Court Order Enforcement
In family court cases, including divorce, child custody, parenting time, child support, and alimony (spousal maintenance), the spouses or parents involved are required to follow the rules outlined in any official order handed down by the courts. If any part of a court order is not followed, the impacted party can ask the court to enforce the order. Texas court order enforcement may involve:
- Property delivery;
- Money judgments;
- Payment for future property; and
- Paying the other party’s court costs and attorney fees.
Some of the above actions may apply in some situations and not others, so it is important to work with an attorney who understands both the law and the local court system in order to better ensure that you achieve your desired goals in an enforcement capacity.
Texas Court Order Enforcement Attorney
If your ex-spouse is not providing their required financial support, you should seek the aid of a skilled Houston family law attorney Matthew Horak at Horak Law before you take any action. Mr. Horaks understands this may be a stressful time for you, and he will be by your side every step of the way to provide the legal support you need.
To learn more about us, call our office today at (713) 225-8000. Horak Law has offices in both Houston and The Woodlands.
- Marital Property Division And Money Judgments
- Contempt Orders
- Clarification Orders
- Enforcement Process
- Additional Resources
Marital Property Division And Money Judgments
Depending on the circumstances in question, divorce decrees usually provide a timeframe for dividing certain property. If a spouse was supposed to deliver property to the other spouse and has repeatedly failed to follow through, the spouse who was supposed to receive the property could have the decree enforced. Enforcement orders often provide a timeframe for returning the property and serve as stern reminders of both spouses’ legal obligations.
If a spouse was supposed to deliver certain property but has since sold or otherwise departed with it, the court can impose an equivalent money judgment for the value of the item. For example, if a divorce decree states that one spouse is supposed to return an antique car to the other spouse but sells it, the court can order the spouse to pay money equal to the value of the car. Money judgments can also be used when one spouse has not paid child support or alimony.
In family issues involving spousal maintenance or child issues, contempt is commonly used as a catalyst to enforce standing orders. Contempt involves situations wherein a wronged party wants the court to reiterate what a custody order says, and if necessary, impose a punishment.
For example, a custody order might say that one parent has sole legal custody, giving that parent all rights to make medical and school decisions for the child. If the parent without legal custody tries to make certain medical appointments for the child or enrolls the child in a different school, the parent with legal custody can ask the judge to reprimand the other parent and impose a punishment. Other times, one parent might seek contempt for the other parent’s failure to follow a court-ordered parenting time schedule.
Contempt can also occur when a divorce decree orders one spouse to pay alimony or child support, but that spouse repeatedly fails to pay. The ex-spouse who has not received the payments can take the other ex-spouse to court. A judge could then reprimand the non-paying party, require immediate payment, and even impose punishments. Child support can be enforced by the other parent or a county’s child support enforcement agency.
Contempt issues can vary widely from minor to significant. If a party has been found in contempt, judges have considerable discretion to impose punishments. Common punishments include:
- Jail time;
- Judgment against the non-paying party; and
Sometimes either or both parties involved in a family court case might find themselves confused by the terms of a court order, such as their divorce decree’s provisions about property distribution, alimony, and issues regarding children. Confusion could arise out of a dispute or a genuine lack of clarity in the order. If both spouses believe they have parenting time on a particular holiday, resulting in one parent’s confusion when the child is not returned to them, the “wronged” parent might ask a judge for assistance.
As the name suggests, a clarification order is an order that clarifies and further explains the language in a standing court order. Clarification orders can result from two situations. First, they can serve as a solution to a party’s motion for contempt. Orders must be enforceable for contempt to be considered, so some contempt motions can be resolved with a clarification for a prior court order that has been misunderstood or needs alteration for the sake of clarity.
Second, they can be used to resolve genuine confusion over a court order. Either party can specifically request that the judge who issues the order provides the parties with more guidance. In these situations, innocent clerical errors, vague details, or grammatical errors may have led to inconsistent results for the parties.
An individual who wants to enforce a court order must file a motion with the court that issued the original order. Timelines for filing enforcement motions vary, so it is very important to work with a skilled family law attorney who is familiar with the timelines involved. For example, motions to enforce division of property after divorce must be filed within two years of the date of the decree or the date upon which an appeal is finalized.
If more than two years have passed, the opportunity to file a motion is barred. Other motions can be filed immediately after a spouse has missed a payment, like alimony or child support. For many months or years of unpaid child support, a motion must be filed no later than six months after the affected child’s 18th birthday.
Although the law is clear regarding when a motion can be filed, the reality is different. Enforcement motions, particularly contempt motions, are more easily obtained and valuable when they are made after several months have passed. For example, a motion filed after a spouse fails to pay two months of alimony is less compelling than it would be if filed after a spouse has missed five or six payments. Additionally, ex-spouses can often find ways to mutually resolve a few missed payments better than they can resolve several. Working with a qualified family law attorney is the best way to learn how and when to file a motion for enforcement to obtain the results you desire.
Texas Child Support Contempt Orders – Texas has a specific law to enforce child support that outlines the state’s process and penalties.
Texas State Law Library – The state law library provides basic information about the child support process.
Houston Court Order Enforcement Attorney | Harris County, TX
If you have not been given the financial support you entitled to by a court order, reach out to Horak Law for assistance. Texas family law attorney Matthew Horak is experienced and skilled in enforcing all types of family law court orders. He will advocate aggressively on your behalf and fight to resolve the situation as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Call Horak Law today at (713) 225-8000 to schedule your first consultation. Horak Law has offices in Houston and The Woodlands, but we accept clients throughout the State of Texas including Fort Bend County, Liberty County, Waller County, Montgomery County, Harris County, Galveston County, and Brazoria County.