Texas courts expect parties to follow their orders. When a party chooses to violate a court order, the non-offended party has the option to file an “enforcement” case and have the offending party held in contempt.
Court violations are not something to take lightly. Depending on the issue, a finding of contempt can result in incarceration, probation, or a fine. When filing an enforcement case, it is important to have competent legal counsel who knows how to correctly draft an enforcement motion.
When remedies such as criminal contempt are at stake, failing to draft your enforcement motion correctly can not only result in your contempt being denied but can also prevent you from being able to present the violation to the court in the future due to double jeopardy.
Our Southlake enforcement attorneys at Mims Ballew Hollingsworth | Family Law understand the complexities of properly presenting and defending enforcement cases.
If you were awarded property in a final decree of divorce and your ex-spouse is not cooperating, you may need to file an enforcement case to receive your property. Property enforcements must be filed within two years of your divorce. However, if the property you were awarded was not in existence that the time of divorce, such as funds from a future home sale, then the enforcement must be filed within two years of the date the property came into existence.
In property enforcement cases, the court can enforce your property rights in any of the following ways:
If the property still exists, the court can order delivery of that specific property.
If delivery of the property is no longer an adequate remedy, the court can award you a judgment for damages against the other party.
The court can find the violating party in contempt.
You can receive attorney’s fees and costs for needing to bring the enforcement case.
Sometimes your divorce decree is not specific enough for enforcement by contempt. This does not mean you are without remedy though. Texas courts can make additional orders to effectuate your division of property and can clarify your orders so that they are enforceable by the contempt in the future. However, the court cannot modify or alter the division of property from your divorce decree.
If you are denied court-ordered possession of your child, you have the option to enforce this right. As with child support enforcement, you can seek to have the offending parent held in contempt, incarcerated, and fined.
Visitation enforcement cases need to be filed within six months of your child becoming an adult or the right to possession terminating. With visitation enforcement cases you can also receive make-up time with your child. If the other parent is a repeat offender and continuously denies you possession you can request that they be ordered to post a security bond with the court.
If you are seeking to enforce your possession rights it is important that you have to prove to the court that you were denied possession. One common misstep is not showing up to pick up your child when the other parent tells you that they will not allow possession. If you did not show up at the place specified in your custody order for possession exchanges you can lose your option to bring an enforcement case. Our Southlake enforcement attorneys can help you understand your rights and the evidence needed to prove enforcement violations.
Texas family law takes child support violations seriously. Failing to pay child support can result in jail time, wage garnishment, tax return seizure, driver’s license suspension, passport holds, freezing bank accounts, an order to pay attorney’s fees, and suspension of licenses such as medical, hunting, and fishing licenses.
There are time limitations for when a child support enforcement case may be filed. If you are seeking a contempt order, then you must file your enforcement case within two years of your child becoming an adult or the child support obligation terminating. If you miss this filing deadline you will not be able to seek contempt. However, you will still have the option of filing enforcement to confirm any child support arrears and obtain a judgment against the non-paying parent; the time limitation for doing this is extended to 10 years instead of 2 years.
If you find yourself facing an enforcement case, you have certain defenses. One defense is to present that you lacked the ability to pay the support amount, could not sell a property or raise funds to do so, attempted to unsuccessfully borrow funds, and knew of no source from where you could obtain the money. The decision to present this defense and admit not paying should be carefully weighed against asserting your fifth amendment right.
The family lawyers at Mims Ballew Hollingsworth | Family Law will ensure that your case is presented properly and that your rights are protected. Call today to schedule a consultation with one of our expert attorneys.