HELP! My Ex Won’t Follow the Rules!
By Alyson Falk
When a co-parent doesn’t follow the custody orders, we know it can make you want to rip your hair out. All that work to get to a custody order, and now it isn’t being followed. We know how frustrating that can be, but if you have a written court order, then you have what you need to get started.
Child Support Issues
You have options when it comes to addressing child support issues, so it is important you consult with an experienced family law attorney to develop a plan that best suits your unique situation.
One option will be to work with the state agency managing child support orders in your state. In Texas, if the obligor (the person who is required to pay child support) is refusing to pay child support, refusing to reimburse you for a child’s uninsured medical expenses, or refusing to provide health or dental insurance when they are ordered to provide it, the Child Support Division of the Office of the Attorney General (“OAG”) is one place you can go for help. OAG enforcement services are limited and may not address your specific situation.
Here is a link to the Child Support Division of the Texas Attorney General: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/child-support
You may also hire an attorney to enforce child support obligations, whether you pursue enforcement with the Attorney General’s office or by filing suit in district court. It may be your best option to sue in district court so that you have available to you a broader scope of remedies than the OAG will allow. Either way it is important to talk with an experienced family law attorney to analyze your best options of where and how to pursue your child support enforcement.
Possession and Access
To the untrained eye, the possession and access schedules contained in Decrees and custody orders can look like a foreign language. If you did not work with a family lawyer when you first got your custody order, it will be helpful to consult with an experienced family law attorney simply to understand exactly what your custody order requires of you and your coparent. We often create yearly calendars for our clients so they can see clearly what their schedule looks like. Sometimes parents make mistakes implementing their possession and access schedules—this is a really good place to start to make sure you’re picking the right fight.
In Texas, there is not a State-provided service to help you enforce your possession orders, so you will need to consult with an experienced family law attorney if you are having issues with the possession schedule in your custody orders.
If your coparent is not taking possession when they are supposed to, you may need a Modification rather than an Enforcement. In Texas, custody orders give a parent a right to possession, not a requirement that they take possession. You can’t make someone take possession of their kids, but you may be able to change the terms of other things in your custody order if they are ordered the right to possession but are not exercising that right to possession. A modification of your custody orders is something to consider in this situation.
If your coparent is failing to surrender your children back to you as ordered in your custody orders, you will need to get into family court right away. This is a critical custody situation, perhaps an emergency custody matter for the court, and you will need an experienced family law attorney to secure the return of your child.
If you do not have an attorney and your coparent will not surrender the child at the designated time, then you may call law enforcement for assistance. If it is not an emergency involving family violence, dial 3-1-1. Custody orders in Texas should include a Notice to Peace Officers that tells the officers how they may assist in the immediate enforcement of possession disputes. Think before you call the police, though, and make sure this is the last resort option for you, as your children will be involved. If you are often needing to call law enforcement to enforce the return of your children, then you need to talk to experienced custody lawyers right away, as this is not a tenable or healthy situation for your children.
Other Custody Order Issues for Enforcement
Custody orders cover so many issues, and oftentimes one parent doesn’t follow all of them. It is difficult to know if what they are not doing makes a difference and is worth going back to court to fight over. Some things may be small and worth letting go. Some things may be very important to enforce because it may affect your rights as a parent. It is worth meeting with an experienced family lawyer to go over the violations to get a sense of what is worth pursuing. Oftentimes, a modification may be more appropriate, for example, if you are not being included in decision-making as required by your custody orders, or your co-parent is violating injunctions against drinking or drug use. The bottom line is that custody orders are complex, and need the attention of an experienced family lawyer to advise you on the best next step for you and your family if your coparent isn’t following the rules.
If you’re at your wits’ end over child support or possession and access issues, would like to better understand exactly what your custody order requires of you and your coparent, or would like help with the possession and access schedules, call Lazar Law at 512-477-1600 and schedule a time to talk to our experienced Austin family law attorneys.