How Are Child Custody Cases Enforced
Posted by Ramos Law Group, PLLC | Child Custody
The majority of parents who have their child’s best interests in mind would never intentionally interfere with custody or visitation issues. Unfortunately, there are some that willfully violate a legally-binding court order regardless of the consequences. This type of misconduct is clearly unlawful but, as a parent, your immediate concern will be how to enforce a Texas child custody order. At the same time, you want to ensure that the court takes proper action to ensure these problems do not come up again in the future.
It may come as some relief to know that you do have options to enforce an order relating to child custody. There may even be remedies, including different types of sanctions, to discourage the other parent from interfering with custody in the future. These cases are complex, and they can be further complicated by the personal, emotional nature of the underlying subject matter. Therefore, retaining a Texas child custody attorney should be your first step towards enforcement. Your lawyer can guide you through additional stages of the legal process, which may include:
1. Make sure you have a valid, enforceable order. Before you can request the court to take action, there must be a legal basis. The issue comes down to whether you have an order from the court and what it covers. Generally, you will need to show that you have an order granting custody and that the provisions relating to the custody arrangement are clear and specific. For instance, the language should state the time, place, and dates for the other parent to exercise visitation. Generic terms or statements like “by agreement” may not be enforceable. Instead of moving on to the next steps, you may need clarification.
2. Discuss resolution with your co-parent. If there is any chance that you do not have to go to court to enforce the child custody order, it is worth exploring your options. In some cases, the respective attorneys for each parent can work out an arrangement instead of discussing the issues directly – especially when the relationship is already contentious.
3. Gather evidence and other factual support. When going to court is inevitable, you will need to do your homework before initiating the process. You will be filing a motion, as described in #4 below, and it needs to be supported by solid, credible evidence. The following information may be relevant to your case, so make sure to collect information regarding:
- Phone calls, texts, emails, and other messages you exchange with the co-parent;
- Statements of any witnesses who observe instances in which the child’s other parent violated a child custody order;
- Your own statements, usually through a sworn affidavit, of your experiences or a pattern of non-compliance of the order;
- Police reports, if any; and,
- Any other documentation or statements that prove the child’s other parent has not complied with the court’s order on custody.
4. File a motion to enforce the child custody order. When you have your evidence in order, you can prepare the essential documents to file a motion in court. A motion is essentially your request that the judge takes certain actions – in this case, you are asking the court to enforce the child custody arrangement. Your evidence serves as support as to why the court should grant your request. It is important to trust your lawyer for assistance, since there are legal requirements for preparing, filing, and serving notice on a motion related to child custody.
5. Prepare for and attend the hearing on an enforcement motion. Upon filing your motion, the court will schedule a date for a hearing on the matter. The proceeding is similar to a trial, so you and other witnesses may testify. Your attorney will represent you in connection with the hearing, to ensure that the judge is aware of all relevant facts. If you have credible evidence and the court finds in your favor, the judge may grant your motion and order additional relief. For example, the actions of your child’s other parent could amount to contempt of court. There may be fines – or even incarceration – for violating a legal order.
A Texas Child Custody Lawyer Can Help With Enforcement and Other Legal Relief
These points on how to enforce a Texas child custody order may be helpful, but they only cover some of the general concepts behind the process. Depending on your circumstances, there may be additional tasks to ensure the protection of your rights as a parent. To learn how we can help you navigate the legal proceedings, please contact The Ramos Law Group, PLLC. We can set up a consultation to review your situation and determine the next steps.