There’s nothing more frustrating than going through the process of obtaining a legally binding ruling, only for your ex to refuse court orders. Obeying the decision of a judge is not optional. You have legal options to compel your ex to follow the rules—or face serious consequences.
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.