What is a Motion to Enforce?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 13 February 2020
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The motion to enforce is a legal filing that requests a court to order someone to comply with a previous court ruling. This is a common motion and arises as a potential option when people or entities aren’t honoring the previous judgment of a court. It would be ideal if people or businesses would simply follow the guidelines a court has already established for specific behaviors, but not all do so, and when this is this the case, people may request that the court intervene and enforce an original judgment. This request could lead to additional court proceedings or the court taking further action to get a person or business to honor a ruling.

One common place that the motion to enforce is filed is in family court. Parents who are non-compliant with custody orders or who may not be paying child support, though the latter may fall under different rules, could be served with a motion to enforce by the other parent. This is only one potential option.


Another filing that is common is motion of contempt, which asserts the person who isn’t cooperating is in contempt of a court ruling on the matter. Either filing may require additional appearances in court or more participation in mediation, but sometimes a judge merely reasserts the initial ruling and a person is given a short period of time to respond to it or comply with it. Refusal to comply might lead to harsher measures, such as removal of custody or garnering of wages, depending on the type of ruling.

Family court is not the only venue for filing this type of motion. A number of civil suits end in judgments that are not honored by one of the parties in the suit. When the judgment is ignored, the injured party may reasonably file a motion to enforce to gain compliance from the person or business that isn’t acting as the court ruled. Sometimes filing a motion of contempt is another option, but most people are interested in compelling the opposition in a suit to behave as was ordered by the court.

Since the motion to enforce may involve additional court time, it’s possible that a judgment could be reversed with a new ruling. Sometimes a person or entity finds it literally can’t do what a court has asked, and may be able to present additional evidence to prove this. In most cases, though, the motion to enforce doesn’t work in the non-compliant party’s favor, and those who continue to ignore court judgments may face additional penalties.


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