Skip to main content

I want to file a Motion to Enforce Visitation.

Child Custody & Visitation

If you have a Texas divorce or custody order that lets you spend time with your child—but the other parent won’t allow it—this guide can help you see your child. 
Overview

Guide Overview

If you have a Texas court order that allows you to spend time with your child—but the other parent won’t allow it—this guide can help you see your child. 

Research Tips

Start by reading these articles: 

Also visit the web site TXAccess.org.

If you need to learn more, the TexasLawHelp Legal Research Guide can help you get started. Plus, there is a directory of public local law libraries at Law Libraries in Texas. A Texas resident not near a law library may be able to access more materials by registering for a free Texas State Law Library Account.

Common questions about Child Custody & Visitation

If you want to enforce your visitation order and ask the court to hold the other parent in contempt, there are very specific rules you must follow when you try to exercise your visitation. You are not technically denied visitation unless you actually appear in person at the pick-up location listed in your court order, even if the other parent has already told you that they will not be there or that they will not be giving you your child. By not producing the child at the pick-up location at a certain date and time, the other parent is violating the court order. However, that parent cannot be required to testify against their interests in court, so you have to be able to testify that you were there and they were not.

Try to obtain evidence that you were at the right location at the right date and time. You can take a witness with you to observe what happened. You can go to a nearby convenience store or fast food restaurant and buy a drink or a pack of gum, and keep the receipt showing you were in the area at a certain date and time. Some police departments may be willing to file a report for you.

Immediately write down what happened in your visitation journal. Write down the date, time, and place where you tried to pick up your child. If you have a witness, write down the name. If you have a receipt or other evidence, keep it safe.

Read the law that governs enforcement actions (Texas Family Code 157.001 through 157.217).  If you are representing yourself, you—just like a lawyer—are expected to be familiar with the law.

Instructions & Forms

If you want to enforce your visitation order and ask the court to hold the other parent in contempt, there are very specific rules you must follow when you try to exercise your visitation.

You are not technically denied visitation unless you actually appear in person at the pick-up location listed in your court order—even if the other parent has already said you that they will not be there, or that they will not be giving you your child.

By not producing the child at the pick-up location at a certain date and time, the other parent is violating the court order. But, that parent cannot be required to testify against their own interests in court, so you have to be able to show that you were there and the co-parent was not.

SCROLL TO THE BOTTOM OF THIS GUIDE FOR LINKS TO FORMS.

Checklist Steps

All forms can be found in the Visitation Enforcement Kit. Scroll down to the bottom of this page for links to these materials.

For Step One, you’ll need the following:

1. Civil Case Information Sheet (unless you are filing electronically). If you are filing your motion to enforce in person, complete the civil case information sheet, and make a copy for your records. The district clerk will keep the original.

2. Motion for Enforcement of Possession or Access and Order to Appear (with exhibits).

  • Read through the Motion for Enforcement of Visitation Order and Order to Appear very carefully. Fill in your case information in the blank spaces. Check only those boxes that apply in your case. If you’re not sure what to put in the blanks, talk to a lawyer.
  • Sign the last page of the Motion for Enforcement of Visitation Order in front of a notary.
  • Make a copy for yourself and for every party in your case (The District Clerk will keep the original.)

3. Filing Fee

4. Learn how to set the hearing, and have the judge sign your Order to Appear.

  • Call the judge’s court coordinator.
  • Explain that you’re filing a Motion to Enforce and that you need to know:
     
    • What the procedure is to get the judge to sign the Order to Appear, and
    • What the procedure is to set the motion for a hearing.
      • Write the instructions down.

1. File your papers with the district clerk’s office in the county where you got the order that you’re trying to enforce.

  • Take your documents (and your copies) to the district clerk’s office.
  • Tell the clerk you’re there to file a Motion to Enforce and hand the clerk all of your documents. (Place the original on top, and the copies of each document behind the original.)
  • The clerk will “file stamp” your papers, noting the date when you filed your Motion.
  • The clerk will give you your copies but will keep the original for the court’s file.
  • Make sure to keep a copy of everything for yourself.

2. Set the Hearing

  • Follow the Court Coordinator’s instructions to set a hearing to have your motion heard. (You should have written them in Step One: Do your Homework.)
  • Be sure to set your case at least 20 days from the date you file your motion. This will give you enough time to give the other parties legal notice. The parties must have at least 10 days’ notice for a contempt hearing.

For Step Three, you’ll need the following:

  • Order to Appear
  • Motion for Enforcement with exhibits

Follow the court coordinator’s instructions to ask the judge sign the Order to Appear. Make sure and give the judge your Motion for Enforcement and Order to Appear

  • You should have written the instructions down in Step One: Do your homework.
  • After the judge signs the Order to Appear, make enough copies for yourself and all of the parties in your case. (The clerk will keep the original.)
  • Proceed to Step Four: Give legal notice.

Tell the other party what you want. For Step Four, you will need the following:

  • Copies of all of the documents you have filed
  • Order to Appear, signed by the judge

You must give legal notice to all of the parties in your case. If you don’t know who the parties are in your case, you should talk to a lawyer.

1. Go back to the District Clerk’s Office

  • Now that the judge has signed your Order to Appear, you need to file it in the District Clerk’s office.
  • Tell the clerk you’re there to file the Order to Appear, and hand the clerk the original and copies. (Place the original on top and the copies of the document behind the original.)
  • The clerk will “file stamp” your papers, noting the date when you filed the Order to Appear.
  • The clerk will give you your copies but will keep the original for the court’s file.
  • Make sure to keep a copy of everything for yourself.
  • Tell the clerk you want to have a constable serve the Order to Appear and Motion for Enforcement of Visitation Order on the parties in your case.
  • Make sure the clerk will process the citation and give it to the constable to serve the other party. If not, you’ll need to give the citation to the constable to serve the other party. Ask the clerk how to do that.
  • The constable will file a Return of Citation to show the court the party was served. The Return of Citation has to be in the court file for at least 10 days before you have a hearing.
  • Talk to your witnesses. Prepare questions for them or have them prepare a statement to tell the judge.
  • Review the documentation that shows the judge your visitation has been denied.
  • Review the local rules for your county. Ask the clerk if your county has any special local rules and where you can find them.
  • Review your papers for Step 7: Decision. Make sure they are correct.

Ask the judge for what you want and explain why you should get it. For Step Six, you need your paperwork for Step Seven: Decision.

1. Go to the courthouse

  • Arrive early.
  • Ask the district clerk if you need to pull your case file to take to the docket or does the judge already have it for your hearing.

2. Go to the courtroom.

Let the clerk (seated next to the judge’s bench) know you have arrived for your hearing. Ask the clerk if they need any of your papers, or if the judge prefers for you to give your papers to the judge.

3. Sit down and wait for the judge to call your case.

  • Sometimes the judge calls roll. When the judge calls your case (by your name or your cause number), stand up, and tell the judge you are the Petitioner, and how much time you think your case will take. Then, sit down, and wait to be called again.
  • If the judge is not calling roll, then stand before the bench when you are called.
  • The judge will swear you in and may ask you to “proceed” with your testimony or may ask you questions.
  • Answer the judge truthfully, courteously, and respectfully.
  • The judge needs to know how the other party violated the court order. Be sure to stick to the facts. Be respectful of the other party. Be businesslike.
  • If you have witnesses to call or evidence to present, you will do so at this time. (After you call each witness, the other party can ask questions of them.)
  • The other party may call witnesses, and you can ask questions of them.

The judge decides whether or not you should get what you asked for. You give the judge an Order to sign. The order needs to say exactly what the judge decided.

For Step Seven, you need the following:

  • Order on Motion for Enforcement of Visitation Order
  • Capias

1. After the judge has finished hearing your testimony and reviewing your papers, the judge will make a decision in your case.

2. When the judge makes the decision (ruling) make sure you write down everything the judge says. You will need to fill in the Order on Motion for Enforcement of Visitation Order based on what the judge says. The order needs to say exactly what the judge decided. You give the judge the Order to sign.

3. If the other party was served with your motion and the Order to Appear but did not appear at the hearing, you can ask the judge to sign a Capias. The Capias orders law enforcement to arrest the other party for failing to come to court, as ordered. Once the party is arrested, you can reset your hearing on the Motion for Enforcement, Contempt, and law enforcement will bring the party in for the hearing.

4. If the other party appears at your hearing, you do NOT need the capias. Throw it away and complete the Order on Motion for Enforcement of Visitation Order.

Forms Required

Articles in this guide