What to do when the other party misbehaves?
The role of the court order in the scope of divorce
After a divorce or a Suit Affecting Parent-Child Relationship (“SAPCR”) you are left with a Court order which sets forth a number of different elements, including possession and access to your children. The law hopes this court order will be the rule book that both parents will play by. Unfortunately, as time goes on, the other parent may no longer be willing to play by the rules.
Often, when it comes to violations of a family law court order, such violations occur in the context of denying visitation. While you may be tempted to contact local law enforcement to assist you in getting your court-ordered visitation, you will likely be met with “I’m sorry – we’ll make a report, but you need to contact a lawyer.” The question then becomes: what can a lawyer do for me?
Enforcement in Texas
In Texas, the legal proceeding which you will need to initiate is called an enforcement action. During your free initial consultation, our attorneys will discuss the number of times the court order was violated, as well as how much time you have lost with your child. While there is no “magic number” of times visitation has to be denied before going to court, there are some strategic decisions that will need to be made in this regard. For example, it rarely makes financial sense to drag the other party (and yourself, for that matter) through a lengthy court case for a single violation. What is more, the judge presiding over your case will likely not be inclined to hold the other party in contempt for one violation.
If, however, you have repeatedly been denied your visitation, the next step of the analysis is to determine what evidence you have of the denied visitation. It is important to document every denial of visitation, including the date, time, and location of where the denial occurred. This document will be helpful in demonstrating that you were present at the designated pick-up and drop-off location, as well as the fact that you were present at the correct times. To the extent there was a witness present on a particular occasion, that will be important to note as well.
After reviewing your evidence, the decision will be made to file the enforcement action. The enforcement action will be filed in the County District Court in which your children live. For example, if your children live in Killeen, Harker Heights, or Temple, your case will be filed with the Bell County District Courts. Once filed, the other party will be served with the enforcement action, and be required to appear before the judge.
In addition to the enforcement action, a request for modification of the order may also be filed in the same suit. This is especially true when the current visitation plan is not workable given a change in circumstances. In seeking enforcement and modification of your court order, you will be asking the judge to change the visitation plan, increase your visitation, schedule and enforce additional visits, request the other parent pay your attorney fees, hold the other parent in contempt, and/or change primary conservatorship.
We can help you
Ultimately, this matter will go before a judge via an evidentiary hearing. An evidentiary hearing is one where your lawyer will put on evidence, through documents and testimony, of the violations of the court order, as well as the need for holding the other party responsible for such violations. The attorneys at the Ted Smith Law Group are well-equipped to not only represent you during this evidentiary hearing but also exploring alternative dispute resolution before trial.
If you have been denied visitation, please contact our office to schedule your free consultation now. Let our experienced family law attorneys assess your case and help guide you through this process.
With strength and integrity, we stand ready to help you.
A native of Fort Hood, Texas, Raymond L. Panneton has built a national practice with deep Texas roots. Raymond is the Managing Attorney of the Ted Smith Law Group. He focuses on Personal Injury and Business Law.
For more information about Raymond, please read his full biography here