In general, the final decree of divorce includes roles & responsibilities of both parents (obligor & obligee) with respect to child support, conservatorship, possession & access, and medical support. However, if a parent doesn’t comply with this decree, then the other parent can a file a motion with the court to enforce the relevant order. Enforcement of a child support order needs dealing with a variety of points related to procedural law, family law, criminal law, statutory interpretation, and case law.
If a parent fails to obey a court order, then it is known as contempt of court and could bring criminal or civil punishment. In the case of a criminal contempt of court, the punishment is incarceration in the county jail for a maximum of 180 days per violation and/or a fine of not more than $500 per violation (Texas Government Code § 21.002). If it’s a civil contempt of court, then the punishment is jail time that lasts as long as the delinquent parent stops doing the wrongful act and starts to comply with the order. In most cases of child support and possession & access violations, the contempt is known as constructive contempt that has happened in the past and must be proved by the movant.
A motion for enforcement must be filed in the same court that rendered the original order as that court has continuing jurisdiction to enforce the child support order (Texas Family Code § 157.269). This motion for enforcement must clearly state the name of the person (respondent) and the provision of order that has been violated by him/her; how the order is violated; the relief requested from the court; amount paid, owed, and associated arrearages; part of the order violated and every date of alleged contempt (if contempt punishment is requested); preferably, attachments of child support payments made by the obligor to Title IV-D registry (the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) under the Child Support Division) or a local registry; and may include request to pay arrearages in accordance to a plan approved by the court and obligor’s participation in work activities in the event the child is receiving assistance through Part A of Title IV of the Federal Social Security Act (Texas Family Code § 157.002 (a)(b)).
There is a time limitations to filing of motion for enforcement of child support order w.r.t. contempt and arrearages. For a contempt order, the motion must be filed not later than the second anniversary of the date: the child attains the age of being an adult; or on which child support obligation ends as stated in the court order or due to the application of relevant law. In the case movant requests child support arrearages for due payments, the motion must be filed not later than the tenth anniversary of the date: the child attains the age of being an adult; or on which child support obligation ends as stated in the court order or due to the application of relevant law (Texas Family Code § 157.005).
Michael Busby Jr. is a divorce & family law attorney, who practices in Harris and Fort Bend Counties, Texas. He has been in practice for over 14 years and has tried over 300 cases. He is familiar with the policy and procedures of the Harris and Fort Bend County Texas family law courts. Our office is open until 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for working folks. Michael Busby Jr. 2909 Hillcroft Suite 350 Houston, Texas 77057 (713) 974-1151 Visit me on the web at www.busby-lee.com