Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth
THE 16TH DISTRICT COURT OF DENTON COUNTY TRIAL COURT NO.
MEIER, SUDDERTH, and PITTMAN, JJ.
MEMORANDUM OPINION 
three issues, Appellant S.G. (Father) appeals from an order
holding him in contempt for failing to pay child support,
granting Appellee T.G. (Mother) a judgment for arrearages,
and suspending commitment. We will affirm.
trial court signed a final decree of divorce on August 7,
2013, dissolving the marriage between Mother and Father.
Among other things, the decree ordered Father to pay Mother
monthly child support in the amount of $643.00 beginning on
January 1, 2012, approximately nineteen months before the
divorce decree was signed. Several years later, Mother filed
a motion to enforce the support order, seeking to hold Father
in contempt for failing to pay child support over the course
of numerous months, including from January 2012 to August
2013-the nineteen-month period before the trial court signed
the divorce decree. After a hearing, the trial court signed
an order on April 19, 2016, (i) holding Father in criminal
contempt for failing to comply with his child-support
obligation; (ii) ordering him confined in county jail for 180
days for each separate violation; (iii) suspending the
confinement and placing Father on community supervision for
120 months, conditioned upon his making monthly arrearage
payments; and (iv) awarding Mother a judgment for arrearages
in the amount of $20, 201.66 plus interest. The trial court
held Father in contempt not only for failing to pay child
support for certain months after August 2013, but also for
each month between January 2012 and August 2013.
first issue, Father argues that the April 19, 2016 order is
void because the trial court could not have found him in
contempt for failing to comply with any purported support
obligations before the divorce decree was signed, i.e., from
January 2012 to August 2013. Insofar as Father specifically
challenges the contempt order, we lack jurisdiction to
consider the issue. See In re A.T., No.
02-16-00283-CV, 2016 WL 7010935, at *1 (Tex. App.-Fort Worth
Dec. 1, 2016, no pet.) (mem. op.) ("Decisions in
contempt proceedings cannot be reviewed on appeal because
contempt orders are not appealable, even when appealed along
with a judgment that is appealable.") (quoting In re
Office of Attorney Gen. of Tex., 215 S.W.3d 913, 915
(Tex. App.-Fort Worth 2007, orig. proceeding)). To the extent
that Father's issue somehow implicates the judgment for
arrearages, his argument is unpersuasive. See In re
B.A.T., No. 05-10-00593-CV, 2010 WL 3991426, at *1 (Tex.
App.-Dallas Oct. 11, 2010, no pet.) (mem. op.)
("Although a party may not challenge a judgment of
contempt by direct appeal, a party may appeal a final
arrearage order provided the notice of appeal is timely
record demonstrates that Father represented himself in the
underlying divorce proceeding; that he prepared the divorce
decree that the trial court ultimately signed on August 7,
2013, including the provision requiring Father to begin
making monthly child support payments in January 2012; and
that Father never made any attempt to modify or correct the
supposedly erroneous January 2012 date. At the hearing on
Mother's enforcement action, the trial court explained,
First of all, as I explained to both lawyers, the fact that
this divorce was handled by the parties pro se, and the fact
that a date was included for which child support should start
that was prior to the date that the final decree was entered,
in and of itself, does not make that invalid.
If it was a mistake, then that is a risk that anyone
undertakes if they're going to represent themselves. If a
lawyer had handled that, and there was a mistake, I would
presume a lawyer would have gotten that corrected. Here we
are four years later. It wasn't corrected. It is what the
. . . final decree says.
trial court's statements were spot on. Courts construe
orders and judgments under the same rules of interpretation
as those applied to other written instruments. Payless
Cashways, Inc. v. Hill, 139 S.W.3d 793, 795 (Tex.
App.-Dallas 2004, no pet.). If an order is unambiguous, it
must be construed in light of the literal meaning of the
language used. Id.
divorce decree unambiguously ordered Father to begin paying
Mother child support on January 1, 2012. If Father thought
the date was erroneous, then he should have taken steps to
correct it, but he never did, and seeking to avoid its effect
for the first time in a separate enforcement action is akin
to launching an impermissible collateral attack against an
otherwise valid judgment. See Akers v. Simpson, 445
S.W.2d 957, 959 (Tex. 1969) ("A collateral attack on a
judgment is an attempt to avoid its binding force in a
proceeding not instituted for such purpose."). The trial
court had no option but to construe the plain language of the
divorce decree as it did. We overrule Father's first
second issue, Father argues that in calculating the amount of
interest that accrued on the child support arrearages, the
trial court should not have included the pre-August 2013
amounts that he failed to pay Mother. Father contends that
the trial court should have instead calculated interest to
begin accruing as of September 2013. Contrary to the rules of
appellate procedure, see Tex. R. App. P. 38.1(i),
Father includes not one citation to any relevant authority,
so we can only assume that his argument is premised upon the
same line of reasoning as his first issue. Father's
second issue is therefore unpersuasive for the same reason
that his first issue is. We overrule Father's second
third issue, Father argues that instead of "cut[ting]
his testimony short, " the trial court should have
allowed him to present evidence that he had, in effect, made
child support payments by making payments towards a mortgage.
The record demonstrates that Father testified after Mother
testified. Father's attorney questioned him about pay
stubs, deductions from his paycheck, and the divorce decree.
On cross-examination, Mother's attorney questioned Father
about the dates that he had not paid Mother child support.
After Father asked to consult with his attorney, which the
trial court permitted, the trial court asked to speak with
the attorneys in chambers, and the court went off the record.
When the proceedings resumed, the trial court announced its
ruling, permitted Mother's counsel to testify about
attorney's fees, and ruled on Father's request to
appoint an attorney ad litem. There is nothing in the record
indicating that the trial court "cut [Father's]
testimony short" and prohibited him from testifying
about mortgage payments. "It is elementary that, with
limited exceptions not material here, an appellate ...