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  • Writer's pictureRobert Tsai

Navigating Enforcement Trials in Texas Family Law: A Comprehensive Guide


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Navigating Enforcement Trials in Texas Family Law: A Comprehensive Guide


Enforcement trials in Texas family law can be complex and require a thorough understanding of how enforceable orders work. This post is to help individuals understand enforcement and contempt in a family law context. If you’re facing a contempt claim or enforcement order, you will need the expertise of a reputable family law attorney.


Types of Contempt

Contempt, an important aspect of enforcement trials, entails disobedience or disrespect to the court's authority. If one parent fails to obey a court order to pay child support or doesn’t follow a possession order, they may be sued by the other parent for contempt. This is called an “enforcement action” and results in a trial for the party accused of contempt.


The court can impose two forms of punishment for contempt: civil and criminal. The party filing the enforcement action can request either or both, and the court can incorporate both into one order. Criminal contempt punishes a party for disobeying a previous court order, whereas civil contempt coerces a party to comply with a previous court order. The court does this by conditioning punishment on the party's compliance with the court's order. If the party complies with the court's order, the party can avoid punishment. Punishment for both types of contempt can be in the form of a fine, imprisonment, or both.


Enforceable Orders

Before a court can find someone in contempt, it must determine whether the order the parent is accused of violating is enforceable. To be legally enforceable, an order must meet the following conditions:

  1. Written and Signed Order: The court order must be in writing and signed.

  2. Order in Effect: The order must be in effect at the time of the violation.

  3. Respondent's Knowledge: The respondent must have had notice or knowledge of the order.

  4. Specificity of Order: The order must clearly state compliance terms in unambiguous terms.

If an order doesn’t meet all of those requirements, it cannot be enforced through a contempt action. Whether you’re facing an enforcement action or considering filing one, determining whether you have an enforceable order is a key first step.


Family Lawyers in Harris County

Get the expert support you need for your family law matters in Harris County. Schedule an initial consultation today to discuss your Texas family law case and navigate enforcement trials with confidence. The Law Office of Robert Tsai, PLLC offers comprehensive legal representation in family law cases, including those involving contempt and other legal issues. Our experienced team is well-versed in handling property division, child support, possession and access orders, and more. Contact us now to secure the knowledgeable attorney you deserve and effectively resolve your family law matters.


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