If You Willfully Break It, You May Not Be Able To Fix It

Family law cases are fluid and dynamic. The cases are influenced by a variety of constantly changing factors, some simple like the child’s age; some more complicated by the loss of a job, a promotion, or the receipt of a significant bonus. Yet, while life may change during and after a family law proceeding, what cannot change–without either a written stipulation signed by the parties to the action or a court order—is an existing court order.

The Disentitlement Doctrine supports the notion that a party to an action cannot seek relief from the court in connection with the very order that the party has willfully disobeyed. This means, for example, that if Dad loses his job and cannot pay his child support, and just either stops paying or reduces his child support from the court ordered sum but could otherwise meet his obligation from savings, he may not be successful later in seeking to modify the exact order which he breached.

Cases have held that a party to an action cannot, with right or reason, ask the aid and assistance of a court in hearing his or her demands while he or she stands in an attitude of contempt to legal orders and processes of the courts of this state. Thus, if a party continues to openly flout (i.e., willfully violate) a court order, they may not be successful later when they seek relief from the court to change the court order that they violated.

If a court order needs to be changed because of circumstances beyond one’s control, like a termination from employment, one should seek immediate relief from the court, or via an agreement with the other party, to modify the existing court order.

Self-help remedies are frowned upon in family law. Do not just stop paying your child or spousal support because you lost your job. Rather, speak to a family law attorney and obtain the necessary guidance you may need to fix the situation in a proper and legal way. Because, if you willfully break it, you may not be able to fix it.

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