Texas child custody contempt notice

Contempt proceedings are quasi-criminal. This means the accused is entitled to procedural due process throughout the proceedings. “In re Roisman, 651 S.W.3d 419, 434 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2022, orig. proceeding).”

Types of Contempt

Contempt can be direct or constructive.

Direct contempt occurs in the presence of the court. Examples include disobeying a judge’s orders in the courtroom or disrupting court proceedings.

Constructive contempt occurs outside the court’s presence. It involves actions such as violating court orders when not in the courtroom. “In re Roisman, 651 S.W.3d at 434 (citing In re Reece, 341 S.W.3d 360, 365 (Tex. 2011) (orig. proceeding)).”

Due Process Requirements for Constructive Contempt

Before punishment for constructive contempt, due process requires full notification of the contemptuous act. “Ex parte Carney, 903 S.W.2d 345, 346 (Tex. 1995) (orig. proceeding); Roisman, 651 S.W.3d at 434.”

Specificity in Show-Cause Orders

The show-cause order must state when, how, and by what means the accused is guilty. This ensures that the accused is fully informed of the charges against them. “Roisman, 651 S.W.3d at 434–35; In re Parks, 264 S.W.3d 59, 62 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2007, orig. proceeding).”

Enforcement Motion Requirements

Section 157.002 of the Texas Family Code details what an enforcement motion must specifically plead. The motion must include:

  • The provision of the order allegedly violated.
  • The manner of the alleged violation.
  • The relief requested by the movant.
  • The signature of the movant or the movant’s attorney.

For child support enforcement motions, the following additional details are required:

  • The amount owed as provided in the order, the amount paid, and the amount of arrearages.
  • If contempt is requested, the portion of the order allegedly violated and, for each date of alleged contempt, the amount due and the amount paid, if any.
  • A copy of a record of child support payments maintained by the Title IV-D registry or a local registry may be attached.
  • For a child receiving assistance under Part A of Title IV of the federal Social Security Act, a request that the obligor pay the arrearages according to a court-approved plan or participate in work activities if not incapacitated.

For conservatorship or possession enforcement, the motion must include:

  • The date, place, and, if applicable, the time of each occasion of the respondent’s failure to comply with the order.

The movant is not required to plead that the underlying order is enforceable by contempt to obtain other appropriate enforcement remedies. Repeated past violations and potential future violations of a similar nature may also be alleged. “Tex. Fam. Code Ann. § 157.002; Roisman, 651 S.W.3d at 435.”

Challenging a Contempt Order

Challenging a contempt order requires showing the order is void. Without adequate notice, a contempt order is void. “Ex parte Gordon, 584 S.W.2d 686, 688 (Tex. 1979) (orig. proceeding) (“A contempt judgment rendered without . . . notification is a nullity.”); Roisman, 651 S.W.3d at 435.”

Clarity in Underlying Orders

The underlying order must be clear, specific, and unambiguous. This means the terms of compliance must be plainly stated so that the person charged with obeying the decree knows exactly what their duties and obligations are. “Ex parte Acker, 949 S.W.2d 314, 317 (Tex. 1997) (orig. proceeding); Ex parte Chambers, 898 S.W.2d 257, 260 (Tex. 1995) (orig. proceeding); In re Hilburn, No. 05-20-01068-CV, 2022 WL 831547, at *7 (Tex. App.—Dallas Mar. 21, 2022, orig. proceeding) (mem. op.); In re Johnson, 996 S.W.2d 430, 434 (Tex. App.—Beaumont 1999, orig. proceeding).”

Ambiguity in Decrees

A decree is ambiguous when it has more than one interpretation. This ambiguity can lead to issues in enforcement and potential challenges in contempt proceedings. “In re Hilburn, 2022 WL 831547, at *7; In re Davenport, 522 S.W.3d 452, 456 (Tex. 2017) (orig. proceeding); Coker v. Coker, 650 S.W.2d 391, 393 (Tex. 1983); In re C.H.C., 396 S.W.3d 33, 49 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2013, no pet.); United Protective Servs., Inc. v. W. Vill. Ltd. P’ship, 180 S.W.3d 430, 432 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2005, no pet.).”

Understanding Rule 11 Agreements

In divorce and child custody cases, temporary or final orders can be enforced by contempt. Sometimes, however, people attempt to enforce Rule 11 agreements by contempt.

Rule 11 agreements are used to settle disputes in family law cases. They are contractual agreements between the parties. “Tomorrow Telecom, Inc. v. Silvas, No. 07-20-00100-CV, 2021 WL 2461129, at *2 (Tex. App.—Amarillo June 16, 2021, no pet.) (mem. op.) (citing Coale v. Scott, 331 S.W.3d 829, 832 (Tex. App.—Amarillo 2011, no pet.)).”

However, Rule 11 agreements are not enforceable by contempt unless incorporated into a court order. Temporary or final orders in divorce and child custody cases can be enforced by contempt if they incorporate the terms of a Rule 11 agreement. “Coronado v. Jones, No. 03-13-00464-CV, 2015 WL 2183459, at *2 n.2 (Tex. App.—Austin May 6, 2015, orig. proceeding) (mem. op.).”

Enforcement of Rule 11 Agreements

Contractual obligations, including Rule 11 agreements, cannot be enforced by contempt unless they are incorporated into the final order. “In re Coppock, 277 S.W.3d 417, 420 (Tex. 2009) (orig. proceeding).”

Agreements incorporated into court orders are enforced as part of those orders and can be subject to contempt if violated. “Coppock, 277 S.W.3d at 420; McGoodwin v. McGoodwin, 671 S.W.2d 880, 882 (Tex.1984) (op. on reh’g).”


Understanding these nuances is vital. Knowing your rights ensures fair treatment.

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