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ENFORCEMENT

In a family law matter, a party to a prior suit may petition the court to enforce its orders from the prior suit if another party to the suit is not abiding by the court's order. Generally, a party may request the court enforce its prior child support order or its prior order regarding possession of and access to the child the subject of the prior suit.

For enforcement of a child support order, a party may request the non-paying party be held in contempt of court, jailed, have a judgment rendered against him/her for the unpaid child support amount, and/or have child support and a portion of the unpaid child support withheld from the non-paying party's paycheck each month. For enforcement of possession of or access to the child, a party may request the non-abiding party be held in contempt of court, jailed or fined for each violation. In addition, the court may order the non-abiding party to post a bond or security to ensure compliance with the court's order for possession of or access to the child. Furthermore, the court may award the party seeking enforcement additional periods of possession to make up for the time the non-abiding party withheld possession.

To file a Motion for Enforcement with the court, the party seeking enforcement must file the motion within the following time periods pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 157.004-.005:
  1. For enforcement of possession/access, not later than the sixth month after the date (1) the child becomes an adult or (2) on which the right of possession and access terminate under the order or by operation of law.
  2. For enforcement of child support, not later than the second anniversary of the date (1) the child becomes an adult or (2) on which the child support obligation terminates under the order or by operation of law.
Pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 157.005(b), the court retains jurisdiction to confirm the total amount of past-due child support for 10 years following the later of the date (1) the child becomes an adult or (2) on which the child support obligation terminated under the child support order or by operation of law.

The court allows various defenses for failure to pay child support or for failure to relinquish possession of/access to a child. For failure to relinquish possession of or access to the child, the defending party must prove the party seeking enforcement of the prior order "voluntarily relinquished" actual possession and control of the child. Pursuant to Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 157.007(b), the voluntary relinquishment "must have been for the time encompassed by the court-ordered periods during which the respondent is alleged to have interfered." For failure to pay child support, the defending party must prove the party seeking enforcement of the prior order "voluntarily relinquished" actual possession and control of the child. In addition, if the party seeking enforcement is requesting the defending party be held in contempt of court or punished for failure to comply with a condition of community service, the defending party must prove s/he (1) lacked the ability to provide support in the amount ordered, (2) lacked property that could be sold, mortgaged, or otherwise pledged to raise the funds needed, (3) attempted unsuccessfully to borrow the funds needed, and (4) knew of no source from which the money could have been borrowed or legally obtained. Tex. Fam. Code Sec. 157.008.

If you believe you have a basis for enforcement of a court's prior order or if someone is seeking enforcement against you for a family law matter, contact our office today to schedule an initial consultation.

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