Can I Bring a Contempt Action Against my Ex in a Minnesota Divorce? 

Minnesota divorces set out the terms  and conditions for division of assets and liabilities; the parties’ custody, parenting time and child support; who pays spousal maintenance also called alimony, if any,  among other agreements all of which require some level Blue Question Mark Manof performance by both parties or one party.  The terms and conditions of the parties’ divorce are Court Orders within one document called the divorce decree.

So, if one party doesn’t perform under the Court Order, then why can’t that party be held in contempt of Court?

Civil Contempt in a Minnesota Family Law Case

Family law matters are civil matters. Contempt motions in Minnesota,  however. are only allowable in family law matters, including divorces, for failure to pay child support or failure to pay alimony.  Contempt motions cannot be brought for failure to pay a debt or for failure to refinance a homestead or for  failure to  transfer an asset or for any other required performance or any other non-performance by the offending party.   So are you left without a remedy if one party doesn’t do what he or she is supposed to do?

Non-performance issues should be addressed by language in the Minnesota divorce decree that protects one party from the other party’s failure to perform under the terms of the decree.  For example, insert language in the decree that orders attorney’s fees as a sanction for non-performance under a provision;  one party can secure a marital lien on real property with a requirement to sell the real property if a cash settlement is not paid; one party could require the non-performing party to post a bond to secure payments-the bond would be forfeit if no payment is made.  The foregoing are just a few examples.

A party can include any remedy allowed by law that protects that party’s  future interests in a Minnesota divorce decree.

Many non-performance issues, however,  can be and should be addressed pre-divorce while the case is pending.  For example, you can require that personal property is sold to pay debt off to protect your credit instead of trusting that your ex will pay the debt assigned.

In other words, a  Minnesota divorce decree should be drafted proactively to protect a party from the failure of the other party to perform.  You cannot rely on a contempt proceeding for a remedy unless it is for failure to pay child support or failure to pay spousal maintenance.   See the companion blog post “How Do I Protect My Credit in a Minnesota Divorce” posted here on January 22, 2016.

If you like this post, I would love it if you would hit the “subscribe” button so that I may continue to share a variety of family law topics with you.  Please do share this post via the share buttons at the bottom of the page. Thanks for reading.

Kate Willmore, Saint Cloud, Minnesota, Divorce, Father’s Rights, Mother’s Rights, Family Lawyer, Family Court Lawyer and Mediation Coach

Call me at (320) 492-3606 or e-mail me via

Copyright 2016

About Kate Willmore, Esq.

Kate Willmore, Saint Cloud, Minnesota, divorce, custody and family attorney brings over 25 years experience to every client's legal matter. *** Licensed in Minnesota and in California

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