Family Law: Post-Judgment Motions
- Before You Start
- How To Use This Guide
- Should I Get a Lawyer?
- Motion to Modify
- Motion to Enforce
- Motion for Contempt
- Here's what they mean…a glossary of legal terms
- Questions and Answers
Before You Start...
If you need to change or enforce your Maine court order, you can ask the court for help by filing a form called a “post-judgment motion." This guide can help you if you want to change or enforce a divorce judgment or a parental rights and responsibilities order.
First, try to work out the problem with the other party. If that doesn't work, then you can file the motion. If you both agree to a change, you can still file a motion, asking the court to change the order to reflect your new agreement. Do this to make your agreement enforceable. The court will not enforce private agreements to change child support.
If there has been a significant change, do not delay in filing a motion. The court can only order future changes (from the date the other party was served with the motion). This rule applies even if, for example, a child changed residence to your household a long time ago.
Next, you will need to decide what kind of motion you need. In most cases, you will chose one of these three:
File this motion if you need a change in your order.
Motion to Enforce
File this motion if the other party is not following your order and you want the court to enforce it.
Your other choice is Motion for Contempt (see below). Here are some reasons why a Motion to Enforce may be a better choice:
- If you have mutual children, the Judge will review your case up front, to determine how it should proceed. She may refer your case to a Family Law Magistrate (Magistrate) or to mediation, especially if the only issue is child support. These procedures are more informal than a Judge-held court hearing and easier to handle without a lawyer.
- The forms and court process are easier, compared to a Motion for Contempt.
- If your case goes to a contested hearing, your “burden of proof” will be easier to meet. Proving contempt is harder to do.
Motion for Contempt
This is an alternative to the Motion to Enforce (see above). If you file this kind of motion:
- You must get a Judge to approve your action first, before serving the other party with the papers.
- Only a Judge can hear your case. You may have to wait longer to get a hearing with a Judge.
- The other party is subpoenaed to a formal court hearing.
- You will have to prove more at the formal hearing to get a Contempt Order.
- A Judge may order more serious sanctions than you can get with a Motion to Enforce.
In summary, a Motion for Contempt is asking the court to take more drastic action. Generally, using a Motion to Enforce is simpler and should work to get what you need. However, if the other party is ignoring an earlier Order to Enforce or is extremely hostile to doing what the court orders, you may want to go the next step by bringing a Motion for Contempt.
How to Use this Guide
After you decide which kind of Motion best matches what you need, read more about what to do by clicking on the type of Motion you decide to file:
If you see a linked word that you don't understand, click on it to go to the glossary. Then click on "back" to return to the text where you were reading.
The steps explained below under Motion to Modify and Motion to Enforce tell you about all of the Maine Court’s Family Division procedures: case conferences, mediation, and formal hearings. The court may skip or re-order some of the steps, in order to best manage your case.
You can be defaulted and charged costs if you fail to appear. Don't miss your court dates!
Notify the court in writing right away if your telephone number or mailing address changes. The court clerk needs to know where to find you. Otherwise, you may not get court notices, causing you to miss important court dates.
Should I Get a Lawyer?
A family law matter is serious and the results may affect your family for many years. So we recommend that you get help from a lawyer if you can. But we know that there are not enough free lawyers to help everyone who can't afford one.
If you can't get a lawyer, this guide, along with the forms you get from the Court, will help you get started. If you file either a Motion to Enforce or a Motion to Modify and you have mutual children, a Family Law Magistrate (Magistrate) will try to help you and the other party through the process. Even so, you must prepare your paperwork and court case carefully. (If your case does not involve children, go here for more information.)
- If you need more help with filling out the forms or have other questions about your court case, call:
Volunteer Lawyers Project Helpline
- If you need more help with:
Getting food or shelter
- Paying for medical care
- Getting benefits, like TANF
- Escaping domestic violence
- Other legal issues
If you are still unclear about what kind of motion you need, go back to Before You Start. If you have decided what type of motion you need, go there now to find out what steps to take:
Revised February 2009