ENFORCEMENT (of Court Orders)
It can be really frustrating when a conservator doesn’t follow court orders to pay child support, follow possession orders or any other orders established by agreement or the Court. In this case, motion to enforce and sometime a request for a finding of contempt from the court is the best way to force the other party to comply with the order. In special circumstances involving child support, there is even the potential for jail time for not complying with the order.
Most violations of court orders in divorce cases revolve around child possession, support and property division. In child suits, these include non-payment of child support, hindering access or possession of the children and not following the terms of managing the child or co-parenting. In divorce cases these include failure to pay spousal maintenance or not following property division orders. If you are trying to get an enforcement order from the court, as a Plano enforcement lawyer we can help you prepare your case.
The law on 'enforcement' of an order
Under Texas law, failure to pay child support or allow visitation can result in fines of up to $500 (with up to 180 days of jail) with attorney fees. Note that even if the judge sentences a party to jail, the order can be suspended because if the defendant goes to jail, he or she may lose his or her job, making it difficult for the defendant to follow court orders.
Alternatively, the party may also be placed on probation or community supervision. The court may also add other penalties. If a parent is denied visitation rights, the court may order additional visitation time to make up for the lapse and ask the defendant to pay attorney fees and costs. It can also happen that you have been falsely accused of being in contempt of court orders.
Note that in order for a court order to become enforceable from contempt, the court order should be in ‘command language’ and it should be specific, unambiguous and clear. This way, the person ordered to perform knows exactly what, where and when to do or not to do something. In the case of when a court order is not specific or clear, you cannot be held in contempt and the court will often clarify the order, giving you an opportunity to follow the order. Getting the language right can be difficult, that is why you need a Plano enforcement attorney.
Are there any orders that cannot be enforced by contempt and jail?
Yes. Some divorce orders will order a party to pay a specific debt, obligation or liability. These orders cannot be enforced through a contempt order because there is no provision in the law to jail someone for not paying a debt.
When will the court use jail time?
Child support is not covered considered a debt but rather a duty that a parent owes to their child. If a parent does not pay child support, then an enforcement seeking contempt may result in jail time of the acts are egregious enough and no acceptable defenses are presented.
If you want to learn more about enforcements from a Plano enforcement lawyer or if you want to consult us on any family law matter, please call us at 972-372-4929 or send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How does the Court address separate property?
The court cannot award one spouse’s separate property to another spouse. However, as stated above, it is the burden of the individual making the claim of separate property to prove it as separate property. The Texas Family Code specifically requires judges to look at all property as community property, unless it is proved through clear and convincing evidence that it is otherwise. This is where it can get complicated because the burden of proof is quite high.
What should I do if someone files an enforcement action on me?
Call us. As stated above, an order for enforcement must be unambiguous to ensure that you were able to follow the orders exactly as written. IF the language is not clear, then we can help show the court that you were unable to follow the orders and therefore need a “clarification” in the order and should not be held in contempt. Defending a motion for enforcement requires a detailed reading of the order and a review of the statutes and case law on the issues. So it’s best to hire an attorney who can help you address these issues.