In the event that your ex-spouse has violated a portion of your Final Decree of Divorce it is likely that you will want to hold him or her accountable for having done so. It could be that you were denied visitation with your child during a time period that the court-mandated you be able to have him or her with you.
Or, an amount of child support that you have the right to be paid on a monthly basis with either not paid or not fully paid to you. Unfortunately, there is ample opportunity for your ex-spouse to violate an Order that is as detailed and multi-faceted as a Divorce Decree.
Fortunately for you, Texas allows folks in your position to file an enforcement action in a family law court in an attempt to have the judge enforce the provisions of the Divorce Decree that you believe have been violated. The results of your case are dependent upon the preparation that goes into the process.
Your attorney and you are responsible for organizing and executing a game plan in court on the day of your hearing. If you are not able to do so, the past violations and wrongs committed against you may go unpunished.
Figure out what you want in your enforcement case
Simply being upset at your ex-spouse and wanting to see your child is not a plan for success in an enforcement case. Nobody is saying that your feelings are unjustified or off base. What I am saying to you is that you need to use those feelings and combine them with preparation and evidence in order to be successful in the enforcement hearing.
You will want to discuss with your attorney what you want to accomplish in your enforcement. For instance, if you have not been paid child support in six months you may be of the mind that you just want a lump sum from your ex-spouse for the child support owed and nothing more. Or, if the arrearage is significant you may also want the judge to be able to jail your ex-spouse for a period of time as a result of his or her violations.
Has your ex-spouse made any direct payments to you that did not go through the Child Support Registry of the Office of the Attorney General? You will want to schedule a meeting with your attorney to sit with him or her and go through your Divorce Decree.
The reason for this is so that you both can read through the expectations for your ex-spouse and confirm that the violations have occurred in the way that you believe they did.
An opportunity to settle and avoid court is possible in certain circumstances
It could be that you made a “deal” with your ex-spouse that in exchange for not paying child support he or she would do something else like pay for a semester of your child’s school or repair a broken part on your child’s vehicle.
I’ve had an enforcement case where the father stopped paying child support to our client due to his having mistakenly believed that he no longer had to after the child turned 18. In fact, the order read that the responsibility to pay support stopped after she graduated from high school.
A simple mistake led to several missed payments. In that instance, I was able to speak to the other attorney ahead of our hearing and negotiate a repayment schedule without ever having to see a judge. Your attorney will need to know your order and the circumstances to prepare for a hearing and to possibly seek a settlement in advance of a hearing.
Understand what happens once your case is filed
Once your attorney is hired he or she will handle the heavy lifting of the case as far as drafting documents and filing them with the court. That does not mean that you should not be aware of what is happening. You should know that your ex-spouse will be served by a process server or constable with the motion for enforcement along with an order to appear at a date certain for a hearing.
Your ex-spouse will have the responsibility to respond to your motion for enforcement and will likely hire an attorney. In the event that your spouse attempts to reach out to you, it is up to you whether to communicate with him or her. Certainly, if you both have attorneys an option would be to have your communication go through your representatives. This is especially true if your spouse is being belligerent or is otherwise engaging in offensive behavior.
Scenarios in resolving your Enforcement case
When an Answer has been filed by your ex-spouse and an appearance has been entered by his or her attorney, you and your ex-spouse’s attorneys will likely speak to one another about the case to discuss the issues and to see if any pre-hearing resolution is possible. If you are dealing with an enforcement regarding past due child support there are a range of outcomes in your case:
- Your case may go before the judge in a contested hearing
- Your ex-spouse may agree to pay all of the child support owed plus attorney’s fees to you. This essentially ends the enforcement proceeding altogether.
- You and your spouse (through your attorneys) agree that he or she should be held in contempt of court for violating the court orders
Your attorney will walk you through each of these possibilities. Before agreeing to anyone some forward thinking about the terms for repayment, the manner of repayment and the source of payment should be considered.
If your ex-spouse owes a great deal of child support but earns minimum wages the question must be asked as to how he or she plans to pay that money back. Do not agree to something just to avoid confronting your ex-spouse in court.
Questions about an enforcement action? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
An enforcement is one of the most specialized and unique of all family cases and your attorney should have experience in representing clients who have been in your position. The family law attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan understand the issues and law surrounding enforcement actions and have successfully represented clients in court as a result. To schedule a free of charge consultation with one of our attorneys please contact us today.
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Texas Family Law Court: Enforcement Actions
- How much will your child support enforcement case cost?
- The Steps of an Enforcement Case in Texas family law court
- Reviewing your case history is crucial to success in an enforcement case
- Defending against an Enforcement Action in Texas
- Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Five
- Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Four
- Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Three
- Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Two
- Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law: An Overview
- Child Support Enforcement Defense - Act Sooner Rather than Later
- 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 Enforcement Lawyers 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.