Enforcement of Decrees Involving the Parent Child Relationship

Divorce attorneys spend many hours preparing for final hearings where children are involved.  A vast percentage of parent-child cases are settled before trial.  More and more family judges are ordering that parties participate in mediated settlement conferences so that as many disputes as possible are reduced to what is called a Mediated Settlement Agreement (MSA).  These MSA’s are very difficult to overturn once they are created and they become a perfect template for the drafting of a final decree.  In turn, the  final decree creates a road map for the parties in matters involving the parent-child relationship.  

So, now we have a final decree, either by agreement or following a contested hearing. But, on many occasions these decrees will have to be enforced in court. For example, Chapter 157 of the Texas Family Code is entirely dedicated to enforcement of the parent-child issues found in a final decree.  Child support is not being paid.  Parental visits with children are being frustrated. Phone visits are not being allowed. When a party to a decree involving children seeks to have his or her rights enforced he or she should meet with an experienced family  lawyer to perfect an enforcement action. It takes time and very special drafting to get an enforcement action started and managed to the end with an appropriate enforcement order. Getting parties to honor their  decrees is an important role for our family judges. 

The courts have many tools to enforce compliance with court orders.  Parties can be held in contempt of court. Parties can even be confined in jail for failure to abide by court orders involving child support and even orders governing  access to or  possession of children.  Parties can be placed on probation, even community supervision to enforce their compliance with these court  orders.   Note the following language from Section 157.215 of the Texas Family Code: 

If a motion to revoke community supervision alleges a prima facie case that the respondent has violated a term or condition of community supervision, the court may order the respondent’s arrest by warrant.

Non-payment of child support can give rise to several enforcement actions, to include seizure of non-exempt property to pay overdue child support, interception of tax refunds, levies on bank accounts and liens on non-exempt real estate.  A judgment for unpaid child support cannot be avoided in bankrupty. Right now, as you read this blog, there are many inmates in local jails who are there because they have not paid child support. 

If you have any questions about the enforcement of any order to which you have been a party call us as 915-593-6600 or 915-256-0579.