Enforcing a Court Order
In lieu of a legal dissolution of a marriage, the former couple must come to an agreement on certain terms of their divorce, including a child custody arrangement, an equitable division of assets, and an allotment of child support and/or alimony, if applicable. Two former spouses may choose to figure out these matters on their own through mediation or allow the court system to make these decisions for them. In either case, once all of these matters have been sorted out, a court will order a finalized divorce decree that is enforceable by law. This means that if either party fails to uphold their end of the agreement, the other retains the right to request that a court enforce the matter. Issues that may be enforced include:
In the case that an uncooperative individual fails to adhere to the terms of their divorce agreement, their former spouse can file a petition of contempt with the court that originally ordered the decree. Once a motion has been filed, the court must act quickly under Texas Family Code to set a hearing. In this way the best interest of the filing spouse and/or their children can be served. Before taking any legal action, however, it is highly recommended that legal representation is consulted. The process can prove to be complicated without the help of an experienced attorney.
The Importance of Obtaining Legal Representation
If you find yourself on either side of an enforcement motion it's important to know what your legal rights and options are. Your ex-spouse may now be living in another state, for example, leaving you short of receiving the child support you need. The law requires all states to cooperate with each other, and your former spouse is not freed from making regular child support payments by moving to another state. The Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General's Office has several different techniques for enforcing child support orders, including the following actions:
- Intercepting federal income tax refund checks or other money from state or federal sources that is due your ex-spouse
- Requiring your ex-spouse's employers to deduct court-ordered child support from his or her paycheck
- Filing a lien against his or her property or assets
If the matter is still not resolved, a judge may sentence the nonpaying parent to jail and force him or her to pay a penalty for the child support that is past due. Similarly, if a spouse fails to adhere to the ordered property division or fails to follow the proper custody arrangement, they may find themselves in contempt of court.