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Enforcement of Prior Orders

When one party doesn’t comply with a court order, or a portion of a court order, it may be necessary to file an enforcement action to force that party to comply.  A suit for enforcement may be filed in the court that issued temporary orders, the original divorce decree, or other final order. Enforcements are often filed for the enforcement of child support, spousal maintenance, possession and access to a child, property division, or delivery of property.

Once a hearing is held on an enforcement motion, the court will decide whether or not the responding party was in violation of the order pursuant to the violations alleged in the movant’s motion.  If the court finds that the responding party violated the order as alleged (whether in part or in full), that party could face serious consequences.  The court could also hold that party in contempt.  Contempt simply means that the court finds, after reviewing the evidence, that the responding party violated the court order one or more times.  If contempt is found, and depending on the severity of non-compliance, a court may award the movant attorney’s fees and/or impose fines, penalties, community supervision, or even jail time due to the responding party’s non-compliance of the court order.

Texas courts take violations of court orders very seriously and often times family courts see the same cases in their courts time and time again. A party’s non-compliance with a court order can potentially have long-term effects.  While a court cannot change conservatorship or possession at an enforcement hearing, should a movant file a subsequent modification action in the future related to the responding party’s continuous bad acts or non-compliance, obtaining a favorable enforcement ruling may be an indirect result of a change in conservatorship and possession in the modification action.

Child Support Enforcement

Unfortunately, not all obligors fulfill their duty to pay court-ordered child support. Per Texas Family Code § 157, the Obligee (party receiving child support) can file an enforcement action against the Obligor for failure to pay child support and request the court to enforce the current child support obligation and render a judgment against Obligor that includes interest on any child support arrearages.  The Obligee might also request the court to hold the Obligor in contempt and request additional relief such as:

  • attorney’s fees and court costs;
  • fines and penalties;
  • wage withholding;
  • community supervision;
  • suspension of state-issued licenses;
  • property or other asset liens; and even
  • jail time.

Child support enforcement can be handled at no cost to you through the Office of the Attorney General of Texas; however, the Office of the Attorney General has an extremely high case load so there is often a long waiting period for obtaining any sort of resolution or relief. Hiring a private attorney is often a faster method to enforcing unpaid child support and obtaining relief more quickly.

If you are having difficulty receiving unpaid child support, or if you need representation for an enforcement action against you for unpaid child support, contact our experienced legal team for help.

Possession and Access Enforcement

Possession and access enforcement may be filed when possession is being denied, is not being exercised, or the clarification of an order concerning possession and access is needed.

The most common enforcement action we see in this category is related to the denial of possession and access to a child by one parent. A motion for enforcement regarding possession of or access to a child must include the date, place, and, if applicable, the time of each occasion of the respondent’s failure to comply with the order. Therefore, if you have been denied access to a child, it is very important to keep accurate and detailed records of each denial of possession and access. This information will be necessary for filing an enforcement action on this issue, as well as for presenting evidence at an enforcement hearing.  Important details to record from the date the court ordered was rendered through the present include:

  • the court order that’s been violated;
  • date and time possession has been denied;
  • location of denial of possession;
  • what occurred during each incident of denial of possession (i.e., the other parent never arrived at the meeting location; no one answered the door; the child wouldn’t get out of the car; you received a text or email stating possession was being denied upon arrival, etc.);
  • documentation or recordings of any statements of denial of possession by the other parent (texts, emails, etc.); and
  • name and contact information for any witnesses to the denial of possession.

Keep in mind, even if the other parent has told you that he/she will not deliver the child to the pick-up location stated in the court order (i.e., his/her residence, a neutral location), you should appear at the pick-up location as stated in the court order and at the designated time to provide proof to the Court that you intended to exercise possession of your child.

If you are currently being denied possession of a child, struggling to understand your current possession order, or being accused of non-compliance, contact our experienced legal team for help.

Property Enforcement

Property enforcement allows for clarification, order for delivery of property, contempt and the resolution of other property and financial issues.

Per Texas Family Code § 9, a court may not amend, modify, alter, or change the division of property made or approved in the decree of divorce. If an ex-spouse is not cooperating regarding the division of certain property per the provisions ordered in the divorce decree (i.e., listing property for sale, releasing or transferring funds owed to one party, etc.), a motion for enforcement must be filed in the same court that rendered the decree of divorce, requesting the court to clarify the decree and/or enforce the property division.  A motion for delivery of property can also be filed if an ex-spouse has failed to deliver certain property per the decree of divorce.

If the court grants a motion for enforcement and/or motion for delivery of property, the court can award Movant a money judgment and/or attorney’s fees and court costs due to an ex-spouse’s failure to comply with the decree of divorce.  The court may also hold an ex-spouse in contempt for violating the decree.

If you are having difficulty with an ex-spouse’s non-compliance of a divorce decree concerning property division, or if you need representation against the party who has filed an enforcement action against you, contact our experienced legal team for help.