ENFORCEMENTS 101: Enforcing a Court Order During Divorce or Custody Proceedings
Texas courts expect their orders to be followed and the Texas legislature has codified various methods for a litigant to ensure that any orders made by the Court are followed by the other party. In family law, this is known as “enforcement”. Orders of enforcement in Texas serve three main purposes: (1) to ensure the integrity of the court’s orders; (2) to punish violation of the court’s order; and (3) to deter future violations.
The Texas Family Code provides that parties affected by a court order may seek court intervention to enforce:
- Divorce Decrees
- Agreements Incident to Divorce or Annulment that were approved by the Court
- Orders providing for possession and access to a child
- Child Support Orders
- Orders of Enforcement
An affected party may seek enforcement of any term of a divorce decree or agreement incident to divorce or annulment that was approved by the court including a division of property and any other contractual provisions.
Depending on the order sought to be enforced, the Texas Family Code provides for the following forms of relief: (1) order for delivery of specific existing property, a sum of money or its equivalent awarded by a divorce decree; (2) a money judgment for the damages caused by a party’s failure to comply with a divorce decree; (3) a money judgment for the amount of any unpaid payments to which the other party is entitled under a divorce decree; (4) civil or criminal contempt; (5) confirmation of child support arrearages; (6) wage-withholding for unpaid child support; (7) placing a lien on all real and personal property that is owned by a child support obligor who owes back child support; (8) levying of a child support obligor’s financial accounts; (9) suspension of a party’s license; (10) awarding a party additional periods of possession or access to a child to make up for time wrongfully withheld by another party; (11) awarding the prevailing party attorney’s fees and court costs; and/or (12) other appropriate means.
Violation of a court order isn’t something to be taken lightly. When most people think of enforcement orders, they think of contempt. A court can find a party in either criminal contempt or civil contempt for violating its orders. A finding of criminal contempt can include incarceration, community supervision, or a fine of up to $500.00 for each act of contempt. To be held in criminal contempt, a party’s violation of the order must be willful. A finding of civil contempt is used to coerce the party into complying with the court’s order and may include confinement in the county jail until the party complies.
The attorneys at Orsinger, Nelson, Downing, and Anderson are familiar with the many variations and statutes related to enforcement of court Orders in Texas. Feel free to contact our firm for a confidential consultation.