Most family law cases in Texas have orders filed by the court. If one of the parties is not abiding by the order, the other party must bring it to the attention of the court. Most often, that is done by filing a Motion for Contempt or a Motion for Enforcement.
What is a Motion for Contempt?
A Motion for Contempt is a common practice for enforcing a court order including child support. Contempt of court means that the individual is “disobeying” the court order required of them. When filing a Motion for Contempt, each violation results in another “count” of contempt. Contempt is often filed for failure to pay child support or medical expenses for a child. This can also include failure to pay spousal maintenance. These are maintenance or payments required by a former spouse following a divorce. Each occurrence is listed out in the Motion for Contempt.
The Motion for Contempt must be served to the person violating the court order since some types of contempt may result in jail time. A process server or a constable must notify the person in violation of the court order and file their sworn statement with the Court. A process server is a professional responsible for delivering legal documents to the defendant. After notification, 21 days must pass before the hearing can be set. The person in contempt must be notified of the trial through a Notice of Hearing.
During the hearing, the person claiming contempt must prove to the court that the facts are correct and that the other party is in contempt. The non-abiding party will try to show that they were following the court order. The person may also try to provide reasons why they were unable to meet the requirements of the order. In the case of late child support, even if the non-abiding party comes to court with the funds to rectify the missed payments, the judge can order jail time.
What is a Motion for Enforcement?
A Motion for Enforcement is more often appropriate to make the other party adhere to the order. In many cases, it is practiced in cases where a parent has been ordered to take their child to a therapist. It can also be when a parent is required to surrender the child to the other parent at the time and place that was ordered. It can be used to enforce a monetary order with regards to a final division of property in a divorce decree. The other party may be ordered to turn over the proceeds of a sale of community property or to close out a community credit card. In this case, the Court goes beyond finding the other party is not obeying the order. The Court will issue an order that the action will be done. Often, the order can be used to have a third party, like a bank or brokerage house, complete the required action. This allows for no further need for cooperation from the party that was not following the order.
Edit: This is an updated post from May 4, 2017.