced to a jail term as well. The court also has broad discretion to come up with other, more creative solutions to force the violator to comply with the terms of the decree.

If a placement order is not being followed, you can file a Petition to Enforce Placement to force the other party to comply with the court order.  The court again has broad discretion to enforce a placement schedule, including awarding make-up time, changing the schedule or awarding attorneys fees and costs.

Returning to court is not an ideal option for anyone. However, there are remedies available to you in the event you need to modify or enforce a court order.  The attorneys at Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC can assist you with any of these options and advise you as to the likely or possible results so you can make an informed decision as to whether you want to return to court through a post-judgment action.  At Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC, we handle modifications, disputes and enforcement cases with compassion and diligence. Our lawyers are prompt, detail-oriented and persistent. For a free initial office consultation, contact us at (414) 258-1644.

16 thoughts on “Modification or Enforcement of a Court Order in a Wisconsin Divorce

  1. It is just two years since the divorce decree, which included a provision that we exchange some documents every year. The purpose was to give each other information to confirm that income equity is still in effect. My ex-spouse has not sent me one of these documents, which he received over three months ago. I sent him one reminder but he has not responded.

    There has been no lapse in maintenance payments.

    Could we amend the decree by mutual consent to eliminate the document exchange without exposing other elements of the decree to revision? Would such an amendment require a court action?

    • Thank you for your interest in our blog. There are two ways to handle this. First, he is in contempt of court for failing to provide these documents. You can pursue that in court and the court will order him to provide those. Second, you can amend but there may be very legitimate reasons why this provision was placed into your agreement and why you may not want to waive your right to this information. I can think of several. You should consult with an experienced divorce attorney in your area to discuss both of these options and which one is right for you. Good luck.

  2. my ex was ordered to pay $1,150 a month he has been doing it for 10 years without a problem and now suddenly stopped paying and also refuses to sign the quadro for his pension which is coming up in a year and a half he won’t come to court he’s a disabled Chicago police officer so he doesn’t pay taxes so there’s no tax intercept that can be done there’s no wage garnishment that can be done how can I get him to obey the court orders. He refuses the person that wants to send him the order to come to court . 9 times this process server tried serving him during my divorce . I can’t get him served. how could I what do I do if he refuses to be served.

    • I’m very confused as to your post and your questions. First, in terms of getting him served, this is sometimes a problem. You may have to hire a private investigator to dig further into his actions and whereabouts to get him served. Or, try a different process server. Some are better than others. Or, contact the Sheriff’s department in the county where he lives. Process service is one of their functions and you have the weight of law enforcement behind the service. Filing a contempt motion against him for failing to pay support is your only option.

      But, I am also confused about the QDRO situation. This should have been done LONG ago – at the time of your divorce! And, he doesn’t have to sign anything. It is a court order. Sometimes, however, there are unique plans, especially with government based plans (like for police officers). Every retirement plan has its own rules and procedures. Therefore, I would strongly urge you to contact an attorney to assist you in this. The division of pensions and QDRO’s are very complicated and you will very likely need legal assistance for this.

      • Thank you for your reply. He has since been served twice refused to come to court in Milwaukee Wisconsin twice the last time was January 9th 2017 when he was served for that proceeding he attacked the process servers and was charged with two charges of assault and he is a disabled Chicago police officer I still have not been getting paid the judge issued a warrant for his arrest I don’t have any means to find a lawyer in Illinois to take my divorce papers which has the court order that says I get 50% of his pension upon retirement and he retires September 13th of 2017 I need someone to guide me to a lawyer in Illinois for most phones with the kid with Dayquil Dro Illinois is it will draw the police department doesn’t do a QDR oh it’s a quildro. I guess they’re different and their paperwork has a spot where he is supposed to sign permission but if he refuses to do that isn’t there a way I can get a judge to inforce it ? Im just supposed to be out of luck , I’m afraid he’s going to seek getting his pension early and take the penalty and I won’t get a dime. I still don’t know what to do, if you could help me I would greatly appreciate it

  3. I was ordered to pay maintenance in August 2016 and I just learned that my ex-spouse has moved out of state without any notification to me or the court. The stipulation of maintenance was based upon that she was under doctors care and wasn’t working. It is my belief she has been released from doctor’s care and may in fact be working out of state. What options do I have to request a modification of maintenance based upon this?

    • Maintenance can always be modified based upon a “substantial change in circumstances”. Moving out of state does not qualify – she can move where she wants. However, if she is now working, that would be certainly a substantial change. You may need to do some investigation on this. You certainly would need to know where she is living since you would need to serve her with a motion if you decide to file same. Your best bet would be to consult with an experienced divorce attorney to find out what steps need to be taken and/or what your options are in this situation. If your case was in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee or Washington county, we would be happy to meet with you to discuss your case. We offer free initial consultations. If you are interested, please call us at 414-258-1644.

  4. court just ended, father given full custody, lied in court many times, had a questionable drug test,judge refused to hear evidence from mothers side, 5 days of court,judge said,(out loud) he made his decission on day 1 of court, never hearing from mother! She was stay a home mom, primary caregiver of 2 year old, child was happy and well cared for! mother broke up with father (never married) father quit his traveling job, all of a sudden she is not capable of raising her son! What can be done now that court is over? court order was on 6/17/2017

  5. Trail date is set, witness list for both petitioner and respondent are filed, Attorney for respondent has called a petitioners witness at their home regarding their testimony, is this legal, ethical?

    • Once a witness has been named, their testimony is “fair game” and subject to discovery. That discovery could be formal, such as a deposition, or informal, such as the phone call you describe. So, yes, this action is legal.

  6. When an ex-spouse moves in with another person and “sets up household” with them (without marrying), does this typically create a “substantial change” in situation?

    • Hello-co-habitation can sometimes be grounds for a modification or termination of maintenance. It really depends on the facts and, frankly, the judge or commissioner. Every judge or commissioner looks at these types of things a little differently. Years ago, when maintenance was often decided based upon the budget or expenses of a party, it was fairly common to terminate maintenance when the payee began co-habitating because, obviously, their expenses were reduced significantly. However, currently, maintenance is usually decided based strictly upon a division of net incomes and the courts usually decide that each party can do what they want with his or her share of said income. The argument then turns to whether someone is living in a marital-like relationship simply to thwart the rule that maintenance terminates upon remarriage (they otherwise would be married or act as if they are married). From a purely equitable standpoint, the court may decide to modify or terminate maintenance in that circumstance. Sometimes you will not know how the court will decide your case until a motion is filed and a hearing occurs. If you are the one who wants to file a motion, you simply need to decide whether you want to take a chance on that. Consultation with an experienced divorce attorney will help a party to make this decision after reviewing all of the facts of your case.

  7. I have a close friend in which the situation is this: He adopted the child. and yes, it is understood that he is obligated to pay child support and half the health related expenses. The ex-wife has brainwashed the 15 year old child into the child saying they Do Not want to go to the adoptive fathers for the visitation winds. Now there a situation where the child has had extensive medical bills, in which the ex-wife will not reveal ANY of what is wrong, and the ex-wife pays in full these bills & sends him his “Bill of half the paymemt” The ex-husband is making attempts to pay this (along with the child support and the loan that he had to take out to pay for his lawyer & all other regular cost of living expenses, he has nothing leftover) She is claiming that she is going to file a contempt of court against him? If he’s attempting to pay, is he really in contempt of court? And isn’t she also in contempt of court for not following thru on the visitation schedule?

    • This sounds like a complicated situation and your friend should really consult with an experienced family law attorney to obtain the answers to these questions. But, in general, if the court order requires him to pay uninsured medical bills, he must do so. If he doesn’t, unless he has an inability to pay, the court may not find him in contempt but certainly will order him to pay and set up a reasonable payment plan for him to do so. If the court finds that he has the ability to pay but chooses not to, he will be found in contempt but be allowed to “purge” his contempt by complying with court orders. All of that is completely up to the discretion of the court and I have no way of telling you what the court would do under the facts and circumstances. Yes, she is also in contempt on the visitation and he can file a Petition to Enforce Placement. In reality, however, it is difficult to force a 15 year old child to go for visitation. The court may order counseling, however, or other steps necessary to repair that relationship. Again, his best bet is to consult with an attorney to obtain more specific advice.

We welcome your comments or questions. We will do our best to try to respond. However, please be advised that we cannot give legal advice in this forum and all communications are for general informational purposes only. Communication should not be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. This is an open forum and any information you provide may be posted and will not be held confidentially. By posting a comment or question, you are expressly giving consent for the publication of same. If you have any specific legal issues or concerns, we always recommend that you consult with an attorney in the county and state in which you reside.

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