Enforcing visitation orders is a great goal to have if you have been denied time with your children out of no fault of your own. You and your co-parent have gone to family court previously and have received orders from a judge. Since the time of that prior child custody or divorce case, you have done your best to follow those rules and serve your family as best as possible. However, now that enough time has passed your co-parent has started to stray from those orders in ways big and small. You need to know how to proceed and what your options are. The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan are going to help provide you with that information today in this blog post.
As we mentioned before, your co-parent is starting to take some liberties with the court orders that you all have and that is getting your attention. At first, it started as not dropping your child off at the correct time for pick up/drop off purposes. The two of you have a solid enough relationship that you didn't think much of it when that started to happen. However, those missed times are now slipping into arguments about who should have the kids on certain holidays and weekends. It's become frustrating to find out that your co-parent wants to fight you at every opportunity when all you want to do is see your child on your weekends and holidays.
Being a reasonable person, your initial reaction was to say that you would simply take out a copy of your court order and first review the language to determine whether you were correct in your positions on visitation. In looking through the court orders you were reminded that you and your co-parent are joint managing conservators of your child. That means that you share rights and duties with him in an equal fashion for the most part. As you slide your eyes down to the section of the orders on a possession schedule you are indeed correct when it comes to the time with your child. Alternating holidays and the first, third, and fifth weekends of each month's possession are hallmarks of the Standard Possession Order (SPO) in Texas.
Once you were confident in your knowledge of the family court order you decided to address it directly with your co-parent. As I mentioned earlier, the two of you always had a good relationship with one another so you thought that this was going to be the reasonable and most efficient way to discuss the topic. Come to find out that you were wrong. You showed your co-parent the section of the family court order that dealt with possession and visitation- and she blew you off. She acted like she had done nothing wrong.
At this stage of the game, it has become abundantly clear that she is daring you to try and stop her from further reducing your time with your son. You read about enforcement cases on our blog, so you knew what had to be done. The question that you must confront now is how to get the enforcement filed with the court and what you can do- if anything- to help prepare for the case. There just seems like so much that you need to prepare for before you can confidently proceed in a case as detailed as enforcement. While you don't want to make an unforced error, you also want to make sure that your case gets off the ground as quickly as you can.
In today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, we will be discussing the subject of visitation enforcement in Texas. As always, if you have any questions about the material, we share with you in today's blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. Learning the law and how your circumstances interact with the law is what a consultation with our attorneys is all about.
What to do before the court in a visitation enforcement case
Making someone else do something against their will is tough. Can you think back to childhood and trying to convince your siblings to do something that they did not want to do? That would be tough. Now you are an adult who is trying to get another grown person to change their ways. On top of that- an enforcement case attempts to have your co-parent be held responsible for previously violating the court orders. You are trying to get your co-parent to follow the rules when he or she does not want to. That's not an easy ask.
You may be able to file an enforcement case against your co-parent and then try to use any period you have before the trial to negotiate with your co-parent. It is not easy to walk through an enforcement case in even the best of situations. Enforcement cases take a great deal of planning and intentionality to be successful. Unless you plan on following through all the steps of your case with a fine-toothed comb it may be easier to just bite the bullet and hire an attorney to assist you and your family. An attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan would be happy to assist you with the work that is necessary to hold your co-parent accountable and make sure future violations of the court order do not happen.
Child and medical support issues can be brought to the attention of a court by you or the Office of the Attorney General. Keep in mind that the OAG does not represent parents in any case, but they do represent the state of Texas. If your co-parent is not paying their share of medical or child support, then the OAG may be in a position where they have to encourage this payment because otherwise the State of Texas may be left holding the bill for health insurance and other costs associated with raising your child.
A child support case may have been filed by your co-parent in which she was trying to get the court to order you to pay child support. A child support case as filed by the OAG can establish child support obligations but also visitation orders, as well. You can knock out several issues in one OAG child support case. The visitation order can tell you when your periods of possession begin and end. Texas is a rare state that allows only one case to be able to control all these issues. In most other states you or your co-parent would need to file a separate case from the OAG child support case to get set up on cash medical or child support issues.
If a child support-only court "known in some places as an IV-D" court issues your court orders the first time around then you need to know that this same court will not be able to consider an enforcement case, as well. In that situation, you would file a case in a district or county court depending upon the county that is appropriate to you and your family. You should consider what to do before settling into a court case so that you do not need to waste time.
What you should do first is approach your co-parent on a person-to-person level and try to work out an agreement between the two of you. Many people in your position attempt to use an experienced family law mediator to work out a successful settlement to the issues with enforcement. While this can be a great alternative to going to court it can be difficult to settle issues regarding an enforcement case because one party has already displayed an unwillingness to work on themselves and their willingness to follow the court orders.
As we touched on a moment ago, it can be stressful to bring an enforcement case if you have never done anything like file an enforcement case before then it can make a lot of sense for you to hire an experienced family law attorney before going to court. Doing so can ensure that someone who has been there and done that is there to help you sort out any problems that come up along the way. An attorney can provide you with advice based on your specific circumstances as well as what circumstances need to be corrected.
If you are unable to settle your case outside of court, then you should work to file a petition to enforce. There are almost no circumstances where filing enforcement is done easier without an attorney than with one. You can reach out to attorneys who not only work within the world of Texas family law but are experts in that area, as well. No longer will you be left wondering whether you have what it takes to file your case correctly. An attorney is a short-term investment into your long-term future.
What is mediation?
The inability to see your children when you are ordered to be able to have them can be among the most frustrating experiences that a parent can go through. You get through an entire enforcement case without ever having to step foot inside a court. The beauty of this arrangement has to do with working with a mediator who not only knows the law but can make settlement offers and recommendations knowing your situation and the circumstances under which you are negotiating.
If you kept good records during this time, then you will be better off. Having specific dates, time(s) as well as other pertinent information can help you to focus your attention on those areas of the enforcement case which are most important. In the petition for enforcement, you must list the specific date, time, and manner of violations for the judge to consider. Some people's enforcement cases can't even make it off the ground because of problems in drafting a good petition. An unclear petition or one that is incomplete can spell doom for your case even before it begins. Do not make a mistake before the case even begins. Hire an attorney as early in the process as you can and avoidable mistakes like this can be handled correctly.
Make no mistake- your children want and need to see you and spend time with you. Consistency and stability are key when it comes to establishing a strong relationship with your children. If they do not know when they are going to be able to see you next, they may get less excited about seeing you at all. Even if the changes to your child’s life have been minimal they may not perceive it that way. Looking at the situation as an adult rather than as a younger child can cause you to miss the reality of the situation. Namely, you need to be concerned with how your children are going to be able to expect to see you rather than any other factor. Consistency and stability are two words that you need to hammer home.
Your children will probably be asking your co-parent days in advance when you will be coming to pick them up. The great part about a child custody order is that all of this is decided for you long before you get to a point where your child is left wondering about the next time, he or she will be able to spend any time with you. Do not allow this to be your child's lasting impression of you. Rather, take the time to review your court order, organize your potential enforcement case by violations, and then think long and hard about hiring an attorney to help you facilitate this new case.
If the same attorney helped to describe any issues with your current order to you. You may be surprised to learn how this attorney is willing to work with you even after you need to request a copy of your court order then you should contact the county or district clerk who heard your case previously. If you are represented by an attorney in your prior family law case, then you can request that he or she look at the order with you and direct your attention to any portion that may be relevant to the current enforcement case.
What to do about denial of visitation time
if you are not successful in the mediation of reaching an agreement on the relevant issues of your case then the next best thing for you to be able to do is to ask the court to change any visitation orders that no longer fit well for your family. Rather than enforcing the order, this would be a modification. Many times, the enforcement of prior court orders is more like a Band-Aid. A modification of the prior court orders makes it so you are less likely in the future to need to ever come back and enforce orders that no longer work for any of the parties involved.
if you are denied time with your children, you should keep a journal entry of the dates to support any enforcement case. The more up-to-date you can keep these entries the better off you will be. if your parent provides you with a reason why visitation was denied or delayed then you should keep a record of this explanation, as well. Please note that if your co-parent tells you ahead of time that you are going to be denied visitation this does not count as an official denial of visitation. Rather, you must physically have had visitation denied of you.
Closing thoughts on what to do when your Co-parent won't follow the rules
Make no mistake, it can be incredibly frustrating to be in a position where your Co-parent has purposefully Violated Your court orders. However, you do not have to take the situation lying down bucket instead standing up for yourself and your child period to file an enforcement action is a serious matter but there is a process involved in doing so. By looking through today's blog post you can learn more about that process and position yourself well in terms of being able to ensure that you and your child are both able to see each other consistently in the future. Do not underestimate the importance of being able to have a relationship with your child!
Otherwise, to best prepare for this type of case means to hire an experienced attorney who can walk with you through the difficult times in a case. If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced family law attorneys today.
Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free-of-charge consultations six days a week in person, over the phone, and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of a divorce or child custody case.