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Enforcement of Texas Family Court Orders

A family court order should function as an instrument of peace. Duties are defined, boundaries are set, and expectations are managed pursuant to the terms of the Order. Conflict emerges when parties either fail to abide by the terms of the Order, or do not understand the rights and responsibilities as written. If your former spouse, co-parent, or other party bound by the Order has not fulfilled` their obligations pursuant to a Texas Family Court Order, it may be time to seek enforcement through contempt proceedings.

Scroggins Law Group (SLG) helps those seeking enforcement of child custody, child support, possession and access (visitation), spousal maintenance, and any other terms ordered by the court. Leaders in Texas family law, SLG is the wise choice for residents in and around Dallas/Fort Worth, Plano, and Frisco who need the aggressive representation these types of conflicts require.

Contempt Proceedings and Enforcement of Texas Court Orders

Contempt actions are often predicated on a party’s failure to comply with child visitation (“possession and access”), child support, property division, and spousal maintenance provisions of a final Court Order. Judges who oversee family matters prefer that quarreling parties resolve such disputes without involving the courts, but private attempts at a resolution are not always successful. If your attempts fail, it might be time to work with a family law enforcement lawyer and initiate enforcement/contempt proceedings.

Scroggins Law Group partner Mark L. Scroggins is  both board-certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and leada a team of experienced lawyers, paralegals and support staff. Based upon the facts of your case, SLG will aggressively seek to hold a violating  party in contempt of the family court order, subjecting them to the possibility of incarceration, monetary judgment and awards of attorney fees.

Threshold Requirements Prior to Motion for Enforcement in Family Court

It is not appropriate to file a motion for enforcement without first considering whether the Order was written with clear, unambiguous language. Did it contain “command language?” Were the terms specific? Was the Order free of errors? For example, a party seeking enforcement of an order for possession and access must be able to produce an Order that includes a clearly stated time and day when the party with the children will surrender them, where the exchange will occur, how long the other party will possess the children, and how the parties will exchange the children when the period of possession has ended. Child support orders must clearly state the amounts to be paid, to whom, on what day, where to send payment, and when the payments will end.

If any of the threshold requirements are not met, the remedy of contempt may not be available. The Judge may instead clarify the Order upon motion to the court and enter a judgment on other areas of the enforcement. If the prerequisites of the enforcement by contempt are satisfied, the court will hear the Motion to Enforce the Order By Contempt and may incarcerate a party who is found guilty of contempt. Scroggins Law Group can review your existing order and help you understand the likelihood of success on an enforcement motion and if the order is clear and the subject matter is an area that allows for incarceration as a remedy if that party is held in contempt.

Consequences of Violating a Family Court Order

Parties held in contempt for violation of a family court order face serious consequences including fines, jail time, and attorney’s fees incurred by the non-offending party.

Lengthy jail times, significant fines, suspension of professional licenses, and other more extreme penalties are usually reserved for the most egregious cases. Such measures are punitive and do not  address the underlying situation. For example, contempt proceedings for not paying child support or spousal maintenance only serve to punish the offender. If a jail sentence is imposed, the Judge may  suspend the sentence and place the person on probation contingent on the offending party paying arrearages and continuing to comply with the court order going forward. Other consequences may include payment of the  opposing party’s attorney’s fees or community supervision (otherwise known as “probation.”

Limitations on Texas Enforcement and Contempt

Not all orders can be enforced by contempt. For instance, orders that require a party to pay off a debt are not enforceable because the law does not allow a party to be imprisoned for non-payment of a debt. Child support on the other hand is enforceable because it is not considered to be a debt. Child support is a duty all parents (and conservators) owe to their children.

Talk with a lawyer about enforcement of a family court order via contempt

Problems with enforcing an order are more likely to arise when parties represent themselves in the underlying proceedings. If the judge signs an agreed Family Law Order which was drafted and signed by pro se litigants, it is likely to  contain mistakes or ambiguous language that will negate the ability to seek contempt on a Motion to Enforce filed on the pro se order. An order drafted by experienced family attorneys, is far more likely to contain clear and enforceable terms.

Scroggins Law Group, PLLC, offers personalized attention to clients throughout North Texas, including Frisco, Plano, and the greater Dallas/Fort Worth area. We know these courts and we know how to address these matters thoroughly and efficiently. Let us guide you through it. Call today to schedule an initial consultation.

Resources:

Texas Statutes, Family Code Title 5. THE PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP AND THE SUIT AFFECTING THE PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP SUBTITLE B. SUITS AFFECTING THE PARENT-CHILD RELATIONSHIP CHAPTER 157. ENFORCEMENT SUBCHAPTER A. PLEADINGS AND DEFENSES, https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/FA/htm/FA.157.htm

Texas Statutes, GOVERNMENT CODE TITLE 2. JUDICIAL BRANCH SUBTITLE A. COURTS CHAPTER 21. GENERAL PROVISIONS, https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/GV/htm/GV.21.htm#:~:text=(b)%20The%20punishment%20for%20contempt,fine%20and%20confinement%20in%20jail

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