Divorce Gavel

Post-Divorce Proceedings And What They Can Mean

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The process of a divorce is long and can be drawn out depending on whether both parties agree to terms or not.  A variety of other factors can complicate the process.  When the divorce decree is finally signed, a lot of people believe that the process is over.  This isn’t always the case.

Often times divorce decrees come with terms and conditions that need to be followed such as property terms.  When one or both parties fail to comply with the decree, Texas Family Code Chapter 9 provides specific methods for dealing with such a situation.

Either party can request that the Family Code be enforced.  This is done through filing a new lawsuit.  For those under a court-approved agreement, you can also file.  Chapter 9 filings do not bring with them the right to a jury trial.  Trial by a judge is the typical method of governance of such trial.

The ability to file has been ruled by the courts as a result of enforcement of a prior lawsuit.  The case is not a criminal case but instead is under the Rules of Civil Procedure.

In order to file for a personal property enforcement suit, one must file within two years of the decree being signed or after an appeal has finalized.  The latest interaction with the court is the date by which you will be limited.

One of the main parts of an enforcement suit is to further spell out the original decree.  This is for cases in which the court believes that one party might not have fully comprehended the decree.  A civil court is limited in its ability to spell out the details of the order though as they are not allowed to modify the details of the decree.

A section of Texas Family Law (9.012) does give the court the ability to force a party into turning over a required item under threat of contempt of court.  This does not apply to money, though.  The only conditions under which a court can use contempt as a way to obtain money is if the money was in existence at the time of the decree or to enforce mature rights to ongoing or future payments.

If a decree does not spell out the specifics for how, when, or what must be handed over, a judge cannot enforce a decree with contempt.  This is to ensure that the law can be equally enforced.  In this case, a court can submit a clarifying order.  This order can help to define the proper distribution of assets.

A clarifying order may not retroactively apply any asset allocation, though.  They must give a person a reasonable time to turn over the assets in question.

Texas family courts can also further an order to turn over items that were mentioned in the decree.  This includes property or money, or the equivalent thereof.

Property that wasn’t previously divided can also be divided by the court.  These new divisions also follow the standard set above for two years for filing.  The rules on the two-year filing are less restrictive in this case, however.  Dividing new property must be done fairly and in a legal matter.  If the ruling was made in another state, the Texas court will follow the laws of the other state to redivide the property.  For items that were not in the jurisdiction of the previous court, and the Texas court has jurisdiction, they are not required to follow the law of the other state.

Because these cases typically stem from one party not following through on a decree, the court has the ability to also award reasonable costs and fees to the filing party.  This is not always done, but it is within a judge’s power.

Chapter 9 can be confusing for those who have not had any education on it but this article has worked to clarify for anyone, whether they studied law or not.  Now you are more informed and can better make decisions.  You can also start down the path to getting the items that you deserve.

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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.

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