3 Keys in a Texas Suit to Enforce a Decree of Divorce

Sometimes even after a divorce is over there are disagreements between the sides that require the court to enforce the original decree. If your property is divided in the divorce or annulment, you may request that the court enforce the decree, including any contractual provisions contained in an Agreement Incident to Divorce (a contract between the parties that divides such things as property and debts) that was approved by the court. A suit to enforce is governed by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, is applicable to the filing of an original lawsuit, and must be filed in the court that rendered the decree. In Texas, the court that rendered the decree of divorce or annulment retains the power to enforce its order.

Here are three important considerations to remember:

# 1 Filing Deadlines

The deadline to file a suit to enforce is two years after the date the decree was signed or becomes final after appeal, whichever date is later. This applies only to the division of tangible personal property in existence at the time of the decree of divorce or annulment. A suit to enforce the division of future property not in existence at the time of the original decree must be filed before the second anniversary of the date the right to the property matures or accrues or the decree becomes final, whichever date is later. If these deadlines have already passed, the suit is barred.

# 2 What Are the Restrictions?

An order of enforcement does not alter or affect the finality of the decree of divorce or annulment being enforced. A court may not amend, modify, alter or change the division of property made or approved in its prior order, and an order to enforce the division is limited to assisting the implementation of or to clarify the prior order.

The procedures and limitations of this subchapter do not apply to existing property not divided on divorce, and a party may not demand a jury trial if the procedures to enforce a decree of divorce or annulment provided by this subchapter are invoked.

# 3 What Can the Court Do?

  • The court may render further orders to enforce the division by clarifying the prior order or assisting in its implementation. The court can more precisely specify the manner of effecting the property division previously made or approved if the division of the property is not altered or changed.
  • A court can clarify its order by setting forth specific terms to enforce compliance with the original division of property, but it cannot give retroactive effect to the clarifying order. There shall be a reasonable time for compliance before enforcing a clarifying order.
  • Another way the court may enforce the division of property is by making an order to deliver the specific existing property. A court may enforce by contempt an order requiring delivery of specific property or an award of the right to future property.

Ultimately, if a party fails to comply with the order and the delivery of the property awarded is no longer an adequate remedy, the court may render a money judgment for damages caused by that failure to comply. The court can also enforce an award to the right to receive installment payments or a lump-sum payment. And finally, the court may also award costs and attorney’s fees in a proceeding under this subchapter.

Texas Family Code Sections 9.001-9.014

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