Is there anything more frustrating than someone refusing to live up to their obligations? The experienced divorce attorneys at Woodburn and Watkins believe that if the Court renders an Order, that Order should be respected and followed. Contempt & enforcement can play a big role in the Texas divorce process. Whether a person is obligated to pay child support, provide health insurance or abide by a term of possession, the skilled attorneys at Woodburn and Watkins will hold their feet to the fire and fight fervently to make sure that our clients receive justice.
The Basics of Contempt & Enforcement of Court Orders in Texas
For a Texas court to enforce a court Order, it has to be drafted with very specific language requiring or directing one party to do something. A motion to enforce that Order is similar to an indictment in a criminal case, which means that it must have very specific language regarding the Order that is sought to be enforced. The motion must also document each and every instance in which it is alleged that the person who violated the Order did so.
At Woodburn and Watkins, our first step is to make sure that any Order that is written is specific and enforceable. If we are drafting the original decree, we won’t allow any “wiggle room” or technicality that can be used as an excuse to avoid obligations. Unfortunately, not all attorneys are as precise and knowledgeable as our attorneys, so when a parent comes to our Amarillo offices seeking to enforce an Order, the first thing we do is to examine the decree to determine if it is in fact enforceable – and if not, to move to modify or change the terms of the decree to make it enforceable. Changing the terms of the decree can be very time consuming and frustrating, so make sure that the attorneys you hire to draft your decree do it right the first time.
Enforcing Child Support
If we are attempting to enforce payment of Texas child support, we will seek a judgment for child support as well as interest on any missed payments. If appropriate, Woodburn and Watkins will also seek the parent to pay an additional amount towards any arrearage that is owed. The child support obligation includes a parent’s responsibility to obtain and maintain medical and dental insurance coverage for the child or reimburse a parent for the cost of insurance coverage for the child. Each parent is also typically responsible for paying ½ of the cost of any non-reimbursed medical, dental, hospital, or psychiatric care rendered on behalf of the child, and this obligation is enforceable as a child support obligation.
Enforcing Possession or Visitation
Parents should obey a possession Order, making sure that the child is located at the specific place and time designated in the Order. Whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent, if your ex-spouse is refusing to abide by the terms of an Order of possession, the experienced family lawyers at Woodburn and Watkins can help. Detailed and specific drafting is imperative in this area, because unless the Order specifically commands that a person relinquish or exchange the child, commands where the exchange will occur, and commands when this exchange will occur, the Order is not enforceable by contempt. Poorly written Orders can result in unenforceable Orders regarding visitation issues. In these circumstances, the Orders must be “fixed” before the client can seek to enforce the Order. This is very difficult for the party seeking enforcement to understand or accept. If we are attempting to enforce the terms of possession, we will prosecute your case to the full extent of the law – seeking not only that the non-abiding party abide by the terms of the Order, but also that you receive “make-up” possession for any periods of possession missed.
Contempt & Enforcement of Orders: What Can the Court Do?
When it comes to contempt & enforcement in Texas, the court has the power to make an offending party responsible in several ways. A judge may hold a party in contempt and sentence him to as much as six months in county jail for each offense. The judge may impose a $500 fine for each instance of offense. Additionally, as is only fair, the attorney’s fees that are incurred by the non-offending party may be ordered to be paid by the offending party.
In the enforcement of a child support obligation, the court may grant a judgment for any moneys owed for child support, interest on child support owed, and other court-ordered child expenses that are outstanding.
In the enforcement of a possession Order, the court can order “make-up” possession to compensate the non-offending party for the disregard of the Order. In all cases where an enforcement is needed, our attorneys will seek full reimbursement for any attorney’s fees paid by our client. When appropriate, the contempt & enforcement lawyers at Woodburn and Watkins will seek incarceration and fines.
Cleaning up the Mess
In some circumstances, the child support requirements may be ambiguous, not specific, or left to chance. In some circumstances, the terms of a possession (or visitation) Order may be ambiguous or insufficient – or a term of possession may have been violated due to an honest mistake.
In some child support cases, a parent obligated to pay support may have paid support that was not accurately credited, or they may have failed to pay support because of circumstances beyond their control.
In these situations, the family law attorneys at Woodburn and Watkins will fight to defend you against an unjust enforcement action; we defend as well as prosecute charges of court violations.
Whether you need an attorney to ensure that your child support or possession Order is respected, or whether you need an attorney to defend your alleged violation of an Order, the skilled divorce attorneys at Woodburn and Watkins will work hard to make sure that justice is accomplished for any contempt & enforcement issues you may have. With offices in Amarillo, Texas, we proudly represent clients throughout the Texas Panhandle.