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enforcing a divorce decree or settlement

When a divorce is resolved by order of the court in a divorce decree or by agreement of the parties in a marital settlement agreement or mediated settlement agreement (MSA), the former spouses (parties) are required to comply with their obligations under the divorce decree or MSA.

When a party fails to meet their obligations under the divorce decree or MSA, the other party may (1) file a motion for enforcement or request for orders (RFO) with the court that had jurisdiction over the parties’ divorce proceeding; (2) request an order for the non-compliant party to comply; and (3) request the court to order the non-compliant party to pay the attorney fees and costs incurred by the party seeking enforcement of the divorce decree or MSA.

And if a party repeatedly fails to comply with the court’s orders, the other party may seek to have the non-compliant party held in contempt of court—a special procedure for forcing compliance or punishing non-compliance—in which the court may award both civil penalties (fines, assessment of attorney fees and costs) and criminal penalties (confinement in jail as punishment for failing to comply with the court’s orders).

In Texas, after a divorce is finalized through a court order or a marital settlement agreement (MSA), both parties are legally bound to adhere to the terms set forth in the decree or MSA. If one party does not fulfill their obligations, the other party can take legal action by filing a motion for enforcement with the court that originally handled the divorce. This motion can request that the court order the non-compliant party to meet their obligations and possibly cover the attorney fees and costs of the party seeking enforcement. Should the non-compliance persist, the aggrieved party may pursue contempt of court proceedings against the non-compliant party. Contempt of court can result in civil penalties, such as fines and the payment of attorney fees, or criminal penalties, which may include jail time. This process is designed to ensure compliance with the divorce decree or MSA and uphold the integrity of the court's orders.

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