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Preparing for an Enforcement case in Texas

If your ex-spouse has violated a portion of your Final Decree of Divorce, you will likely want to hold them accountable for having done so. It could be that you were denied visitation with your child during a period that the court-mandated you be able to have them with you.

Or an amount of child support you have the right to be paid every month with either not delivered 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 depend on the preparation that goes into the process.

You and your attorney are responsible for organizing and executing a game plan in court on the day of your hearing. If you cannot do so, the past violations and wrongs committed against you may go unpunished.

Figure out what you want in your enforcement case

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. I am saying that you need to use those feelings and combine them with preparation and evidence to be successful in the enforcement hearing.

You will want to discuss what you want to accomplish in your enforcement with your attorney. For instance, if you have not been paid child support in six months, you may be of the mind that you 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 enjoy the judge being able to jail your ex-spouse for some time due to their 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 them 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, they 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 because he mistakenly believed that he no longer had to after the child turned 18. 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 seek a settlement in advance of a hearing possibly.

Understand what happens once your case is filed

Once your attorney is hired, they will handle the heavy lifting of the case by 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-specific hearing.

Your ex-spouse will have the responsibility to respond to your motion for enforcement and will likely hire an attorney. If your spouse attempts to reach out to you, it is up to you to communicate with them. Indeed, 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 belligerent or otherwise engaging in offensive behavior.

Scenarios in resolving your Enforcement case

When your ex-spouse has filed an Answer and their attorney has entered an appearance, you and your ex-spouse's attorneys will likely speak to one another about the case to discuss the issues and see if any pre-hearing resolution is possible. If you are dealing with enforcement regarding past-due child support, there are a range of outcomes in your case:

  1. Your case may go before the judge in a contested hearing
  2. Your ex-spouse may agree to pay all child support owed plus attorney's fees to you. This essentially ends the enforcement proceeding altogether.
  3. You and your spouse (through your attorneys) agree that they 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 compensation, 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 they plan to pay that money back. Do not agree to something to avoid confronting your ex-spouse in court.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. Texas Family Law Court: Enforcement Actions
  2. How much will your child support enforcement case cost?
  3. The Steps of an Enforcement Case in Texas family law court
  4. Reviewing your case history is crucial to success in an enforcement case
  5. Defending against an Enforcement Action 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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