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Enforcing Spousal-Support Orders

Dallas Family-Law Attorneys Representing People in Custody Matters

Many couples earn disparate incomes, and, if they divorce, one spouse is left without the economic resources they enjoyed during the marriage and required to meet their basic needs. In such instances, the courts may find it appropriate to order the higher-earning party to pay spousal support. Although court orders are binding and enforceable, not all parties comply with them. When people neglect to meet their court-ordered support obligations, it often causes financial hardship; however, fortunately, Texas law provides measures for enforcing spousal-support orders. If you require assistance with a such support issue, it is advisable to speak with an attorney promptly. At McClure Law Group, our assertive Dallas divorce lawyers are adept at helping parties fight to recover the support they are owed, and, if we represent you, we will work diligently on your behalf.

Measures for Enforcing Spousal-Support Orders

Under the Texas Family Code (the "Code"), spousal-maintenance payments that are not paid in a timely fashion become arrearages. If an obligor fails to pay spousal support, the party receiving support can file a motion to enforce the order.

Following a suit to enforce a support order, the court can compel compliance with a maintenance order or an agreement for periodic payments of spousal maintenance entered into by the parties and approved by the court by holding the obligor in contempt of court.

Notably, though, the court cannot enforce via contempt any provision of a maintenance agreement that surpasses the amount of periodic support the court could have entered absent an agreement. The courts can also enforce spousal-support orders and agreed orders by ordering that income be withheld from the obligor's disposable earnings. As with contempt orders, the amount withheld cannot exceed the amount the court could have ordered the obligor to pay pursuant to the Code. Income can also be withheld from the obligor's disposable earnings to be applied toward the liquidation of any arrearages.

In some cases, the courts will reduce the arrearages to a judgment against the obligor. The judgment can be enforced by any method available for the enforcement of judgments for debts. This includes orders or writs of withholding and qualified domestic relations orders (or "QDROs"), which allows funds from a pension, employee benefits program, or retirement plan to be paid to an alternate payee, such as a party owed outstanding spousal-support pursuant to a court order.

Defenses to Actions for Enforcing Spousal-Support Orders

Pursuant to the Code, there are affirmative defenses available in an action to enforce a spousal-support order. Specifically, the obligor can argue that they were unable to provide maintenance in the amount ordered by the court, and lacked assets that could be mortgaged, sold, or otherwise leveraged to obtain the funds needed if they attempted to borrow the required funds without success, and do not know of another source from which they could legally borrow or obtain the funds. A party asserting an affirmative defense must prove it by a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, they must mean that it is more likely than not that their assertion is true.

Contact a Capable Dallas Lawyer

Parties do not have the right to refuse to comply with support orders merely because they do not agree with them, and if they do, they may face an enforcement action. If you are subject to a spousal-support order and have questions regarding enforcement, it is smart to contact an attorney to discuss your options. The capable Dallas lawyers of McClure Law Group have ample experience helping people protect their interest in divorce and support proceedings, and, if you hire us, we will work tirelessly to help you seek a just outcome. We represent people in divorce cases in Dallas, Rockwall, Fort Worth, Frisco, Irving, McKinney, Richardson, and Garland. We also aid people with family-law disputes in cities in Dallas, Rockwall, Collin, Denton, Tarrant, and Grayson Counties. You can contact us by calling 214.692.8200 or through our online form to schedule a confidential conference.

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