All family law cases have different elements and circumstances that make them unique. Suppose you were recently divorced and denied visitation opportunities with your child by your ex-spouse. In that case, you will likely be interested in filing an enforcement case against them. 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 straightforward, there is more to enforcement than what I discussed in the opening paragraph of this blog post. Today, let’s spend some time going through the steps of an enforcement case in greater detail.
If you have questions on this subject or any other in family law at the end of our discussion, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. 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 enforcement, and drag your ex-spouse to court. I should say that you can do that if you want to, but your chances of winning your case will be slim. You can take some actions before ever hiring an attorney that can help you succeed in your case.
Document each 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 they can act as a witness in court to testify to what they 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 your attorney will use them to help build your case.
Hire an attorney and file your enforcement
Once you have decided to file an enforcement case, it is essential to hire an attorney who has experience in family law and, specifically, in enforcement cases. 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, and drafting the paperwork to file. Small mistakes and oversights can result in your failure in your case.
Your attorney will draft your Motion to Enforce the Decree of Divorce and file it with the District Clerk in your county; as long as you provide your attorney with the details they need to draft the motion correctly, you will only need to wait for your ex-spouse to be personally served with the action 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 having your spouse serve up to 180 days in jail for violating 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 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 a 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 them. Even if you know that your ex-spouse has an attorney on retainer, technically, doing 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. You may have never testified in court before. Getting some advice on how to dress, act in court, and ultimately speak before the judge can be 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. It would help if you were honest, responded to questions to the best of your ability, and remained 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 ask for additional time with your child due to having been denied previous visitation instances, why should the judge grant you those other days?
Your ex-spouse and attorney will offer defenses to the violations asserted in your Petition for Enforcement. They 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 they will read aloud their decision. If you are successful, your attorney will draft an order reflecting what the judge said.
Both parties and your attorneys will sign the order before it is presented to the judge for their 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, PLLC- Advocates for Southeast Texas families
The attorneys and staff with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, 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.
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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?
- A Tale of Two Parents: Enforcing Child Custody Orders in Texas
- 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?
- When does your duty to pay child support end in Texas?
- What is the average amount of child support per child?