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Motion for Enforcement and Habeas Corpus

In the In re Burcie case out of Fort Worth the mother and father were divorced in 2004.  The father was ordered to pay child support of $865 on the first of each month.  In March 2008, the mother filed a motion to enforce alleging that the father had failed to pay the full amount due on each of the payment dates set out in a chart that was contained in the motion to enforce.

The chart contained columns for (1) due date; (2) amount due; (3) date paid; and (4) amount paid.  The motion requested a finding of contempt for each violation. 

After a hearing the court found the father in contempt and the order recited that he had failed to pay child support as ordered in the amounts and on the dates "shown below" and the court pasted the chart from the motion into the order.  The order found father in contempt for each separate failure to pay as ordered and that punishment for each separate violation was a fine of $500 and confinement in the county jail for 30 days to be served on weekends.

The father filed for habeas corpus relief complaining that the enforcement order is void because it fails to identify the dates of noncompliance, how many violations occurred, and whether the sentence for each violation was to run concurrently or consecutively.

The Court of Appeals agreed with the father because the chart does not specify which entry counts as a violation and as such there is no way to determine how many violations occurred for purposes of calculating the father's jail sentence or whether the sentences are to run concurrently or consecutively.  The petition for habeas corpus was granted. 

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