As part of the divorce process, the parents of a minor child are required to resolve a number of issues related to the child. Typically, this includes things such as who will be the Managing Conservator of the child, when the other parent will be able to spend parenting time with the child (known as “possession and access” in Texas), and how the financial responsibility for the care and maintenance of the child will be handled. All of this is included in a Parenting Plan that is submitted to the court for approval as part of the divorce process. What happens, however, if your child’s other parent violates the terms of that agreement? A Fort Worth child custody lawyer explains how to enforce a parenting agreement in Texas.
Ideally, the parents sit down together and worth through the terms to be included in the Parenting Agreement together. If it becomes clear that the parents are having problems reaching an agreement on the terms, the court may send the parties to mediation in the hope that a mediator can help them. If, despite all attempts to amicably reach an agreement as to the terms of the plan, the parties are unable to reach an agreement, the court will step in and create the plan. Once the Parenting Plan has been approved by the court, it becomes part of the final decree of divorce. As such, the terms of the Parenting Plan have the full weight and authority of an order of the court.
It is very important to make sure that your child’s other parent is actually violating the terms of a court order before proceeding any further. Often, the parents of a minor child reach out of court agreements or simply work things out as they go; however, these agreements are not court orders. Therefore, neither parent can be held accountable for violating the terms of these agreements. Ideally, you should have an experienced child custody attorney review your divorce documents to be certain the behavior in question actually amounts to a violation of a court order.
Once you have determined that a violation has occurred, you can move on to enforcement actions. To enforce the terms of the agreement you will need to return to court by filing a Motion to Enforce. At this point, you should retain the services of an attorney if you have yet to do so. Although the law does not require you to be represented by an attorney, your chances of resolving the violation in your favor are much greater with an experienced attorney on your side.
The Motion to Enforce will explain to the court what terms of the agreement you allege have been violated by the Respondent (the other parent) and will ask the court to hold the Respondent in contempt. Notice must be given to the Respondent. The court will set the matter for a hearing at that point. At the hearing, you will be allowed to present evidence showing the Respondent has violated the terms of the agreement. Evidence might include a journal where you noted dates and times the Respondent failed to show up to exercise parenting time with the child, records from the Clerk of Court showing that the Respondent is behind on child support, or communications between the two of you indicating the Respondent’s refusal to abide by the court orders.
If the Judge is convinced that the Respondent has violated the court’s orders, the judge may find the Respondent in contempt. If so, the judge could order monetary sanctions or could even order the Respondent to spend time in jail.
If you have additional questions or concerns about enforcing a Parenting Plan Agreement in the State of Texas, contact the experienced Fort Worth child custody attorneys at The Law Office of Jon R. Boyd to schedule your appointment today.