While most of us believe that once an order is handed down from the court, the issue is essentially over, when that order is not followed as intended, it can be necessary to seek assistance from the court to have the order enforced. While the very last thing you may want is to even think about stepping back into a courtroom after your divorce, in some instances, it could be necessary. If it turns out that you are dealing with a person who has no intention of following a direct court order, Landrith & Kulesz, L.L.P. can help.
We understand your frustration with the situation and will do everything in our power to ensure the court order is enforced, with the least amount of stress for you. At Landrith & Kulesz, L.L.P., not only do we understand frustrations associated with order enforcement, we understand the anxiety and stress which often accompanies the entire divorce. We believe we can alleviate much of those feelings by handling all the legalities associated with your divorce—or the enforcement of a divorce order—while you are allowed the time and space to determine what you want for your future.
When Enforcement of Orders are Necessary
It can be extremely frustrating when your ex-spouse (or the other parent to your children), fails to follow court orders. Enforcement could be necessary when child support is not paid in a timely manner, when visitation is either being denied, or the parent with visitation rights is not exercising those rights, or, really, anything related to your Texas divorce. If you find yourself in such a situation, you may be forced to have the court enforce the orders through a contempt order.
A contempt order usually issues some sort of threat to the person who is not following the court’s orders, whether that threat is in the form of jail time or a fine. Texas courts will enforce orders dealing with child support, visitation, the property division ordered in a divorce, or spousal support. For a court order to be enforceable via a contempt citation, the order must be clear, specific, and unambiguous—in other words, the parties involved must be totally clear on what the court has asked them to do, before they can be charged with contempt for not doing those things.
As an example, in the instance of visitation, the wording must include “command language—i.e., the language “commands” the party who has the child to “surrender” the child at the start of the visitation period, then when that party returns the children, he or she will surrender the children back to the parent with primary custody. The document will also specify where the children will be exchanged, at what time the exchange will occur, and when the visitation will begin and end.
If the issue is child support, the court order must very specifically state who the child support will be paid to, the amount of each payment, the date on which the payments are to begin, the date on each subsequent months when the support is to be paid, where the payments should be sent, and when the payments will end. Any time a court order is vague, it is unlikely to be enforceable through a contempt citation.
If a Person is Found in Contempt of Court, What Will the Punishment Be?
If a person is found in contempt of court, and that person is currently employed, sending him or her to jail might not be the best course of action, because they could lose their job. Because of this, a judge might order a jail sentence, then suspend that sentence. If the jail sentence is suspended, there will be a number of conditions imposed, including that the party will make specific payments (if failure to pay was the issue), and possibly that the party pay attorney’s fees, fines, and court costs.
The judge could also place the individual on probation and could even include requirements that the individual obtains budget manage counseling, financial counseling, or alcohol and drug treatment. When the court suspends a contempt sentence, the judge will require the individual to appear in court at a later date to determine whether the conditions of the suspended sentence were properly obeyed—if they were not, the individual would likely be jailed.
Requirements of an Enforcement Order
If you are the one attempting to enforce a family court order, you or your attorney must specify the type of punishment—civil, criminal, or both—you are seeking. You should not ask for more than 180 days of jail time in an enforcement case; if you do so, the other individual can request a jury trial and can have a court-appointed attorney represent him or her.
If you are attempting to enforce a child support order, the amount owed must be clearly stated, as well as the amounts that have been paid. In general, you should always specifically point out the parts of the order which were violated, as well as the exact dates the order was violated. If you are seeking to enforce a property division order, the property in question must have been in existence at the time your divorce was finalized.
Serving the Other Party
If you are seeking an enforcement order, the enforcement petition must be personally served on the other individual, along with an order to appear. The other person has ten days to prepare for the hearing; if he or she fails to show up for the enforcement hearing, a capias order could be issued, allowing law enforcement to detain and bring the individual before the court.
How Landrith & Kulesz, L.L.P. Can Help
It is almost always a tough decision to rehash a legal matter—particularly one that was contentious at the time the order was issued. It is important that you take action as quickly as possible if the other party fails to uphold his or her end of a court order, causing a serious impact on your daily life, as well as financial and emotional hardship. When you contact Landrith & Kulesz, L.L.P., a top family law attorney in Arlington, Texas will meet with you to discuss your situation, answering any questions you might have.
You can expect to receive individualized attention, as well as all the time necessary for us to discuss your case and guide you through any legal challenges you may face. To schedule a time to speak to one of your attorneys regarding enforcement of order—or any other family law issue—contact Landrith & Kulesz, L.L.P. today.