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Enforcing Divorce Decrees via Contempt

All courts have inherent authority to enforce existing orders by contempt of court.  Thus, if an ex-spouse subject to a divorce decree or subsequent order violates specific provisions of the order, a court can “find” that the order has been knowingly violated and seek to “enforce” the order by holding the offender in contempt of court.

A contempt of court finding can result in a fine, incarceration, or both. The Texas Government Code authorizes a court to impose a fine of not more than $500 and/or confinement in the county jail for not more than 6 months.  The Texas Family Code also authorizes a court to place a person violating a court order on probation and require community supervision for a period not to exceed 10 years. In addition, if the contempt finding involves nonpayment of child support, the court can require not only payment of the support, but payment of any arrearages, attorney fees associated with contempt proceeding and costs.