It is challenging to move forward with your life or raise your children in the best possible way if the other parent fails to follow the court orders regarding division of the property, child support, or custody and visitation. You may be able to ask the court to enforce its order if the other person fails to pay child support, fails to turn over property awarded to you in a divorce, or fails to adhere to visitation schedules or other duties regarding the children.
Many Texans have been involved in family law proceedings that have resulted in court orders. A court order spells out the ground-rules governing the obligations, rights, and duties of each individual—each individual must adhere to these rules whether or not they agree with them. If the other party to your court order has violated the order’s terms you may be able to have him or her held accountable and obtain relief by filing a motion to enforce the terms of your order.
A motion for enforcement is a formal request of the court to determine whether an order has been violated and, if it has, to punish the individual who violated the order. A motion for enforcement must be specific as to the alleged violations and as to the relief requested. The motion must be filed with the court that rendered the underlying order.
Multiple remedies and various means of relief may be available to you depending on the specific violations you allege in your motion for enforcement. The facts of your case are unique and should be considered in determining which remedies and relief you should pursue. It is always best to consult with an experienced family law attorney to determine what best meets your needs and circumstances.
To be enforceable, a court order must be clear and specific. If a court order is not clear, a motion for clarification should be filed requesting the court clarify the terms of the order. Once an order for clarification has been obtained, a reasonable time period must elapse to allow for compliance before the clarification’s enforcement may be sought.
A court order may be enforceable through contempt. A judge finds and holds an individual in contempt when the court has determined that the individual has violated the court order. As a result, the individual may be fined for each specific violation of the order, jailed for up to 180 days, or both.
If you have been denied visitation, you may be able to obtain relief by requesting the court grant you additional time to make up the visits you were denied. You may also request that the parent who denied you access to your children be held in contempt of court. Either way, it is important that you properly and adequately prepare for this kind of enforcement action. To prepare, you must ensure that you appear on time for each and every scheduled period of possession in your court order at the correct location and document—in writing¬—the date, time, and location of each denial. You may also consider taking someone with you who can act as a witness in court to testify as to what they saw and experienced.
If the obligor in your case has stopped paying child support, medical support, and/or spousal support, you may be able to obtain relief in several ways. In addition to requesting that the obligor be held in contempt of court, fined, and jailed, you may be able to garnish their wages through an order for income withholding, place a lien on their property, or suspend one or more of their licenses.
If the obligor is currently employed you may be able to withhold past-due support from the obligor’s paychecks, in addition to the regular monthly amount that the obligor is ordered to pay you. When an obligor is not subject to wage withholding due to, for example, self-employment, then other payment arrangements may be made. A lien may also be placed on the obligor’s real or personal property. The lien must be subject to the requirements in Texas Family Code section 157.312 and may be used to pay off an unpaid support balance. An obligor who has not paid child support for 90 days can also have his or her license suspended. The types of licenses that are subject to this enforcement remedy include driver’s, hunting, pharmacy, plumbing, medical professional, barber’s, and more. Arrangements may be made with the obligor for a certain sum to be paid towards the past-due support in exchange for releasing the suspension.