In the context of family law, a Petition or Motion for Enforcement is the process by which you redress and rectify the opposing party’s failure to, either at one time or continually, abide by the applicable court orders. Enforcement actions are governed by Chapter 157 of the Texas Family Code.
Parties to family law cases, whether an ongoing case with temporary orders, or a past case with a final order, may decide to pursue enforcements against the opposing party for a number of reasons, including violations of existing injunctions, child support orders, possession/access orders, orders providing for spousal maintenance, decrees dictating the division of property after divorce, as well as a number of other violations.
So you’re bringing an enforcement suit against your ex-spouse for violating a court order. Why should you have to pay an attorney (again) to simply get what was already ordered before from the opposing side?
Actually, you shouldn’t. Understanding this principle, the Texas Family Code grants Texas Judges an abundance of discretion and power to penalize would-be violators. Unlike many other forms of lawsuits in family law, enforcements often address limited issues and may be resolved with one simple hearing. Prevailing on an enforcement action will normally entitle the petitioner to an award of attorney’s fees from the other side, and can also result in sanctions, fines, monetary judgments and even findings of contempt.
How do I Enforce a Texas Family Law Order?
Enforcing a Texas Family Law order
What happens when someone violates a court order in a family law case? An enforcement action is the legal remedy available to parties in family law disputes. The most common kinds of violations of family law orders are violations of the parental visitation order, a child support order, property division, or an alimony/temporary spousal support order. The range of penalties for violating the terms of a court order, whether it is a possession/visitation order, child support, or property division, are all the same. In either situation, if someone has violated an order, the court can find them in contempt of court, order make-up visitation time, order them to pay fines, attorneys fees and court costs. In severe cases, the court can order someone to be confined to county jail for up to six months for each violation.
What steps do I need to take in order to Enforce my order?
The first step is to hire an experienced attorney to help you file an enforcement action that specifically spells out the violations of the order. For example, if the other parent has not paid child support or spousal support for a number of months, you would need to state each date of non-payment. If the other parent has refused to turn over the kids pursuant to a visitation order, you would need to state each date and time that you were entitled to visitation of the child and the dates your visitation was refused. If there is a violation of a property division order (i.e. your ex-spouse was supposed to have turned certain property over to you by a certain date) then you would need to clearly state what their obligation was, and how they failed to perform it.
The next step is to serve the other parent or spouse with notice of your lawsuit and notice of the hearing date. Next, you will have a hearing on the issue and have a judge rule on your request for relief. In child support cases, this will usually include confirming a child support arrearage, ordering the arrearage to be paid back by a certain date and time, and if the violations are repeated or particularly egregious, ordering a period of confinement. If a parent is found to have violated a child support order, you are also entitled to collect reasonable attorney’s fees from that parent.
In severe cases of visitation denial, additional steps may be required. If one parent has removed the child from the state or country, there could be some criminal penalties associated with such action. If someone has violated a court order, it is extremely important that you have an experienced attorney helping you through the process to ensure that everything is done correctly and that you get the best possible relief from the court.