Enforce Your Texas Child Support Or Custody Order

Today we'll talk about enforcement cases - things you can do through court to make sure that the other parent follows your prior order. What we want to do is protect your rights as a parent. We'll talk about how you can have your attorney's fees paid for and how you can protect your children through the enforcement process.

I'll give you five tips for your enforcement case, but first let's talk about what your options are for enforcement of possession and access, and enforcement of child support.

How do I make the other parent bring my kids to me?

Number one, for enforcement of possession and access, you actually have quite a few options, quite a few filings you can put into court to protect your rights. Here is a table of a lot of the options. I know this is a lot. There's too many to go over now, so I'd encourage you to come back at the end of this video, hit pause, and hang out with this chart for a little bit to know what your options are.

For now, let's talk about the three filings we see most commonly, and that we file ourselves.

So, first, a contempt filing. You've probably heard of this one. If you have a clear order and somebody knew about it and violated it anyway, then the judge could order jail time and fees. The jail time could be up to six months per violation, and the fees go to $500 per violation. Which definitely adds up.

The second common filing for us is for additional periods of visitation. Basically, with the same conditions of a clear order and a willful violation, you actually get extra time to make up for the time lost. The court is supposed to give you the same kind of time, so, if it was an overnight visit you lost, then you get an extra overnight in return. And you have two years to exercise the make up time. So, if you lost holiday time you might be able to get the holiday back next year.

Third, is the habeas corpus action. That's Latin for "come and bring the body," and in this case the body is the child. And it's in Latin so you know it's serious.

For this one, if someone has possession of a child and someone else has a superior right to possession, then that person can file for the court to give the child back. This can be done by bringing the child to the court or by the sheriff's department going and picking the child. It's not great for the child to go through that, but sometimes you are not left with much choice.

So, these are the three most common filings to enforce possession and access. They are all very serious.

How do I enforce my Texas child support order?

Next, let's talk about enforcement of child support.

For child support you also have a number of filings that you could put into court. Here is the chart of some of those options. I would invite you to come back again and look this chart over on pause so you know kind of the breadth of your options. But for now let's talk about the three most effective solutions in the enforcement of child support.

On contempt, it is similar to enforcing possession through contempt. You need a clear order and a willful violation, and then they get jail time and fines. Again, it's $500 per violation and six months in jail.

You can also get what's called civil contempt, which basically means that the violator can be stuck in jail until they pay off what's owed. Assuming the payor has the ability to pay, and just chooses not to anyway, that jail time can go on forever.

The second big solution for not paying support is the levy. In this case, once the court looks at the evidence and confirms that the payments weren't made, you can give notice to a bank and they will freeze accounts until the balance is paid. This one can really freak people out and get fast action. It's an awesome way to get your child support returned.

Finally, the third option I wanted to talk about for enforcement of child support is the lien. This one is a little more complicated as is always true with the real property.

You actually have two ways to go about it. You can either get that confirmation of arrearage of those unpaid support bills from the judge, or you can file in the county records and then go through a foreclosure process.

In either case, at some point or another you're going to have to explain this to a judge, that these support obligations were not paid, and the judge will confirm that and give you a remedy. In either case, if you can prove unpaid support, you can put liens on property and you can foreclose on them.

This is not a small area. Whenever you are overlapping with real property law it gets a little complicated, but this is a pretty extreme remedy and very doable in a child support enforcement case.

What can I do to make sure I win my enforcement of Texas child support or possession?

Alright. So, we talked about how you enforce possession, and how you enforce child support. But I wanted to warn you now about things you can do and not do that could save your enforcement case.

These tips come actually from hard experience, because I have seen people get these things wrong and really get chewed up in court. So these are five tips that are going to help you keep your nose clean during an enforcement case and come out on top.

Number one, let's keep a calendar. Basically what I mean by that is, color in blue the times that dad had the kids and in pink the times that mom had the kids. Write on the calendar any notes of when those exchanges didn't go well: somebody cussed at somebody, somebody didn't show up on time... Whatever it is, keep that in the calendar. If you do that consistently you can actually use it as evidence in court.

Number two, follow the order that applies at the time. If you need different orders, go get them. But at all times, if you want to play the good guy in court and say that the other person is not following the order, don't be the person that shows up and also gets in trouble. I can't tell you how many times this has happened to me, where I have shown up to court and my client finally tells me - on the stand while the other lawyer is talking to them - that they also violated the order. It is not helpful.

Number three, bring a friend to those visitation exchanges. What I mean here is, have a neutral witness that I can call for you in court later who can say you showed up on time, you brought all the kids you were supposed to bring, they didn't show up, they didn't bring the kids back, whatever it was. Have a neutral witness. That is so helpful, especially in the possession exchange cases.

Number four, buy some ice cream. And what I mean by that, if you have an exchange that's in a public place, like say at McDonald's or a Wendy's or whatever, buy something. Get a receipt that has a timestamp on it so you can say, "Hey, I was there on time. I was there to pick up my children and the other person did not bring my kids to me."

Anything that you can do to mark that time, even if it is just sending a text message that says, "Hey, you didn't pay support on the first like you were supposed to." You never want to seem like you consented to things not happening. So track those times.

Number five, don't wait too long to file an enforcement action. There are statutes of limitation in some of these cases. Basically, if you wait too long, for example to file for child support, you want to be able to get it. Sometimes when you are dealing with possession cases, if the other parent doesn't bring the child back a lot, and you don't do anything about it a lot, the court might read that as you consented to that possession schedule change.

Can I get my attorney's fees paid when I didn't get my Texas child support or possession?

Two other notes I want to make sure that you know, bye the bye: in all contempt cases, with good evidence, you will have your attorney's fees paid. You will pay your attorney first, and then the other person has a judgment against them to pay them back. Which is awesome.

And the other thing is, any time you are dealing with the support always go through the state system, the state disbursement unit. To keep track of those numbers.

These are the things that you need to do to be able to show good evidence, to keep your nose clean, to get the remedies that you are due, including having your attorney's fees paid.