It can be incredibly frustrating when your ex-spouse fails to comply with a divorce order. You may be wondering what you can do to enforce the terms of the agreement and protect your rights.
Fortunately, you have legal options if the divorce was finalized in Texas, including possibly pursuing contempt of court for violations of the divorce agreement. Let’s take a closer look at how this works.
Basics of a Divorce Agreement in Texas
A divorce agreement, which is also known as a divorce decree in Texas, is a document that outlines the terms of your divorce. Included will be the final decision about property division, child custody, and alimony (known as spousal support or maintenance).
The divorce agreement is signed by both parties and submitted to the court. Once the court approves it, it becomes a legally binding contract. This means that if either party fails to abide by the terms of the agreement, the other party may be subject to contempt of court.
What Constitutes a Violation of a Divorce Agreement?
Contempt of court means that a person has disobeyed a court order. In the context of a divorce agreement, contempt can occur if one spouse violates the terms of the agreement.
For example, if the divorce agreement states that one spouse will pay a certain amount of maintenance according to a schedule and they fail to make those payments, then the receiving spouse can file for contempt.
Another common example occurs when the agreement states that one parent will have primary custody of the children. However, if the spouse moves out of state without the other’s consent, that could be a divorce agreement violation.
Other examples of violations can include:
- Failing to pay child support.
- Not following the visitation schedule.
- Not adhering to the property division terms.
In short, any time one party does not do what they agreed to do in the divorce agreement, it may be considered a violation.
Proving a Divorce-Related Court Order Violation
If you believe that your ex-spouse has violated the terms of your divorce agreement, the burden of proof is on you to make a strong case against your ex. As such, you will need to take specific steps to prove the violation to the court.
First, you will need to review the terms of the agreement to determine what exactly was violated. Once you clearly understand the violation, you’ll need to gather evidence to support your claim. This may include financial records, text messages, photographs, or eyewitness testimony.
After gathering this evidence, you’ll need to file a contempt of court action, formally known as a Motion for Contempt, with the court. Keep in mind that by filing the motion, you are formally requesting that the court find your ex-spouse in contempt for violating the terms of the divorce agreement. It’s a serious legal matter.
I can help you file the appropriate documentation in the court where the divorce was finalized so that you protect your legal interests.
How a Court Will Assess the Grounds for Contempt of Court
In Texas, there are two types of contempt of court: civil contempt and criminal contempt. Civil contempt is used to enforce a court order, whereas criminal contempt is used to punish someone for disobeying a court order.
In the context of a divorce agreement, contempt of court is typically civil contempt. This means that the goal is to enforce the agreement’s terms, not necessarily punish the spouse who violated it. However, criminal contempt is a possibility in some cases, which can result in fines, jail time, or both. Either way, contempt is a serious offense.
There are a few different grounds for contempt of court in Texas:
- One ground is if the violator had the ability to comply with the terms of the divorce agreement but chose not to.
- Another ground is if the violator willfully disobeyed the court order.
If the court finds your ex-spouse in contempt, various types of sanctions may result. These can include requiring your ex-spouse to pay the fees for your legal representation, ordering them to make up for any financial losses you incurred because of the violation or even putting them in jail.
In some cases, the court may change the terms of the divorce agreement to reduce the odds that your ex-spouse will fail to abide by the order in the future.
When to Consult With a Family Law Attorney
If you believe that your ex-spouse has violated the terms of your divorce agreement, you should consult with a family law attorney who is well-versed in post-divorce issues. I can review your case, help you determine the best course of action, and provide you with expert legal representation.
I regularly support individuals in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County who need assistance enforcing a divorce order. Contact me for legal representation if you live in one of these Texas counties.
With my support, you can ensure that your ex-spouse is held accountable for their actions and that the terms of your divorce agreement are upheld. Call my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss your situation. Let’s see if there is an opportunity to pursue contempt of court related to a divorce agreement.