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Defending against an Enforcement Action in Texas

If you have been served with papers from your ex-spouse asserting that you have violated your Divorce Decree, it may be the case that you have been caught off guard and don't know what to think.

From my experiences representing clients in family law cases, it is often missed child support payments that wind up with a lawsuit being filed to recoup those payments. Your divorce happened not too long ago, and now you are being summoned back to court. How should you proceed?

Hiring an attorney is an excellent place to start. If you were satisfied with the representation that you received in your divorce, it might be a good idea to hire that exact attorney for this enforcement case. After all, they are at least somewhat familiar with your circumstances, and you would have some comfort in already having worked with that attorney.

Once you have hired an attorney and filed your Answer to the Enforcementsuit, it is a good idea to schedule a time to meet with your attorney to discuss your goals for this case. Just because you are in the defensive position does not mean that you should seek only to rebuff the violations that are being alleged of you.

How a judge is likely to rule should influence your approach to the case

Keep in mind that as you meet with your attorney, it is expected that they have some experience trying cases in front of the judge that you are scheduled to appear before. Some judges have a reputation of being extremely hard on parents who do not pay child support.

As a result, jail time may be a possibility if your spouse has asked the court to consider that punishment. On the other hand, some judges do not take a hard stance on this subject and may award attorney's fees and past due amounts of support to your ex-spouse.

My point is knowing this sort of information can be critical to understanding your options and mapping out a game plan for your case. If you have an opportunity to settle your case before a hearing based on your knowledge of the judge's tendencies, then doing so may be in your best interests.

Conversely, if you have evidence to counteract the allegations made by your ex-spouse in their petition and your judge is open-minded on the subject, it may be in your best interests to proceed to a trial.

Setting goals with your attorney at the outset of your case

While an enforcement case is heard in civil court before a family law judge, it is unique in that it combines elements of criminal law proceedings. Specifically, your spouse may have filed a request to have you serve up to 180 days in jail due to your having violated the court's orders regarding child support payment.

Does this mean that you are likely to go to jail if you lose your hearing? No. However, it is a possibility, and as such, you should treat this scenario with respect it deserves.

From an attorney's vantage point, if I can keep you from serving time in jail for any alleged violations of your court order, then that is a good outcome. Any positives on top of that are gravy on the biscuit, as my father-in-law likes to say.

If you do owe child support, there is little doubt, in most circumstances, that you will have to pay the money. If you speak with your attorney and determine this, your attorney can use their negotiation skills to work out a repayment plan.

If your attorney works closely with you on the repayment of support, it can minimize attorney's fees that have to be paid and will go a long way towards putting this case behind you. If you get caught up on payment before the hearing, you are not at risk of going to jail.

An example of a successful defense of an enforcement case

This past year I represented a father who owned a fair amount of back child support. He had reasons for not having paid on time, including losing a job and suffering a minor injury at work. He understood that he needed to pay the child support and the consequences if he did not.

If we isolate those two pieces of understanding, I would argue that this knowledge is as crucial as any other in the whole case. As a result, he made an effort to collect the past monies that he owed and paid them to his ex-spouse through the State Disbursement Unit.

As a result of his reasonable faith attempts to quickly get current on support owed, I was able to negotiate a nonsuit with his ex-spouse's attorney. This means that due to the past due support having been paid (in addition to some attorney's fees for opposing counsel), the case was dropped with no record of it ever having been filed.

The victory for our client was that in the future if he has to come back as a defendant in this same position, he will be judged as a first-time "offender" rather than a repeat violator of his order. Depending on the judge that hears his case, this can make a big difference.

Enforcement proceedings are serious. Contact the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan.

If you value hard work, determination, vigorous advocacy, and doing right by others, then the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, are your type of representative. We value our clients and place their interests ahead of our own in every instance.

To learn more about the services we can offer you as a client, please contact us today. A free-of-charge consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys is only a phone call away.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. Reviewing your case history is crucial to success in an enforcement case
  2. Texas Family Law Court: Enforcement Actions
  3. How much will your child support enforcement case cost?
  4. The Steps of an Enforcement Case in Texas family law court
  5. Preparing for an Enforcement case in Texas
  6. Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Five
  7. Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Four
  8. Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Three
  9. Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law, Part Two
  10. Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law: An Overview
  11. Child Support Enforcement Defense - Act Sooner Rather than Later
  12. Can my Texas Driver's License Be Suspended for Not paying Child Support?
  13. When does your duty to pay child support end in Texas?
  14. Should a Divorced Parent Sign a Waiver (Release) and Indemnity Agreement to Allow a Child to Participate in Recreational Activities?
  15. What is the average amount of child support per child?
  16. Important yet infrequently discussed issues in child support enforcement

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