enforcement suit

An Overview of Enforcement Suits in Texas Family Law

When will you need an enforcement suit?

For family law cases in Texas, there are two ways to end a case. One is to settle your case through negotiations with the other party, and the other option is to go on a trial in court wherein a judge can make the decisions for you. Either way, you will receive a Final Order. Whether you like it or not, as soon as this rolls out, it would serve as your map where rules are concerned regarding your relationship with your child.

There are some cases where a parent is extremely dissatisfied with the results seen in the Final Order that they completely disregard it. If you find yourself in this situation and you think that not abiding by what is stated in the Final Order is alright, you’re in trouble. You see, your co-parent can potentially hold you responsible, legally, for your actions. If you are that other parent, you cannot simply go to the police to inform them of the violations made by your ex-spouse. Instead, you will have to file an ‘Enforcement’ for an Enforcement suit at the same court where you received the final order. Aside from that, you will also have to present evidence of the violations made. Otherwise, you cannot hold your co-parent responsible.



What an Enforcement Suit Does


An enforcement suit is not exclusive to family law. It also covers other matters such as criminal law and appellate cases. In order to find a solution to the problem caused by your ex-spouse’s violation, you and your attorney must find a mix of laws that will be appropriate for your situation. Here are some of those solutions associated with an Enforcement Suit.



Contempt of Court


Contempt of court is a very serious matter. This is something you have to remember before you get the court to determine that your co-parent is in contempt of court during your enforcement suit. Contempt of court basically means that a person did not obey the orders of the court, or that a person was disrespectful and caused significant disruption of the court proceedings. When the court determines that a person is in contempt of court, there are penalties that could be enforced on the person in question. There could be a civil fine, and even jail time.  The Judge will impose a  penalty of $500 per violation  as a civil fine and the person can serve in prison for up to 180 days if the court orders it.


There are two types of contempt of court that the court can determine through an Enforcement Suit. One is direct contempt, which involved negative or disruptive behavior in front of the judge and courtroom personnel. The other type is constructive contempt, which is something that occurred at another time, outside of the courtroom. Constructive contempt requires evidence, so you and your attorney can prove it in court. There will be hearings during your enforcement suit, wherein the court will allow you  to present the evidence that you have in order to prove the past violation.



Filing a Motion to Enforce in an Enforcement Suit


In order to understand an enforcement suit, it is important to first understand why a court’s order must be followed. You and your co-parent can easily agree that you want the best for your child. However, you might not agree on the methods on how to achieve it. Therefore, you need to take your case to the courtroom. The judge can then act as a tie-breaker for you both. The court will then release the final order. It contains the specific rules that each one of you must follow to the letter. Assuming that the language of the order is specific and clear, there is a potential for an enforcement action if one of you violates the said order. In filing the motion, you must make sure that it’s as clear and as specific as your Final Order. The motion, for instance, should include the exact provisions that were violated. It should also include the relief that you are requesting from the court.



What You Can Enforce through an Enforcement Suit


Common issues that you can attempt to enforce include ones related to the custody and possession of the child. It can also include visitation, spousal support, child support and even property division issues. You should also correctly request the penalties that you want to the rolled out by the court. For instance, the maximum jail time is 180 days when you can prove that contempt of court really occurred. However, if you request a number of days that exceed that maximum, your co-parent can request a trial by jury. He or she can also have an appointed attorney to help him or her out. This is  according to the United States Constitution. You, the parent who is filing the motion can also seek the help of an experienced  attorney in Texas.  With an attorney’s help you might be able to get what you want out of your enforcement suit.



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Mr. Hutton is a Divorce and Custody Lawyer based out of Round Rock, TX. His background is with child psychology at Arizona State University where he received a B.S. in 2006, and he continued this by working with the Children’s Right’s Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law where he received his J.D. in 2009. Throughout his practice, he has been a strong proponent of utilizing modern technology to improve his practice and the representation of his clients. He currently is the technology chair of CAFA of Travis County and is committed to improving and modernizing the practice of law in Texas. If you have any questions you can contact him at timothy.hutton@austintexaslegal.com

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