pre trial

The Pre-Trial of Texas Family Law Enforcement Cases


In enforcement cases, contempt is almost always involved. Contempt is a situation wherein a person has disobeyed or has failed to observe the rules imposed by a court. There are consequences faced by those who acted in contempt of court. This article will tackle the different kinds of contempt in an enforcement case and the different punishments applicable thereto.

Civil and Criminal Contempt

The two kinds of contempt are civil and criminal. Both of these types apply in an enforcement case. Criminal contempt is when an order of a court, like a Final Divorce decree, is violated. This is punished by detention in jail for up to 180 days and/or paying a fine not exceeding $500. On the other hand, civil contempt is punishable by punishments which last for an indefinite period of time. This punishment ends when the person being detained in contempt will follow the order.

The Service of the Motion of Enforcement Upon the Respondent

The Petitioner is the party who files the motion for enforcement. While the respondent is the one to whom the motion is addressed. Personal service to the Respondent is an important requisite in an enforcement case. The Petitioner must file the motion with a court order informing the Respondent the details of the court hearing. In some cases, the petitioner may have to draft the order. It may also be the court that will attach an order to the motion to be served.

The petitioner and their counsel are required to serve notice upon the Respondent within ten (10) days before the hearing. If the court has not provided a period, the parties would just attend the scheduled hearing. They can later inform the court regarding the lack of notice.

The judge would require the Respondent to take an oath promising to return to court at a future date. This will serve as the required notice. If the Respondent fails to appear on the date, a capias may be issued for his arrest. Once the Respondent is arrested, he or she will be brought before the judge within a day of the arrest. The detention must not be longer than five days.

The Respondent, if indigent, will be given a lawyer for free. The appointed lawyer will be provided with a ten-day period to prepare for the enforcement trial. If the Respondent waives their right to counsel, the petitioner’s lawyer and the Respondent can directly engage in negotiations that can lead to a settlement of the case. 

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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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