It seems that every topic we discuss in our world these days is related to COVID-19. The discussions that we have with friends and family often are had in the context of what is going on with the virus that day. The irony of this is that the virus itself is what it is. However, we as human beings view the virus in specific ways on certain days due to particular circumstances. The reality of the situation is that it impacts us quite differently depending on who we are and our events.
For example, suppose you are a person who was Gough a divorce, child custody case where has recently completed either of these types of family law cases. In that case, you are aware of what it is like to live under family court orders. Whether those orders are temporary orders or final orders, it should have been abundantly clear to you that as a result of being in a family law case, the decisions you make are no longer based solely on your judgment but that of a literal judge. Rather than doing what you want and how you want it with your family and your finances, court orders intercede and direct your behavior in various ways.
You may have gone through your entire family law case without asking yourself the question: what is a family court order, and what exactly does it do? It would be expected for your focus to have been on getting out of your family law case so that you can move on to the next phase of your life. You may have been so focused on negotiation, avoiding court, and minimizing the costs of an attorney and the divorce process as a whole, and you may have missed the more subtle nature of a family law case.
By filing a family lawsuit, you are also asking a court to impose precise borders on you and your family that dictate your behavior to certain extents. How effective those orders are and how agreeable you are to follow those orders will directly impact the future trajectory of your life. I don't want to make it seem like your entire life will depend on your family court orders. On the contrary, likely, your family court orders will only impact you for a relatively short time. However, these orders are still significant for however long they ultimately last for you and your family.
I want to take this opportunity to discuss a couple of essential issues related to Texas family court orders. First, we're going to talk about what a family court order is, what areas of your life it impacts, and how you can prepare for these changes. Next, I will discuss the topic of contempt and, more specifically, hate during the COVID-19 era. This discussion will deal with more specifics and what can happen to a family if adherence to the family court order begins to break down.
What is a family court order, and what impact will it have on you in your life moving forward?
As a result of your child custody, divorce, or another family law-related case, the outcome of your proceeding is likely to be an Order issued by a family court judge. In this order, we will summarize what happened in your case and direct your and any other parties' behaviors after the case has been completed. In this way, we can view a family court order properly as impactful to your life now and in the future. The extent to which the family court order will impact your future life will largely depend on what type of family law case you went before the judge regarding.
Final orders in a divorce case
Divorce cases tend to be the most dynamic, fluid, and intricate of any family law case. The reason for this is that a divorce case deals with issues related to children for many people and links to financial matters for just about every person who goes through a divorce. It does not matter if your community estate is relatively small or if your marriage was somewhat short. There are almost always financial matters that need to be attended to in a divorce, even if that means transferring title to a couple of vehicles and assigning responsibility for a credit card debt.
The final order that parties going through a divorce seek is known as a final decree of divorce. The final decree of divorce is a document that contains all of the orders in agreements made by you and your spouse in a divorce. Your names and signatures will be collected at the end of the document and those of your attorneys and the judge. Once all parties and the judge sign the order, it goes into effect.
The judge in your case does not periodically check in on you and your ex-spouse to make sure that you were following the terms of your order. A divorce decree is a self-enforcing document meaning that you or your spouse must seek to enforce the duration of your order if it has been violated. We will discuss this subject more in detail in a moment, but I wanted to make sure that you were aware that the courts do not have a mechanism for enforcing divorce decree terms on their own.
Final orders in a child custody case
The other most frequently encountered family law case is a child custody case. There are elements of child custody cases in divorce, but a child custody case does not deal in the property division, but you see in a divorce. If two unmarried persons are involved in a child custody case, there is no community estate to divide, and therefore, there is no property element to a child custody case. However, this does not mean that there are no financial implications in a child custody case. Most notably, child support is often an issue relevant in a family law case like a child custody matter.
Frequently, child custody cases involve two persons who are unmarried and are not in any dating relationship. In these circumstances, a mother may be attempting to establish child support, or a father may be trying to establish visitation rights. There is typically a history of one parent denying the other time with the child or one parent failing to contribute financially to that child's upbringing. As a result of these circumstances going too far, the parties are left with little choice but to file a lawsuit.
The term child custody is pretty broad and relatively vague. The term does not even appear in the Texas family code one time. What custody has come to represent are issues that are more accurately classified as conservatorships issues. These are subjects that relate to the ability to make decisions on behalf of your child and the duty to care for your child to provide shelter, clothing, education, and necessary medical care.
However, parties and their attorneys alike have come to utilize custody as a general term to describe these types of subjects and subjects related to possession, access, visitation, and even child support. In many instances, mothers and fathers alike tend to view cursory almost purely in terms of time with their kids. This is understandable on many levels, given how critical parent and child interaction is when building a relationship. However, there is much more in a child custody order than solely recapping the child's visitation schedule.
The child custody orders, either in a freestanding child custody case or within a divorce, will also establish a child support obligation for the non-custodial parent. A non-custodial parent is a parent with whom the child does not reside regularly. If, during the school year, your child lives with your X wife, then you are the non-custodial parent; as such, you will need to follow the orders contained in your final orders, which dictate how and when child support is to be paid.
Family court orders that deal in specific subject matter
As opposed to child custody and divorce cases that pertain to a range of subjects under the general canopy of divorce or child custody, there are family court orders established About particular people or particular topics. For example, you may be part of a child custody case as a grandparent or parent involved in a Child Protective Services case. In either of these cases, you may be entitled to be a part of a final order in the case. However, depending on your circumstances, your role in the case may be more minimal than in the other two family law cases we have already discussed today.
For example, suppose you are a grandparent who has the standing to file to be a part of a child custody case involving your grandchild. In that case, you may be awarded visitation or conservatorships rights to your grandchild depending on your specific circumstances. As a result, the portion of that child custody order which pertains to you may be relatively short. However, its terms are just as impactful in binding on you as any other party.
Additionally, if you are a parent who Child Protective Services have investigated, you are involved in a specific child custody case. Most notably, your conservatorships rights as a parent may be severely restricted or even terminated depending upon the results of a CPS investigation regarding instances of alleged violence or neglect directed against one of your children. You should be aware that there are specific requirements for CPS cases, and your family court order may also reflect those realities.
What about contempt during the COVID-19 era?
A contempt is a finding by a judge that you violated a court order. The violation of that court order is most likely to have occurred outside the court's presence and be to some aspect of child support, conservatorships rights, visitation, or possession. When a court finds that you have violated in order, it will hold you in contempt of court, and your opposing party may be able to have penalties assessed against you for each of your violations. Potential contempt findings may result in fines, court costs being evaluated, attorneys' fees for both you and your spouse is ordered to be paid as well as the possibility of jail time depending on the nature of the order that was violated.
As I mentioned at the outset of today's blog post, it doesn't matter if we are in the middle of a viral pandemic or not; a judge will not enforce a family court order unless you or your opposing party take steps to do so. If you are interested in implementing family court order terms, I recommend you file an enforcement case. And enforcement cases are a type of family lawsuit which seeks to bring about violations of your court order to the attention of a judge, provide specific information about those violations and then propose a punishment.
Questions about contempt during the COVID-19 era? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material presented in today's blog post, I recommend that you contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations via phone, in person, and video. These consultations are an excellent way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law and to gain some perspective on your particular circumstances.