To our valued clients and potential new clients. Amid the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak and the current shelter in place order from Cameron County Officials. Our office will be closed for the next 14 days. However, that does not mean that our office is not available to our clients or potential new clients. If you need to speak to someone in our office, please call (956) 504-2211, our answering service will take a message and forward it to us and we will return your calls promptly. Please stay safe and shelter in place.

Enforcement

Enforcement

Though the court might have granted you spousal maintenance and your former spouse singed into a binding agreement, he or she might have recently stopped paying it, or never paid it to begin with.  This is when enforcement of the court order is necessary.  Spousal maintenance is either ordered by the court, or the other spouse had to have signed a contract which binded him or her to pay for it.  The moment he or she stopped paying for spousal maintenance, they are breaking the law.

Attorney for Enforcement in Brownsville, Texas

Spousal maintenance is an agreement between two parties recently divorced that is written into a binding contract via a final decree of divorce.  If the ex-spouse agreed to pay you spousal maintenance in the final decree of divorce, then they have to follow the court order as stated in the final decree of divroce.  If you have reached a dead-end with asking your ex-spouse to pay spousal maintenance to you, then you need to contact an attorney for help.

Our attorneys at The Gracia Law Firm, P.C. can help you hold your ex-spouse accountable for violating the court order.  We understand you may be counting on that extra source of income to pay off your bills or even feed your children, so we want to advocate for your needs.  Call 956-504-2211 to set up a free, confidential consultation. The Gracia Law Firm, P.C. works with clients living in the counties of Willacy, Cameron, Hidalgo, and more.


Overview of Enforcement in Brownsville, Texas


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When is Enforcement Necessary?

Because the court offers options when a spousal maintenance payee needs to adjust the amount due to unforeseen circumstances, the other person has no excuse when being unable to pay or being unable to pay the whole agreed amount.  Instead, they should communicate with you and file a claim to have the amount adjusted.

Signs you should seek a representative to have your spousal maintenance enforced include the following:

  • Your ex-spouse has been late on his or her payments for weeks or months
  • Your ex-spouse has skipped entire payments
  • Your ex-spouse has stopped paying spousal maintenance completely
  • Your ex-spouse only pays a portion of the agreed spousal maintenance amount

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Texas Contempt of Court

Tex. Fam. Code §8.059(b) states “On the suit to enforce by an obligee, the court may render judgment against a defaulting party for the amount of arrearages after notice by service of citation, answer, if any, and a hearing finding that the defaulting party has failed or refused to comply with the terms of the order.  The judgment may be enforced by any means available for the enforcement of judgment for debts.”

Tex. Family Code §8.059(c) continues “It is an affirmative defense to an allegation of contempt of court or the violation of a condition of probation requiring payment of court-ordered maintenance that the obligor:

(1)  lacked the ability to provide maintenance in the amount ordered;

(2)  lacked property that could be sold, mortgaged, or otherwise pledged to raise the funds needed;

(3)  attempted unsuccessfully to borrow the needed funds; and

(4)  did not know of a source from which the money could have been borrowed or otherwise legally obtained.

(d)  The issue of the existence of an affirmative defense does not arise until pleaded.  An obligor must prove the affirmative defense by a preponderance of the evidence.”

Additionally, if the court does find your former spouse to have capital available through a liquidation of assets, then they will find the best way to make sure your money is paid completely.  Seeking a maintenance lawyer can help during the court process in which the court is deciding the appropriate wat to oblige your former spouse to pay off the spousal maintenance.


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Request for Income Withholding

Tex. Fam. Code §8.101(a-1) states, “The court may order that income be withheld from the disposable earnings of the obligor in a proceeding in which there is an agreement for periodic payments of spousal maintenance under the terms of this chapter voluntarily entered into between the parties and approved by the court.”

Tex. Family Code §8.101(c) states, “An order or writ of withholding for spousal maintenance may be combined with an order or writ of withholding for child support only if the obligee has been appointed managing conservator of the child for whom the child support is owed and is the conservator with whom the child primarily resides.”

Employers have a significant obligation when they are ordered to withhold income for spousal maintenance for the paying spouse. Spousal maintenance comes as a priority to any other withholding except for child support.  If the employer does not follow the process for income withholding of the paying spouse, the employer may endure consequences.  He or she has to follow a withholding order as it was ordered by the issuing state.  The employer too has his own right to contest the applicability of the withholding order.


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Steps To Take

Whether it is an order of contempt or income withholding, your enforcement attorney can help decide the best way to pursue legal action.  Keep in mind, your ex-spouse can ask for a modification of spousal maintenance, however until the court actually approves the modification, you can still pursue past non-payments.  Spousal maintenance has an actual ending date, so make sure you look at the order to know until when your former spouse is supposed to keep paying you for spousal maintenance.  If there is any overpayment of spousal maintenance the receiving spouse may be asked to pay back that amount.

The following can serve as proof of non-payment.

  • Annulled checks
  • Bank statements
  • Any money orders, checks, or proof of payment previously made (may have different amounts each time and can serve as proof of non-full payment)
  • Any communication made between you two (in which the spousal maintenance was mentioned)

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Additional Resources

Texas Statutes | EnforcementSection 8.059 of the Texas Family Code describes the enforcement of spousal maintenance in detail.  You can look at the specific statutes that describe the specific rules regarding tax withholding and the employer’s obligations when having to withhold that amount.

What to Expect in Texas Family Law Court | Contempt of Order – The Texas Young Lawyer’s Association published a journal where they go in-depth about specific family law topics.  You can find more about the background of contempt of orders and their process in criminal and civil matters.


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Attorney for Enforcement in Cameron County, Texas

If your spousal maintenance agreement was ordered by a court and your former spouse keeps violating the agreement, you have grounds for taking legal action.  The Gracia Law Firm, P.C. can help you file a suit for enforcement of spousal maintenance.  Our attorneys can meet with you to take the appropriate action to hold your former spouse accountable for not paying spousal maintenance.

At The Gracia Law Firm, P.C. , we understand that you may rely on your former spouse’s spousal maintenance to make ends meet, especially if you have custody of a child born of the marriage.  You want to make sure you are holding that individual accountable for his obligations signed into contract.  We can help you pursue legal action by contacting us at 956-504-2211 for a free, confidential consultation.  We work with clients in the counties of Willacy, Hidalgo, and Cameron.