Going through a divorce or a modification relating to children is typically stressful for all of the parties involved. It becomes even more stressful when one party refuses to follow the judge’s orders or finds that he cannot fulfill his court-ordered obligations. Clients often want to know what they can do about a violation of their court order, or what will happen if they violate the order. The answer to this question, usually, is an enforcement. At the Law Offices of Jayson Nag, our attorneys seek to educate our clients on the benefits, and repercussions, of enforcement of court orders.
What is an Enforcement?
An enforcement will bring the party who violated the order before the court, and the court will determine how best to get the party to obey the order. The process begins with the filing of a Motion for Enforcement. If the alleged offender is found to have violated the order by the court, enforcement of the order is typically done by fining the offending party and/or jailing the offending party for contempt of court for up to 180 days. The offending party may also be placed on community supervision (i.e., probation). In addition to these penalties, the offending party will be required to pay the other party’s attorney’s fees for the enforcement.
What can be enforced?
A court can enforce any of the terms of a court order, such as child support, possession and access, and the division of marital property. A limitation on enforcement, however, is that the court cannot enforce by contempt the payment of debts, such as bills that were split up in a divorce proceeding. Do not be fooled, though. Child support is considered a duty, not a debt, and you can be held in contempt for failure to meet this obligation.
What should I know if I plan to enforce a court order, or if a court order is being enforced against me?
- Keep a log or calendar of every time your court order has been violated with specific details of what happened. Details are essential in an enforcement. Document the “who what, when, where, why, and how” of every violation.
- For those looking to enforce possession of a child, you must be able to show that the other parent has exhibited a pattern of denials. One denied visitation is not enough. Plan to present at least three well-documented denials.
- Always follow your court order, even if the opposing party is not. If you are ordered to pick your child up from a specific location at a specific time, be at that location at that time. A failure to do so is considered voluntary relinquishment of that period of possession, even if the opposing party told you he/she would not be there. It is immensely helpful to bring some kind of evidence of your appearance, such as a receipt from a nearby store.
- If you are financially unable to pay your child support, make sure to bring documentation to show that as well as proof that you are searching for higher-paying employment. If a court finds that you are unable to pay, as opposed to refusing to pay, you will not be jailed.
- You cannot deny possession because the other party failed to pay child support. Likewise, you cannot refuse to pay child support because the other party has denied you possession. Do not plan to go before a judge with either of these as your defense.
- Typically, a first time offender will not be hit with jail time, so do not expect as much. The facts of your specific case will determine the outcome.
- You are typically going to appear before the same judge for an enforcement as you did when the original order was put in place, and how an order is enforced is up to that judge’s discretion. Judges hear tons of cases. You do not want to give him or her a reason to remember you.
I want to file an enforcement, or I have been served with a Motion for Enforcement. Now what?
Enforcements are difficult. Hiring an attorney that will work to understand your needs, help manage your expectations, help you gather evidence, and serve as a guide to you throughout the process is key. Give us a call at 817.900.2823. Our family law attorneys have extensive experience and expertise in enforcement actions. You can start on your case today by filling out our family law intake here.