Family Law Cases in Texas: Modifications and Enforcements

In general, courts are wary about modifying orders that designate the parent with the exclusive duty to determine the primary residence of a child. This is the case in large part because courts do not want to shake up the stability and consistency in a child’s life by flip-flopping where he or she resides primarily.

In situations where you file a modification suit within one year of a prior case where the parent with the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of your child has been established, you will need to jump through an additional set up hoops in order to win your case.

First and foremost you will need to show a court that your child’s present environment is a potential danger to your child’s physical health or emotional development. Abuse and neglect at their other parent’s home immediately comes to mind here. If he or she is doing drugs in the home, selling drugs in the home or engaged in violent behavior those are extreme examples that could satisfy this first requirement.

Secondly, if the other parent has the exclusive right to determine the primary residence of your child consents to your filing a modification on this subject then your case will be allowed to proceed. This does not occur with any great frequency and you should not expect to have your counterpart willingly agree to the modification. The best interests of your child will also be looked at even if the other parent agrees to the modification you are requesting.

Finally, if the other parent has voluntarily relinquished control and possession of your child for at least six months then the modification you are seeking may be granted. This means that he or she could have willingly given up possession and care of your child to you or any other adult for a six month period.

In the event that a judge does not find that one of these three circumstances are present in your situation then your modification suit will not be allowed to proceed.

Modifying a child support order

One of the more frequent consultations that I am involved in with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan involves a parent who is interested in modifying a child support order. This could mean that the parent is interested in either increasing the obligation of the other parent or decreasing their own responsibility to pay child support.

Just as with any other type of modification case, certain circumstances must be proven to be in place in order to modify a prior order on child support. The material and substantial change in circumstances in either the child or any party to the enforcement suit must be shown. Secondly, there must have been at least a three-year gap between the time in which the prior order was rendered and the current modification suit.

Filing an enforcement case in Family Law Court

There is nothing more frustrating than going through an entire case- whether it be a SAPCR or divorce case- only to have the other party fail to follow through on their end of the bargain. Whether he or she is not paying child support correctly or has repeatedly failed to make your child available for visitation with you there are remedies for their failure to abide by a family court order.

Enforcement cases in Texas involve elements of civil and criminal law as well as fairly complex procedural issues as well. The failure of the other party to your court order to obey the order itself is known as contempt of court. Fines and jail time are possible remedies for this failure to adhere to the court orders. Criminal contempt findings involve jail time for up to 180 days and/or a fine not to exceed $500 per violation of the court order.

Look to the language of the original order to determine the specifics of how the other party was supposed to do something. The language in that order must be clear and concise- meaning that there must not be any question as to how an act was supposed to be performed. If the order is subject to multiple interpretations then there may be an issue in attempting to enforce the order later on.

An enforcement motion must be filed with the court in order to enforce an order in regard to conservatorship, child support, possession and/or access. Issues that do not involve children including property division, spousal support or the payment of a debt may also be dealt with by filing an enforcement suit.

Requirements of the motion for enforcement

In the enforcement motion, you or your attorney must specify the type of punishment (civil, criminal or both) that is being sought. Be aware that you should not ask for more than 180 days as a jail sentence in an enforcement case.

The reason being is that if you do ask for more than 180 days the other party can request a jury trial and also seek to have an attorney appointed to represent him or her if he or she cannot afford one.

In regard to enforcement cases for child support, the amount of child support that is owed must be specified as well as the amounts actually paid (If any) and the amount that is still outstanding must be stated as well. It is a good practice to note the portion(s) of the order that has been violated with the specific dates the violations have occurred as well as the amounts due/amounts paid.

Please be aware that an enforcement for child support purposes must be filed no later than six months after the date the child becomes an adult or the child support order ends, per the order. One thing to be especially aware of is that if you are seeking to collect child support arrearages under an order there is no deadline to file by and you can do so indefinitely.

Property Division Enforcement

Any property sought to be divided in a divorce must actually have been in existence at the time the divorce was finalized.

Thereafter, any modification suit must have been filed within two years of the final decree having been signed off on by the judge in your case.

Notification of the opposing party to your enforcement suit

Unlike other sorts of family law cases your enforcement petition must be personally served on the opposing party. There must also be an order for him or her to appear for a hearing that comes with the petition.

Your opposing party is entitled to having ten days to prepare for this hearing. If you serve him or her within ten days of the hearing he or she will still need to appear at the hearing to be “sworn” to reappear at a future date and time by the judge or his/her clerk of the court.

Child Support and other defenses to be outlined in tomorrow’s blog post

Come on back tomorrow to read through some defenses to child support enforcement cases and other enforcement suits. If you have questions about anything you’ve read through today or anything posted over the past few days please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

One of our licensed family law attorneys will be happy to meet with you in a free of charge consultation in order to answer any questions that you may have. Thank you for your time and we hope to have you back tomorrow to learn more about Texas family law cases.

For any other type of enforcement case you must identify the provision in the order that has been violated, state how the other party has not complied, request specific relief and then contain your attorney’s signature at the conclusion of the document.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. Family Law Enforcement Hearings: Agreements to Settle and Trial
  2. Reviewing your case history is crucial to success in an enforcement case
  3. Texas Family Law Court: Enforcement Actions
  4. How much will your child support enforcement case cost?
  5. The Steps of an Enforcement Case in Texas family law court
  6. Preparing for an Enforcement case in Texas
  7. Defending against an Enforcement Action in Texas
  8. Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Five
  9. Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Four
  10. Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Three
  11. Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Two
  12. Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law: An Overview
  13. Child Support Enforcement Defense - Act Sooner Rather than Later
  14. Can my Texas Driver's License Be Suspended for Not paying Child Support?

Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Enforcement Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding order enforcement, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX EnforcementLawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our enforcement lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles enforcement cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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