Contempt Actions – Enforcing A Court Order

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It can be a frustrating experience having your ex refuse to comply with any of the requirements about possession or access, child support, and alimony stated in a final order after a lengthy divorce suit. Seeking contempt actions while enforcing a court order is a solution available to you if all other attempts to get them to obey orders have failed. The court may require the other parent to comply with the order. Otherwise, they can be subject to enforcement actions such as jail time as prescribed in the Texas Family Code.

Motion For Contempt

Supervised child visitations are one action Family Court Judges can impose for ex's that are not obeying visitation agreements.
Supervised child visitations are one action Family Court Judges can impose for ex’s that are not obeying visitation agreements.

A Motion for Contempt is filed with the Texas court if your ex is not following court orders. This is common when your ex does not pay for child support, your child’s medical expenses, or spousal maintenance.

The Motion for Contempt must be served to the person in violation of the court order with sufficient notice and the hearing date will be set. You will need to state all the occurrences of contempt and provide evidence. You must prove that your ex could follow orders but willfully chose not to. The other person will have to appear in court.

They may attempt to give reasons why they were unable to follow the order. However, they will need to show they made reasonable efforts but were unable to follow the orders for any reason. Otherwise, they may be subject to contempt actions while the courts are enforcing the court order.

Motion For Enforcement

Texas court enforcement can include wage garnishment.
Texas court enforcement powers can include wage garnishment.

Filing a Motion for Enforcement seeks to make the other person comply with a court order for child custody, support or alimony. This might be used when the other person refuses to follow court-ordered possession and access. Alternatively, a person might refuse to turn over proceeds or close bank accounts during the property division process. The judge will order the other person to complete the action required. In some cases, especially with property division, the court can order third parties such as banks to complete the action.

Penalties For Contempt of Court

For a person held in contempt, the court might order civil contempt or criminal contempt penalties.

The Texas judge may order jail time or a fine for the parent who violated the court order. In this situation, the case will typically go to trial. The party involved will have the right to engage an attorney.

Alternatively, a contempt order might include community supervision. This is a suspended sentence as long as the parent complies with certain conditions. Conditions can include paying their overdue child support and attorney’s fees, seeking counseling, or getting employment assistance services.

Alternatively, the judge may order that the parent in violation give the other party additional parenting time for not meeting custody and visitation requirements.

When Is A Court Order Enforceable By Contempt?

Texas Family Courts contempt powers can take the extreme measure of arresting someone for the habitual and flagrant ignoring of court orders.
Texas Court can jail offenders for habitually and flagrantly ignoring court orders.

The language of the court order must be specific enough for all parties involved to understand what is required from them before it can be enforced. For example, child custody and visitation orders must indicate clearly the visitation period and the time and place of exchange.

You must also be clear that the other party showed a failure to obey the orders. Otherwise, it might not be a good use of your time to file a motion.

You must show that you have fulfilled all of your responsibilities needed to allow the other party to fulfill their own. You should also have attempted other remedies before you can enforce order through legal means.

Contact Us For A No-Cost Case Review

If you need help to file a motion and seek enforcement, let the award-winning Family Law attorneys at Sean Lynch + Associates help you prepare your legal case. We have decades of experience in family law.

Contact us today for a no-cost case review and learn how Tarrant County Family Court can enforce your court order.

Enforcing A Child Custody Court Order In Texas

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It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. You may have allowed your child to go to the other parent’s house as part of the visitation agreement. Unfortunately, the parent refused to return the child to you. Fortunately, if you have court orders, you can ask the court to help you with the enforcement of a Texas child custody court order.

Here are the enforcement options available to you under Texas law if you have court-ordered possession.

Petition for Writ of Habeus Corpus

When you as the custodial parent initiate a Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus, you are asking the judge to order the child’s return given that you have superior possession to the child. This will require the other parent to appear in court with your child while the judge determines who has the superior right to possession.

Note that the Writ of Habeas Corpus will not make a modification to any existing visitation order or custody order. It will also not punish the other parent for the time denied to you if your child was returned to you by the date of the court hearing.

Having a family law attorney file a Writ of Habeas Corpus will simply help to ensure your child is returned to you if one parent is violating your legal rights.

Writ of Attachment

The Writ of Attachment orders your ex-spouse to surrender the child to a sheriff so that they can be returned to you. Your family law attorney can file for this at the same time that they initiate the Petition for Writ of Habeas Corpus. Here are the conditions for the judge to order the child’s return to you:

  • You did not give up possession of your child during the period of six months before you filed the Petition
  • You have a court order that shows you have the superior right to possession
  • There is no concern about the child’s welfare under your care and custody
  • A parent or non-parent is illegally withholding the child from you.

Contempt of Court

Another method of child custody and visitation enforcement that the Texas courts can use is to hold the other parent in contempt of court. Your attorney can initiate the legal process with a Motion to Enforce.

If you want the Texas courts to start contempt proceedings, your child custody order must be enforceable. This means the order has to be specific about the locations of exchange, visitation dates, times and any detailed schedule, and any activities that are not allowed while a parent has custody of the children. It should also clearly state the names of the parents and children involved. This will allow the courts can enforce the order.

Make sure you prepare all the evidence required to support your case. It should record your attempts to contact the other party and seek the return of your children. In some cases, the person involuntarily does not comply with the order, possibly if their attempts to do were hindered by the other person. It is within the court’s rights to not hold them in contempt.

A parent may be liable for criminal and civil penalties for the violation. This usually happens if they knowingly refused to follow visitation orders. Consequences for parents can include jail time or monetary damages according to state law for missed parenting time.

What If I Don’t Have Court Orders?

Unfortunately, you cannot initiate the Writ of Habeas Corpus against another parent. You can only initiate it against another person who is not a parent.

Enforcement of Child Custody Orders

The family law attorneys at Sean Lynch + Associates have decades of experience with family law issues. We can support you with the enforcement of Texas child custody court orders against violations. Contact us for a no-cost legal case review.

Texas Court Order Hearing

Steps of an Enforcement Case in Texas Family Law Court

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Is your ex-spouse violating the terms of your court order decree? If so, you can order the court to enforce your rights. Denial of financial support after a divorce can be devastating, especially for the custodial parent. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to get the money, property, and custody time you’ve been assured.

As you could imagine, Texas Family Court does not take lightly people who disobey their decree. Failing to adhere to a court order can result in criminal penalties, including jail time. Still, court orders aren’t always easy to enforce. When your rights are being dismissed, you must motion to enforce them.

Even if your motion for enforcement seems straightforward, it can be fraught with legal complexities. This is why it’s crucial to hire an experienced Fort Worth family law attorney. Whether you’re a custodial parent not receiving maintenance payments, or a noncustodial parent being denied child visitation rights, we can help.

Steps of an enforcement case in Texas court

From start to finish, the motion for enforcement process takes around a month. Here’s how we can work together, client and attorney, to enforce your Texas court order and hold your ex accountable.

  1. Hire a family lawyer to file your enforcement motion

    As mentioned earlier, holding another party accountable for violating a family court order isn’t always a slam dunk. Even when the violation is clear, it’s essential to hire an attorney with experience in enforcement cases. Even the smallest mistakes and paperwork issues may derail your motion to enforce. As a custodial parent, do you really want to take that chance?

    With our affordable attorney’s fees, you don’t need to worry about enduring your enforcement case alone. Our award-winning family law firm will review your case and recommend the best course of action. In many cases, the best next step will be filing a Motion for Contempt. If we find that your order cannot be enforced, we’ll recommend other corrective action.

  2. Document every court order violation

    Before you motion for enforcement, it helps to have detailed notes of the specific transgressions your ex committed. Keep a log of every court order violation, including each time the person has:

    * Denied your visitation or possession rights as a parent
    * Violated your child custody schedule
    * Failed to remit payment of court-ordered spousal support (and the amount)
    * Failed to remit payment of court-ordered child support (and the amount)
    * Other court order violations

    Remember to jot down every date and time. Also, write down the names of witnesses. Being able to include these records as evidence will help strengthen your motion for enforcement case. Additionally, it will help ensure that your ex is held accountable for every enforceable count of contempt.

  3. File a motion of contempt, also known as a motion of enforcement

    If taking legal action is the best move, we will file a Motion for Contempt with the court clerk. In state court, this is a common practice for enforcing a court order. Contempt of court may be filed for many reasons, but in most cases, it’s for one of the following:

    * Failure to pay spousal or child support to a custodial parent
    * Being denied visitation or possession rights

    Each court order violation may result in a “count” of contempt. If the Texas judge agrees that your ex-spouse is disobeying your court order, they can be held in contempt of court. This will mean the spouse is required to provide back pay for all scheduled payments they missed. You can also seek additional civil or criminal punishments, including up to 180 days of jail time.

  4. Provide notice of contempt

    After we file the motion for enforcement in court, the person will be notified of the charges they face by a process server or a constable.

    After the notification is delivered, 21 days must pass before a hearing can be set. This gives the other party enough time to review each specific count of contempt and to plan their defense. Even if your ex refuses the notice you have options.

    When the trial is scheduled, the defendant is served a Notice of Hearing. Once this happens, it sets the stage for the motion of enforcement hearing to begin.

  5. Continue to prepare for our enforcement hearing

    Now that your ex-spouse is aware of the specific counts of contempt, we have three weeks or longer to build our case. If your hearing is related to child custody issues we have a good guide for you to read.

    This is where your notes from Step 1 will really come in handy. If it helps our case, we may request your witnesses to appear in court to testify on your behalf. Having this outside perspective can be extremely valuable.

    As your family law attorney, we will also prepare you to testify. Delivering testimony can be a stressful experience, especially for first-timers. We’ll coach you on what to expect, what to wear, and what to say. In short, we’ll do everything in our power to make sure you’re as prepared as possible.

    Our experienced Tarrant County family law attorneys have assisted clients through many enforcement cases over the years. We know what it takes to maximize your chances of success. 

  6. Appear in court for your enforcement hearing

    While any trial is nerve-inducing, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone. You designated lawyers for a reason. We will shield you from the most complex aspects of the trial and only engage you when needed.

    During the hearing, we will present our findings, as well as the relief and remedies we seek from the other party. The only time you may need to speak is when you’re testifying. Your job then will simply be to answer questions truthfully. And remember, we will rehearse with you so that you’re well prepared.

    Once all the evidence has been presented, and the defendant is given an opportunity to dispute, the judge will make their decision. If the judge rules in your favor, our Fort Worth family law attorneys will draft an order that both parties and the judge must sign.

  7. Judge’s Ruling

    After all the evidence has been submitted, their ruling. This ruling will be based on whether there was a clear violation of the court order. Other factors may also be considered, including whether the violation was intentional and part of an extended pattern.

    If the judge does not rule in our favor, or if the judge rules the order is not enforceable, it’s not final. We can always appeal the decision or explore other legal alternatives. If you have any specific questions, address them to your attorney, who can explain the reasoning, implications, and potential next steps.Consultation with an attorney

Enforce Your Texas Court Order With Our Fort Worth Family Law Firm

At Sean Lynch + Associates, our seasoned lawyers take pride in fighting for families in court. We offer transparent, affordable pricing as well as a no-cost initial consultation. We always fight to make sure your best interests are served, and your rights are enforced.

Don’t let your ex-spouse get away with violating your court order decree. Contact our office or call 817-668-5879 to begin your motion for enforcement. We have an excellent track record when it comes to court orders in Texas. You’ll be happy with your choice to consult with our award-winning Tarrant County family law practice.

Ex Refusing Court Orders? We Can Help You With Legal Options.

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There are legal remedies if your ex is refusing  court orders that Sabelhaus & Lynch can represent you for legal options.
If your ex ignores or refuses the court’s order, there are legal options you can follow through with.

Our attorneys boast decades of experience in dealing with the enforcement of a court order. We’ll do so in a timely, sensitive, and cost-efficient way that allows you to get your life quickly back to normal.

What Happens If You Ignore A Court Order?

Your ex violating a court order is not only stressful and frustrating. It can also create an undue financial and logistical strain that affects you and your family. Intentional refusal to obey court orders is called contempt.

What Is Contempt?

Some of the common examples of contempt related to Texas family law orders include:

  • Missing child support payments
  • Missing spousal maintenance payments
  • Denying you the custody or visitation specified in your court order
  • Moving away with the children
  • Refusing to surrender assets the court awarded to you in the divorce

You may not understand all the legal tools at your disposal to ensure child support enforcement. A family law attorney can help. The Sean Lynch + Associates team can file a motion to ask the court to enforce the order or to impose penalties on your former partner, including fines, probation, jail time, or other consequences. The Motion to Enforce requests the judge to take enforcement action regarding a previous order in a divorce case.

Probation typically does not exceed five years. The judge may order the parent to undergo counseling or treatment related to the reason why they denied visitation to the other parent.

The judge may not always send the other parent to jail because it can cause them to lose their employment. They may suspend the jail sentence and ask the parent to fulfil certain conditions such as to make the payments owed, pay fines or attorney fees. If the parent still does not follow the terms of the suspended jail sentence, the parent could go to jail.

What Happens If One Parent Does Not Follow A Court Order?

You can engage a family law attorney to help you file a Motion to Enforce and schedule the hearing where you can plead your case. You or your attorney must also provide the other parent with notice of the contempt hearing.

Refusing To Comply With Court Ordered Visitation And Custody

To enforce court-ordered visitation as part of a custody order, your visitation order must clearly state that the parent with physical child custody must surrender the children at the beginning of the visitation time while the non-custodial parent will return the children at the end of the visitation time. The visitation order should also state the visitation schedule and the place where the exchange of children should take place.

Without a clear visitation order, visitation schedule or time indicated, the court can clarify the order but will give the custodial parent an opportunity to comply with the court-ordered visitation. One example of a vague order is if it states that visitation is “by agreement of the parties”. Sometimes you may have to work with the custodial parent if the visitation schedule cannot fit their lifestyle.

Gathering Evidence That You Were Denied Visitation

You will also need to provide evidence of the denial of visitation to show that you were at the place at the correct time and date stated in the court order. Your testimony alone may not be sufficient. You may need to ask a person who was at the place where the visitation should take place to help serve as a witness. Alternatively, you can present a receipt from a store nearby that can show you were in the area at the appointed time.

You can even ask a person to come along with you if the parent with physical custody has a history of denying visitation. They can serve as a witness if you need to file an enforcement motion. Keep a visitation journal that details your attempts to have access to your children and reasons that were given to you for denial. You can use these journal entries as evidence.

You must appear in person at the pick-up location in order to show you were denied your visitation right to see your child.

Note that the court has the right to prevent visitation. It may not allow you access to your child if there is a risk of family violence.

Can You Go To Jail If You Denied Visitation?

It is possible to go to jail if you denied visitation and access to the other parent. The judge can opt to impose fines or ask you to pay court and attorney fees. They can also ask you to give the other parent make-up parenting time and let them see the child. If you still continue to perform a denial of visitation, the judge can order you to go to jail.

What If The Other Parent Wants To Move Away With The Child?

Texas law requires the judge to approve one parent’s move to another state with the child. A parent who moves away with the child without permission can be subject to fines or jail time. If you do not agree with the move, you can file a temporary restraining order to stop the move until a hearing can occur.

The law has provisions to require the court from the new state to enforce existing legal terms regarding custody and visitation if the child’s home state is Texas. Alternatively, you can make the case to change the custody of your children so that you get more parenting time with them.

Refusing To Comply With A Child Possession Court Order

You might have orders to have possession of your child but the other parent refuses to return the child to you. In this case, you need to ask the judge to sign a Writ of Habeas Corpus. This writ indicates you have the superior right to possession of your child. Additional, it will require the parent with possession of the child to appear in court.

If you have evidence to show that the parent might hide or move the child, or that they are unlikely to appear in court, the judge can help to sign a Writ of Attachment which will have a police officer pick up the child.

The Writ of Habeas Corpus does not change existing possession orders. It only enforces the current order.

Your county might have a Domestic Relations Office which can enforce a possession order or parenting time order. However, the office cannot modify an order for you.

Refusing To Comply With A Child Support Court Order

If you need help enforcing a child support order, you will need to make sure that it states the following:

  • Amount to be paid
  • The parent or person the parent must make payments to
  • Where the parent must make payments
  • When they must make payments to support your children

It’s not enough to have an informal written or spoken agreement. You must have your agreement incorporated into a legal order to enforce it.

Parents who make the child support payments they have missed can avoid any punishment or further issues. However, parents who do not make the payments can be fined or jailed.

Texas law also gives the Child Support Division the right to work with other states to collect payments from non-custodial parents who move out of Texas. The CSD can also take the following actions:

  • Suspend the licenses of the delinquent parents
  • Intercept any state or federal payments to be made to the parents
  • Ask the parents’ employers to deduct the payments from their paycheck
  • File liens against the assets of the delinquent parents
  • File lawsuits against the parents

Refusing To Comply With A Spousal Maintenance Court Order

Your spouse can be held in contempt of court if your spouse refuses to pay the alimony owed to you. However, if your spouse cannot pay due to genuine financial difficulties, the court could allow your spouse to reduce the amount or even stop paying alimony.

Your spouse may have an agreement with you to pay you more alimony that the court is allowed the order. However, the court cannot enforce any agreement for your spouse to pay you more than the amount allowed in Texas law which is $5,000 or 20% of monthly income, whichever is less. This applies even if the amount agreed is written in your divorce decree.

Refusing To Surrender Assets

Your ex-spouse could refuse to surrender assets even though the divorce decree has stated the property due to you. This can include funds, a house or a car. You only have two years to enforce a property division order. Contact your attorney as soon as possible to file the motion to enforce.

Can The Police Enforce A Court Order?

The police can enforce a court order that requires parents to take certain actions or stops them from others. However, police officers are often reluctant to get involved in family issues unless there is violence, potential threat to the children or other criminal issues involved. It may sometimes be a good option to call the police because you can use the police report as evidence of the denial of visitation.

The Sooner You Act, The Quicker We Can Help

Time may be of the essence in your case especially when children are involved. We can begin working for your goals as soon as possible by reviewing your court order to determine whether the language is specific enough to warrant contempt. Contact our offices by calling 817-668-6704 or emailing us. Your first 30 minutes with us is at no cost, and we will never overcharge for our services.

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