All family law cases have different elements and circumstances that make them unique. If you were recently divorced and have been denied visitation opportunities with your child by your ex-spouse then you will likely be interested in filing an enforcement case against him or her. An enforcement case addresses specific violations of your Divorce Decree and requests that the judge hold your ex-spouse accountable for those violations.
While that process may sound relatively straightforward and simple there is more to an enforcement than what I discussed in the opening paragraph of this blog post. Let’s spend some time today going through the steps of an enforcement case in greater detail.
If at the end of our discussion you have questions on this subject or any other in family law please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We will be more than happy to have one of our licensed family law attorneys meet with you to answer those questions in a free of charge consultation.
Prepare, prepare, prepare (and then prepare some more)
If you have been repeatedly denied visitation periods with your child it is not enough to hire an attorney, file an enforcement and drag your ex-spouse to court. I should say that you can do that if you really want to, but your chances of winning your case will be slim. There are some actions you can take before ever hiring an attorney that can help you to succeed in your case.
Document each and every denial of visitation in a journal with the time, date and location. Having a witness available to accompany you to each of those missed opportunities can be helpful as he or she can act as a witness in court to testify to what he or she experienced.
You will need to:
- be present at the designated drop off/pick up at the spot
- at the correct time even if you know your ex-spouse and child will not be there.
Keep your notes handy as they will be used by your attorney to help build your case.
Hire an attorney and file your enforcement
Once you have decided to file an enforcement case it is important to hire an attorney who has experience not only in family law but specifically in enforcement cases. An enforcement is different from a divorce or a modification case.
You will want to ensure that your attorney has experience presenting evidence to the judge, questioning witnesses as well as in drafting the paperwork to file. Small mistakes and oversights can result in your not being successful in your case.
Your attorney will draft your Motion to Enforce the Decree of Divorce and will file it with the District Clerk in your county. As long as you provide your attorney with the details he or she needs to properly draft the motion you will only need to wait for your ex-spouse to be personally served with the motion as well as an order from the judge to appear in court at a specific date and time for a hearing on the matter.
Providing notice to your ex-spouse
One of the remedies (punishments) that you can seek from the court is to have your spouse serve up to 180 days in jail for having violated the court order. That’s not to say you have to ask for this remedy, or that the judge would be likely to grant the request.
My point is that an enforcement is a serious matter that combines elements of civil cases (family law) with criminal law aspects (jail time as punishment for violating the law).
Your spouse will need to be personally served with Notice of your lawsuit. This means that a constable or process server will need to be hired to pick up the paperwork from the judge and serve it upon him or her. Even if you know that your ex-spouse has an attorney on retainer, technically serving the attorney is not proper in an enforcement case. Personal service is necessary.
Continue to prepare, prepare, prepare
While you are waiting for your ex-spouse to be served your attorney should meet with you to go over your case.
- What evidence do you have?
- What is the timeline of events?
I will typically use the enforcement petition as an outline for these meetings. Your evidence-
- receipts showing you were near the drop-off/pick up location at the correct time
- journals and logs showing instances of denied visitation, etc.- will be organized and prepared by your attorney to be offered into evidence.
Your attorney should prepare you for testimony. It’s possible that you’ve never testified in court before. Getting some advice on how to dress, act in court and ultimately speak before the judge can be really helpful if you are feeling nervous or apprehensive.
Remember- ultimately your only responsibility in the hearing itself is to answer questions that are asked of you. Your attorney presents the case and the judge makes a ruling. You need to be honest, answer questions to the best of your ability and remain silent otherwise.
Attending the Hearing and Receiving a Decision from the Judge
All of your preparation leads up to the hearing itself. Without belaboring the point too much, your attorney will be presenting the remedies or relief you are seeking from the court and offering evidence as to why that relief should be granted.
If you are asking for additional time with your child as a result of having been denied previous instances of visitation, why should the judge grant you those additional days?
Your ex-spouse and their attorney will offer defenses to the violations asserted in your Petition for Enforcement. He or she will present evidence and be able to question you and your ex-spouse as well as any other witness who testifies.
Finally, once all of the evidence is presented the judge is tasked with making a decision. Typically the judge will make an oral rendition of their orders meaning that he or she will read aloud their decision. If you are successful your attorney will draft an order that reflects what the judge said.
Both parties and your attorneys will sign the order before it is presented to the judge for his or her signature. Once signed by the judge you and your ex-spouse will need to follow your Divorce Decree in addition to any additional orders set forth by the judge in the Enforcement hearing.
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan- Advocates for Southeast Texas families
The attorneys and staff with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan take our responsibility to our clients seriously. From Chambers County to Waller County and all points in between, we represent families just like yours in various family law matters. To speak with one of our attorneys about our experience and the services we can provide you with, please do not hesitate to contact us today.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
If you want to know more about how to prepare, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “13 Dirty Tricks to Watch Out For in Your Texas Divorce, and How to Counter Them" Today!”
Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Reviewing your case history is crucial to success in an enforcement case
- 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
- Preparing for an Enforcement case in Texas
- 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 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.