If you are facing an enforcement case where your ex-spouse has asserted that you have missed child support payments, then you can take heart that there are defenses that you and your attorney can offer a judge.
It is true that "the proof is in the pudding," primarily for child support. Either you made the payment, or you did not. That much is relatively black and white. Let's discuss some of those defenses in today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC.
Did you make payments? If so, say so!
It may seem simplistic to read the following statement but stay with me, regardless. Payment of child support is a defense against the assertion that you have not paid child support.
Your attorney will certainly have looked over the other side's calculations to determine if you have been given all the credit you deserve for payments made to your ex-spouse.
Have you made any direct payments that did not go through the Attorney General's child support registry? If so, it is unlikely that those payments were taken into account in the Attorney General's listings and are also not likely to be included in the enforcement suit filed by your ex-spouse.
Be aware that if your Divorce Decree states that child support payments that have not gone through the child support registry are considered gifts, you will not have a leg to stand on in this regard.
Your attorney will also be able to introduce evidence intended to help convince the judge to render punishments that are less severe than the ones requested by your ex-spouse. For example, if you can show the judge that despite having lost a job or suffered an injury, you still made at least partial payments of support each month as ordered, then it's possible for you not to be held in contempt of court. The reason is that in doing so, your attorney has proven that you were not willfully or brazenly ignoring the rules of the court.
On occasion, Respondents have successfully shown that because they have made payments towards diapers, medical care, extracurricular activities, and things of that nature, the same sort of leniency should apply. This is a double-edged sword, however, as the ability to provide for something of this nature can lead a judge to believe that you essentially could pay the essential child support as well.
Drum roll, please- The Judge makes a ruling.
After both cases are in chief, the judge will consider all the evidence and decide a sentence (punishment). As the defendant, you can be found guilty and be sentenced to up to 180 days in jail per violation.
Note that the days in jail will run concurrently, so there is no risk of you going to jail for any more than six months. Monetary fines are possible of up to $500 per violation. You may also have a suspended sentence put upon you wherein it is your responsibility to pay back the support as ordered or risk going to jail.
On the other hand, the judge cannot find you guilty. Regardless, the court will render separate sentences for each violation, and those sentences will run simultaneously if you are found guilty. Community Supervision is possible as a punishment instead of being sentenced to spend a period in jail. For instance, you and the other side may agree to this punishment before trial- although the judge would have to agree with the decision.
Keep in mind that if your jail sentence is suspended- i.e., held up to allow you to pay your back child support- you do not necessarily have to be supervised. Unless your circumstances warrant it, your money could probably be better left to pay for the back child support rather than the community supervision fees. The longest you could be placed under community supervision is ten years.
Enforcement Hearings Overview
This will be the final installment in our blog posts on Enforcement hearings. What have we learned throughout our discussion on this subject? First and foremost, when it comes to child support, it is always best to follow your Final Decree of Divorce.
If you are the parent, who is ordered to pay support, go ahead and make your payments through the Child Support Registry as instructed. Even if your ex-spouse says, it is ok to pay them directly. This may be a kind gesture, but if anything happens where payments become late or incomplete, that kindness may disappear, and you may find yourself in court facing an enforcement case.
I do get to a point where an enforcement case is in your future; take heart that you do not have to submit to precisely what the other side is alleging. Make sure to hire an attorney who has the experience and attention for detail in enforcement cases.
Whatever little details you can share about past payments or circumstances that led to missed payments, make sure to do so with your attorney. That information could turn into legitimate and timely defenses in your enforcement case. Finally, if you can show a willingness to compromise, you may be able to avoid a hearing altogether.
Questions about enforcement cases? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, have experience handling enforcement cases on behalf of clients. Whether you are interested in bringing an enforcement case against your ex-spouse or need an attorney to defend you in such a case, our attorneys stand ready to serve.
For a free consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys, please do not hesitate to contact us today. A free-of-charge consultation is only a phone call away, and we are available to meet with you six days a week.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: "16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce"
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Family Law Enforcement Hearings: Agreements to Settle and Trial
- 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?
- The Steps of an Enforcement Case in Texas family law court
- 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?
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Enforcement Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding order enforcement, it's essential to speak with one of our Houston, TX EnforcementLawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our enforcement lawyers in Houston, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, handles enforcement cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Waller County.