Managing a Family Law Case in Texas, Part Two

Who can attend your court appearance with you?

Your hearing is not a closed process where only the parties, their attorneys, and the judge can attend. Any other party with a hearing scheduled on your date will be in the courtroom at the beginning of the day and can be in the courtroom while your hearing is going on. This means that you can bring any adult that you would like to attend the hearing with you and to at least sit in the gallery of people.

A distinction to make is that people that will act as witnesses in your case will typically not be allowed to remain in the courtroom during your hearing and will be asked to sit outside.

This is due to a belief that their testimony could be affected by the testimony of others. On the other hand, if the adult joining you in the hearing is not a witness he or she will be allowed to remain in court throughout the day. Before bringing a person to court make sure that you discuss it first with your attorney.

Children cannot be in the courtroom at any time. The exception to this is if the judge has ordered your child to be present for some purpose- possibly an evaluation of him or her. I have had clients who have not been able to arrange child care for the morning of their hearing. Those folks will bring along a family member to watch the kids outside of court while the proceedings continue on.

A word (or two) on Mediation

Let’s take a break from discussing in-court matters and introduce the subject of mediation. You may be under the impression based on our first couple blog posts on this subject that your case will certainly be headed to court to solve any problems that you are presenting to our justice system. That impression would be incorrect and we discuss the circumstances as to why.

Yes, your case can be ultimately determined by a judge in a courtroom. The alternative method of resolving disputes is through a process known as Mediation. Mediation is a method to avoid the costs, time commitment and uncertainties surrounding a visit to court in order to resolve and settle your family law case.

Mediation is a common method to formally settle your case for either temporary orders or final orders. A mediator is a neutral, independent third party (typically a practicing family lawattorney) who is selected by your attorney and opposing counsel to help bring about an agreement between you and the opposing party. All parties and their attorneys will meet at the mediator’s office in separate rooms to hold a mediation session that typically lasts 3-4 hours.

The mediator acts like a ping pong ball, bouncing between you and your opposing party to convey settlement offers, discuss issues and to generally play devil’s advocate on any arguments or theories that you and your attorney have.

The benefit of having an experienced family law attorney to mediate your case is that he or she has likely tried cases in front of your judge and can provide you with feedback on any issues that you are interested in presenting in either a hearing or trial. If you learn ahead of time that an argument you want to make will likely not go over well, then you may focus more intently on settling your case rather than proceeding to court.

Mediators do charge for their services, however, the cost is usually under $500 per party. This is opposed to a one day or multi-day trial or hearing that can cost much, much more in attorney’s fees but also emotional and physical stress.

Child Protective Services cases

Unfortunately, you may be in a situation where Child Protective Services (CPS) has become involved with you and your family. The fear of having your child removed from your home for reasons that are largely beyond your control is enough to keep you awake at night.

The second thought of having to deal with these folks in a legal matter is equally fear inducing. Let’s break down what a CPS case is and what its outcomes could mean for you and your family.

CPS is an organization that is headed by the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. This is a State Agency whose objective is to protect the children of our State. CPS learns of children possibly being in harm’s way by receiving phone calls where allegations of abuse or neglect are made. CPS will investigate the call and make an inquiry about the allegations made.

Typically a CPS case investigator or caseworker will come to your home to interview you, your spouse and any other person they deem as being relevant. The objective would be to find out as much as he or she can about the call that was made about your child and to determine whether or not the actual facts and circumstances exist to substantiate the call. If CPS conducts an investigation and determines that your child’s safety and well being are at risk the decision can be made to remove your child from your home.

CPS will seek a court order to remove your child and will need to get one prior to doing so. Within two weeks of your child’s removal from your custody, a hearing will have to be held in court in order to allow CPS to continue to have temporary conservatorship rights over your child. At this hearing, you and your spouse will have an opportunity to discuss the case with your judge. Your side of the story will be important for the judge in order to make sure that the view he or she is receiving from CPS is not slanted or incorrect.

This hearing is your only opportunity to discuss the issues of your case with the judge. You are not given an opportunity to have time alone with the judge off the record so the courtroom is where all communication will occur. A judge can order you and your spouse to undergo treatment or counseling and can require you to complete certain steps in order to get conservatorship of your child back.

You receive any paperwork filed by CPS against you. Likely a Petition would have been filed naming you as the Respondent. The Petition asserts the justifications for CPS to remove your children from your care in an affidavit.

An affidavit is a sworn statement or a statement under oath and the statements contained within an affidavit are held as being as truthful as ones made in a courtroom while a witness. What happened and the reasons why your child was removed from your home are typically discussed in this affidavit.

It is important to seriously consider hiring an attorney once your child has been removed from your care. It is not guaranteed that your child will remain out of your home for an extended period, but not having an attorney is a serious detriment to your case in that you will likely not fully understand the process or your rights unless you are represented.

Additional information on CPS cases to be posted tomorrow

We will continue our discussion of CPS Family law cases tomorrow by going over your rights in a CPS case and other relevant persons who will be involved in your case. The timeline of a CPS case differs from other family law cases in Texas so hopefully, this information can be helpful to you and your family.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about CPS or any other type of family law case please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. One of our licensed family law attorneys is available six days a week to meet with you and address your questions in a free of charge consultation.

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Other Articles you may be interested in:

  1. Managing a Family Law case in Texas
  2. Texas Family Courts: Child Protective Services, Part Two
  3. How to present yourself and testify well in court during your divorce case, Part Two
  4. What to know about Child Protective Services
  5. Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation
  6. Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation, Part 2
  7. Child Protective Services Investigation- What to expect and how to handle the situation, Part 3
  8. 16 Steps to help you Plan and Prepare for your Texas Divorce
  9. How to present yourself and testify well in court during your divorce case
  10. Tips on giving in-court testimony in your divorce or child custody case
  11. Getting Ready for a Hearing On Temporary Custody Orders
  12. Geographic Restrictions in Child Visitation Orders in Texas
  13. The Dirty Trick of Moving Out of State with the Kids

Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas CPS defense Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding CPS, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX CPS defense lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our cps defense lawyers in Houston TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles cps cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.

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