Modifications/Enforcement

Modifications/Enforcement

Enforcements

Texas courts expect their orders to be followed and the Texas legislature has codified various methods for a litigant to ensure that any orders made by the Court are followed by the other party. In family law, this is known as “enforcement”. Orders of enforcement in Texas serve three main purposes: (1) to ensure the integrity of the court’s orders; (2) to punish violation of the court’s order; and (3) to deter future violations.

The Texas Family Code provides that parties affected by a court order may seek court intervention to enforce:

  • Divorce decrees;
  • Agreements Incident to Divorce or Annulment that were approved by the court;
  • Orders providing for possession and access to a child;
  • Child Support Orders; and
  • Orders of Enforcement

An affected party may seek enforcement of any term of a divorce decree or agreement incident to divorce or annulment that was approved by the court including a division of property and any other contractual provisions.

 

Enforcement remedies for child support:

  • Income withholding: The court may withhold income from the obligor’s paycheck in an amount that will pay off debts in arrears. The arrear must be within a two-year time span. Other payment arrangements may be arranged when obligors are self-employed, or not subject to a wage withholding. An obligee can also request that a bond be posted by the obligor to ensure compliance.
  • Child support lien: This lien is subject to requirements in Section 157.312 of the Texas Family code. A lien will be placed against real or personal property for any amount of child support found due, including interest.
  • Suspension of license: An obligor that has not paid child support for a period of 90 days, can be subject to a suspension of their license. An obligee or child support agency can file the petition and issue a notice to the obligor. Licenses that may be suspended include a driver’s license, pharmacy, plumbing, nurses, doctors, barbers, and more.

 

Enforcement remedies for property division:

  • Clarification order: When the terms of the original order are not specific or clear enough to be enforceable, this remedy will set forth terms to enforce compliance with the originally stated division of property. The court or any party may request this order. A reasonable period for compliance must first be given prior to enforcement of a clarification order through any remedy.
  • Delivery of property: This is an order to deliver existing property awarded, a sum of money or an equivalent, to a party.

 

Modifications

As years go by and people grow older, some changes necessitate the modification of a divorce decree:

  • A spouse remarries
  • A parent relocates
  • A child turns 18 and becomes a legal adult
  • A parent or ex-spouse loses a job or has a significant change of income, affecting the ability to pay alimony.

 

Under the Texas Family Code, any court order upon divorce affecting the custody, visitation or support responsibilities of a parent may be modified upon a finding of adequate grounds for modification. Much like the initial order, the primary concern of a court in modifying an order is to serve the best interests of the child.

To modify a custody order, a court must determine that a material and substantial change in the circumstances surrounding the child’s custody with the parent warrants a modification. If modification is granted, the court will typically grant custodial rights to the other parent or another relative found to be more capable of caring for the child.

For visitation orders, modifications typically arise when the visiting parent fails to meet the visitation schedule or has failed to make support payments. In more extreme situations, a court will order visitation to be supervised or discontinued altogether if a visiting parent is found to be abusive to the child.

Much like spousal support modifications, modifying a child support order is typically the result of a substantial change in the financial status of either parent. If the custodial parent has lost his or her job and can no longer support the child on the current payments provided by the other parent, a court may increase the support responsibility of the other parent. In some situations, loss of employment can also affect custody rights. In the event the parent responsible for providing support payments suffers a financial hardship, support payments may be reduced as well, provided the child is receiving adequate financial support from the custodial parent.

The Gregg Law Firm will work with you to ensure that your divorce decree accounts for any significant change in circumstances. As with any case, preserving and protecting your interests is our highest priority.