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Enforcing Property Divisions

Enforcing property divisions in a divorce case is a common problem. Although Chapter 7 of the Texas Family Code gives a divorce court wide latitude in dividing the marital property, it doesn't provide tools for the judge to make sure the property division is accomplished. Chapter 9 of the Texas Family Code is the source of the tools available to a judge for enforcing property divisions. Although Chapter 9 prohibits a judge from making substantial revisions to a decree which awards property, it does allow a judge to clarify his prior order so that it may be enforceable by contempt which allows a judge to jail or fine a party that ignores his order.

Chapter 9 of the Family Code allows a judge to compel the delivery of specific existing property, without regard to its value, or to award an existing sum of money or its equivalent. If a party fails to deliver property awarded in the decree, the judge may, in addition to his contempt powers, award a money judgment for the property awarded which is enforceable as any other money judgment. The court may also award the right to receive installment payments or a lump sum payment due on the maturation of an existing vested or nonvested right.

One thing the court cannot do, is force a lender to extend credit to a former spouse. This becomes a problem where a spouse is ordered to refinance property after the divorce. About the only recourse is to ask the judge to order the property sold it it is not refinanced by the receiving spouse. Any party to a divorce needs to consider the possible difficulty of enforcing a property division.

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