There are three commonly-filed actions for enforcing child possession orders.
Filing a motion for contempt
When there is a clear court order that the other party has knowledge of and violates, you can ask the court to hold them in contempt. When filing a motion for contempt, you can ask the judge to hold the violating party in criminal contempt, civil contempt, or both. In a criminal contempt proceeding, a judge may incarcerate a party for up to six months and order them to pay a fine of up to $500 for each act of contempt. While civil contempt penalties are less severe, the judge may still asses some jail time or fine. Although these are possible results of a contempt hearing, the actual outcomes often vary from case to case, and judge to judge. For example, a judge may order jail time, but then suspend the order and place the violator on probation as long as they comply with the court order.
Asking for Additional Periods of Possession or Access
Often, requesting additional possession time will go hand-in-hand with a contempt order, but this type of motion may be filed separately. These orders grant you extra time with your child to make up for what was lost due to the violating parties’ actions. The extra time usually mirrors exactly what was lost, so if you lost an overnight visit, you may get an extra overnight visit in return. In Texas, you have two years to exercise this additional possession, and you are entitled to decide when to use the additional possession in this two-year period.
Petition for writ of habeas corpus
A third method of enforcing a possession order is filing a writ of habeas corpus, which is a pleading asking for return of the child. If you are thinking of pursuing this course of action, you will need to provide the court with a proposed “Order for Issuance of Writ of Habeas Corpus”. If approved, then the party violating the order will be compelled to return to court with the child on a specific date and time to explain to the court why it should not compel the return of the child. If they are not able to do so, the court may force the violator to return the child.
All of these actions are serious steps for enforcing child possession orders. It is usually best for parents to try and resolve issues without pursuing litigation but sometimes that becomes impossible. If you are thinking about pursuing any of these options, or have any other questions about a family law matter, please contact an attorney at Duffee+Eitzen- we are here to help.