Contempt in Family-Law Cases
It is not uncommon for people involved in family-law disputes to disagree with orders issued by the courts. They must abide by them, though; otherwise, the opposing party can move for enforcement, which may include a request to hold the non-compliant party in contempt of court. Being held in contempt is a severe penalty that should not be regarded lightly, as it can not only impair a person’s rights in the context of their family-law case, but can also impact other aspects of their lives. If you have questions regarding a motion for enforcement by contempt in a family-law proceeding, it is critical to meet with an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your options. The dedicated Dallas family-law attorneys of McClure Law Group are mindful of the ramifications of failing to comply with court orders, and if you hire us, we will fight to help you seek a just outcome.Grounds for Holding People in Contempt in Family-Law Cases
In family-law matters, parties can seek enforcement of visitation, child support, spousal maintenance, and property division orders. In many cases, a motion for enforcement will include a request for contempt. For a court to enforce an order by holding a party in contempt, the order in question must be unambiguous, specific, and clear.
The Texas Family Code (the “Code”) dictates that a motion requesting contempt for failure to pay child support must include the amount owed according to the order in question, the amount paid, the amount in arrears, and must indicate the part of the order violated, and for each date of alleged contempt, the amount due and paid. Similarly, the Code states that a motion to enforce the conditions and terms of an order defining conservatorship or possession and access must set forth the date, time, and place of each alleged failure to comply with the order. The Code does not establish any specific parameters for what a party seeking enforcement of a spousal maintenance or other post-divorce decree order via contempt must include in their motion.
If the court finds a person in contempt of an order issued in a family-law case, it may order the person to pay a fine, send them to jail, or impose both penalties. Whether a party will be sent to jail for failing to pay a support obligation or comply with a property division order depends on how the courts characterize the amount owed, as, under Texas law, parties cannot be jailed for failing to pay debts. Notably, the Texas courts have specifically held that child-support obligations are duties, not debts.Defenses to Requests for Contempt in Family-Law Cases
In many cases, a party faced with being held in contempt in a family-law matter will argue that the underlying order is not sufficiently specific and, therefore, they cannot be held in contempt. For example, if an order dictating possession and access does not set forth dates and times for custody exchanges, a party may be able to argue that they cannot be held in contempt for violating the order. Other defenses may be available, as well, depending on the facts of the case. For example, it is a defense that a party lacked the ability to provide spousal maintenance in the amount ordered by the court, and could not borrow, raise, or otherwise obtain the funds needed. It is also an affirmative defense to a motion for contempt for failing to abide by an order defining possession and access that the moving party voluntarily renounced actual possession and control of the child.Speak to an Assertive Dallas Lawyer
Parties in family-law cases are bound by any orders issued by the courts, and, if they refuse to abide by them, they can be held in contempt. If you need assistance responding to or filing a request for contempt, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney promptly. The assertive Dallas lawyers of McClure Law Group are proficient at helping people protect their interests in family-law matters, and if we represent you, we will advocate zealously on your behalf. We represent parties in family-law cases in Dallas, Rockwall, Fort Worth, Frisco, Irving, McKinney, Richardson, and Garland. We also help people handle family-law matters in cities in Dallas, Rockwall, Collin, Denton, Tarrant, and Grayson Counties. You can reach us by calling 214.692.8200 or via our online form to schedule a confidential meeting.