Post-Judgment Family Law Proceedings in Los Angeles, California

Post-judgment modification and enforcement actions are very common in L.A. courthouses, as these cases routinely arise after a divorce or other family law case has been resolved via judgment.  The good news is that most post-judgment proceedings are handled by motions filed with the court.  In some states, an entirely separate action has to be filed to modify a divorce judgment, for example.

What Is a Post-Judgment Case in Family Law Courts in Los Angeles?

Post-judgment proceedings in Los Angeles County Family Courts include a wide array of types of proceedings and issues to be resolved.  At the core, post judgment means after a judgment has been entered. In most cases, a divorce, legal separation or nullity judgment is entered by the court after the parties reach an agreement or there is a trial on the merits. Post judgment proceedings may encompass any of the following types of cases:

  • Motions to set aside the judgment
  • Motions to enforce a judgment
  • Motions to collect on the terms of a judgment
  • Motions to interpret vague or ambiguous terms of a judgment
  • Motions to modify a judgment

Set Aside Motions

Several provisions of the California Family Code and California Code of Civil Procedure allow for a party to request the court set aside a judgment in whole or part. There are various reasons that the court may allow such a set aside, which are rare and seldom allowed. Some of the reasons for which the court may set aside the provisions of a Riverside County family court judgment include where fraud has played a part in the procurement of the judgment, where a party was under duress to sign judgment, or where a party did not fully and accurately disclose income or assets during the divorce.

Another way that the court may allow for this set aside of a family law judgment is where no bad conduct existed at all and there was merely a misunderstanding or mistake. The California Code of Civil Procedure section 473 allows for the set aside of a civil case judgment, which includes family law judgments, on the basis of mistake, surprise or neglect. These motions must be brought within six months of the entry of judgment and are often used to set aside judgments obtained by default (where one party was provided notice by law of the proceeding and did not appear or participate in the case, and the other side moved forward without that party).

Motions to Enforce a Judgment

When a L.A. County family law judge enters an order, they expect that order or judgment to be followed. Surprisingly, many times family law litigants do not follow the terms of a judgment or order and the other party will bring a motion to demand compliance. Some examples of situations where this may occur include the following:

  • Where a parent does not follow a custody or visitation schedule
  • Where a party does not pay child support according to the terms of a judgment
  • Where a divorced spouse delays in the sale of certain property, such as a family residence
  • Where a party refuses to turn over certain personal property that was ordered to the other spouse
  • Where a party fails to pay a certain obligation, such as a credit card debt or other loan

Motions to enforce a judgment are filed after the entry of judgment, and thus they are “post judgment”. The motion that is filed is called a Request for Order, and when this document is filed along with a supporting declaration, the Los Angeles County Family Court clerk will issue a hearing date for the request. The Request for Order and all supporting documents must be served on the opposing party in a manner consistent with the requirements of law. This generally means that the person must be personally served, although in some situations service by mail is appropriate. If you have any doubts as to whether the person should be personally served or served by mail, serve personally. A proof of service must be filed with the court before your hearing can go forward.

Post-judgment Collection Motions

When a family law litigant refuses to pay an obligation, such as child support or spousal support in accordance with the terms of an order or judgment made by the L.A. County family law judge, the other party may bring an action to collect on the amount due (called arrears). Some actions require a hearing, and others do not vary at for example, if a party is required to pay child support directly to a party but fails to do so, the recipient of the child support can simply file a wage withholding order to garnish the other party’s wages without the necessity of a hearing.

Likewise, if the terms of a judgment require an equalization payment (a payment from one spouse to the other to equalize the division of assets and debts) and the spouse required to make the payment fails to do so, a collection action may be initiated by filing a motion. There are various mechanisms to ensure payment, which include levying bank accounts and attaching (placing a lien) on property. Collecting on child and spousal support obligations can be extremely complex. There are many nuances to these collection cases, and in many cases our attorneys can potentially help on a contingent fee basis (which means no up-front cost to you).

Judgment or Marital Settlement Agreement Interpretation Proceedings

If the terms of an order or judgment are truly vague, ambiguous or unintelligible, either party may bring a motion to request the court interpret the terms of the judgment. These proceedings would be quite rare because generally language contained within a judgment is straightforward. The court will usually shy away from interpreting a judgment, however. The current law does not appear to provide any restrictions in terms of timeframe requirements for bringing such a motion.

Post-Judgment Modification Hearings

A post-judgment modification action occurs when one or both parties to a divorce or other family law action seek to modify the terms of the original judgment or order.  Parties are free to file a modification agreement or file a request for modification.

Modification proceedings are very common.  For example, suppose that a party wants to move away with the parties’ child to another state.  Or perhaps a party’s income changed.  Or perhaps a party lost their job and they needed to reduce the amount of alimony they pay.  Or perhaps a party has paid alimony for a very long time and in excess of what might be reasonably expected under the circumstances.

For more information about post-judgment matters, contact our Los Angeles office attorneys today. We are experts in family law and have successfully handled hundreds and hundreds of post judgment issues, which can be overwhelmingly complex.  You should contact an attorney immediately to discuss your rights and options.