Wednesday, June 04, 2008

holding parents feet to the fire

A good portion my practice in Dallas and Collin county is enforcement of the court's orders as they relate to child support and visitation of children. These occur in situations where the Court has already entered orders regarding children, for instance a Final Decree of Divorce, an Order Modifying Prior Order of the Court, or Order in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.

Once the court enters those orders, they expect you to follow them. If you do not, the aggrieved (pissed off) parent, can sue the other parent for contempt of court.

A suit in Texas for enforcement of a child support order is relatively simple process. An attorney must simply prove that a set amount was payable on a set date at a set place and time, and that those payment were not made. For example, Dad is ordered to pay $500 per month beginning on June 1, 2007 and each first of the month thereafter to the disbursement unit in San Antonio Texas, address 1234 Main Street. If June 2008 rolls around and Dad has not made those payments it is relatively simple to prove that he is in contempt. He knew when he was supposed to pay, how much to pay, and where to pay it. If he does not do it, he is in contempt.

Enforcement of visitation in Texas can be that simple as well, but it rarely ever is. The reason is that the ticked off parent (parent not receiving their visitation) doesn't do what they are supposed to do. Let me explain by example:

Father is awarded custody of the child. He is ordered to provide the child to the mother for her visitation on the first, third and Friday of each month at his residence at 6:00 p.m. Simple enough, correct? Let's add these facts - mom and dad do not get along (i know that is far fetched, but work with me here) and dad makes mom's visits as difficult as possible. Mom calls dad on the first Friday at about 4:00 p.m. to confirm she is picking up the child (which she is not required to do, but does because it takes her 45 minutes through traffic to get to dad's house) and dad says don't bother showing up because the child and I won't be there. The mom makes a note of this and decides to forego the traffic and mess. She'll wait until the next visitation on the third Friday. Same thing happens on third Friday, so mom makes a note of it. She decides if he does it again she is going to sue his pants off. Fifth Friday comes and dad does same thing. Mom decides to sue for enforcement or contempt for the father violating the court's order.

Ruling? Father is not in contempt! WHAT?!! He didn't provide the child, how can he not be in contempt? He is not in contempt because MOM failed to follow the Court's order too! For mom to hold dad in contempt, she needs to appear on the first, third and fifth Friday of each month at dad's house at 6:00 p.m., regardless of whether the child is there or not. That is what the court order said and that is what mother must do. If she follows the court's order, and then dad does not, dad is in contempt.

While my example references a common situation, this same logic applies to other areas of decrees or orders of the court. FOLLOW THE ORDER, NOT WHAT YOUR EX-SPOUSE OR MOM OR DAD OF YOUR CHILD TELLS YOU. If you are unclear how to follow your order or what to do, call a lawyer. Most lawyers will offer free consultations or charge a small fee to speak with them. I do divorces in Plano, Frisco, McKinney (Collin County), and in Dallas, Richardson, Carrollton (Dallas County). I also handle modifications and enforcements of orders.

Moral of the story: If you follow the decree, and ignore what people tell you, you should be well on your way to holding the other parent's feet to the fire!

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The information contained in this blog is provided for informational (and sometimes entertainment) purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. I can guarantee you that I am not covering every facet of the family code, and there may be hidden gems in the Family Code that could make or break your case based upon your specific fact situation. No recipients of content from this blog, retained client or otherwise, should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in this blog without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice. ALL CASES ARE DIFFERENT BECAUSE OF THE FACTS PARTICULAR TO YOUR CASE; THEREFORE YOU NEED A LAWYER TO DISCUSS THOSE SPECIFIC FACTS. I expressly disclaim all liability in respect to actions taken or not taken based on any or all of the content of this blog. Talk to a lawyer first, preferably me, it is that simple!