Motion to Enforce a Family Law Judgment
The Motion to Enforce is one of two ways to get help from the Court if the other party has failed to obey an earlier order. (For example, your ex-spouse has not paid marital debts, is not letting you visit your children, or is not paying child support, as ordered.) Your other choice is to file a Motion for Contempt .
If you don't understand the difference, or which type of motion to file, go back to Before You Start. If you decide on a Motion to Enforce, follow these steps.
Step One: Court Forms
Get the forms packet for Motion To Enforce from the District Court clerk or use our interactive online versions. Read the instruction page with care. Review the judgment in your case, along with any later court orders that changed the original judgment. Be sure your Motion is clear about which order, and which part of that order, you are trying to enforce.
Be prepared to pay these costs:
Note: If your only issue is enforcing payment of child support, you don't have to pay a filing fee or mediation fee (if mediation is ordered).
You may request a fee waiver if you have a low income and cannot pay the fees. Ask the clerk for an Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees and Indigency Affidavit. Fill these out along with the other court forms. The clerk, or a notary public, must witness your signing the affidavit. If you need help with filling out these forms, go to our page on Court Fee Waivers.
If you receive TANF, SSI or general assistance, the court should waive the fees. Contact Pine Tree Legal Assistance if you are denied.
Get the forms and file them in the Court that gave the original judgment. In some situations, you may be able to move to another Court, but you would probably need a lawyer to help you do that.
Step Two: Complete the Forms
To complete the top part of each form, copy from your original judgment or prior order. The location, docket number, and names of plaintiff and defendant stay the same. If you can't find your old judgment, you can buy a copy from the clerk.
On the Motion form, if you are asking for enforcement of child support only, check the box under the words “Motion to Enforce.” Next, check the box to show whether you are the plaintiff or defendant. Then fill in the date of the order you are trying to enforce.
At #2 check the box or boxes which fit your issue.
At #3 you have the chance to describe in more detail how the other party has violated the prior court order. You must describe the violation clearly. List the reasons in the same order as they are listed in #2. Be brief, but use a blank piece of paper if you need more space. (Put the docket number on any extra pages.)
Then answer the questions about your children and whether they have received public assistance benefits. If your children have received TANF (formerly AFDC) or MaineCare (formerly Medicaid), you must send a copy of your motion to DHHS.
Finally, at #5B, explain specifically what you want the Court to order the other party to do, to set things right. Again, explain this as simply and briefly as you can. Attach another sheet of paper if you need more room.
Date and sign the Motion. State whether you are the plaintiff or defendant. Finally, add your address and phone number. (If you need to keep this information private, for safety reasons, click here for more information.)
Complete the other forms in your packet. Fill in all of the blank spaces.
Step Three: Serve and File the Forms
You must give or send copies of the court papers to the other party before the court will hear your case. The forms packet you got from the clerk or online tells you how to do this. Follow the steps carefully. When you make copies, make two--one for yourself and one for service on the other party.
Note: Instead of sending the forms by regular mail, you can hand deliver them. In either case, you need to get a signed Acknowledgement of Service form from the other party. If that person won't sign the form, get a Deputy Sheriff to serve the papers or try certified mail. (See instructions in the court forms packet).
- Motion to Enforce (with "proof of service" section filled out, if served by sheriff)
- Child Support Affidavit (where mutual children are involved)
- Summary Sheet
- Signed acknowledgement form, if the other party accepted service.
- Green card from the post office, if you used certified mail serviceget these forms online.
If you cannot afford the filing fee, ask the clerk for an Application to Proceed Without Payment of Fees and Indigency Affidavit, if you did not do that earlier. Or
Step Four: Response to the Motion
If you are the person who was served with the motion, you should file a response within 20 days. The clerk will send you two court forms: an Entry of Appearance form and a Child Support Affidavit (where child support is an issue). Fill out the forms and return them to the clerk within 20 days. If you oppose the motion, you should also file your written response within 20 days.
Give or mail to the other party copies of all papers you file with the court, and keep copies for yourself. To find out what will happen next, read on. The rest of this information applies to both parties.
Step Five: Mediation or Court Hearing
Attention Portland Court users! View this video A Family Law Magistrate explains next steps in the court process. Some, but not all, of the information in the video reflects Motion to Enforce procedures in other Maine courts, as well.
Next, a Judge will move your case in one of two directions:
- Mediation, or
- Formal court hearing
If you are sent to mediation and there is a mediation fee, you will be asked to pay the fee before the mediation date. If you cannot afford the fee, ask for a "fee waiver".
At the mediation, the mediator will ask you to explain your problems with the other party. The mediator will also try to help you find agreement where you can. You must mediate in good faith, but you don't have to agree to anything that you believe won't work or is unfair. The mediator will meet with each party privately at the beginning of the session. If you have been abused by the other party or you are afraid, talk to the mediator about this in the private meeting. You can ask to be in a separate room during the mediation. (Read more on this.)
If you still disagree on any issues by the end of the mediation, you will be sent back to the Judge. If you do agree on any issues, you will sign a written agreement, which will also go back to the Judge. If the Judge approves your agreement, she will write an order. The order will change your judgment to follow your agreement.
You will get to this step immediately, if the Judge decides to skip mediation – or after mediation, if you were sent there and you were not able to agree.
This is a formal court hearing. The Judge or Magistrate will hear each side. You can testify for yourself, bring witnesses, and present documents. Court rules of evidence and procedure will be followed.
To prepare for the hearing, plan what you need to say. If you filed the motion, be ready to explain how the other party has failed to follow the prior court order. If you are responding to the motion, explain what you have done to comply. You may want to make a list of the major facts and points you need to make. If you know people who have first-hand knowledge of important facts, you can ask them to testify at the hearing. If a witness is unable or unwilling to come to the hearing, you can subpoena him. (Read more about how to subpoena a witness.)
The Judge cannont rely on a letter, or even a sworn statement, from an absent witness if the other parent objects. The only way you can be sure that a Judge will consider your witness’s statements is by having that person come to the court hearing and testify.
At the hearing, you will be given a turn to tell your side of the story. You will also have the chance to ask the other side questions. The Judge may ask you or others questions. Since you do not have a lawyer, the Judge (or Magistrate) may help you by explaining court procedures or the law. But remember that he must be neutral and cannot give you or the other party legal advice at the hearing.
If your hearing was with a Magistrate and you disagree with any part of his order, you can file written objections. Deliver or mail this to the clerk and send a copy to the other party. The deadline for filing objections is 21 days from the date the clerk entered the order on the court docket (usually soon after the Magistrate signed the order). Then a Judge will review the Magistrate’s order and your objections and give a final order. If you miss this 21-day deadline, you waive your right to any further appeal.
The deadline for appealing a Judge's final order to the Maine Law Court is 21 days after the clerk enters the order on the docket. File any appeal with the District Court clerk. You will probably need a lawyer to help you go forward with an appeal. If no one files an appeal, the order becomes final in 21 days.
Partially updated October 2015