If you are considering whether or not to file a child custody or divorcecase in Texas you probably have some questions about what going to court is actually like. You may have never filed a lawsuit, been sued or even been inside of a courthouse before. If this is the case for you then consider yourself fortunate.
Nobody wants to have to go to court and talk to a judge about a legal matter that involves themselves or their family. With that said, sometimes it is necessary and the courts act as a final decider of issues that cannot be settled outside of court.
Another thing to keep in mind as we begin our discussion on family lawcourts in Texas is that it is unlikely that your case will even see the inside of a courtroom. The vast majority of family law cases in Texas settle before a trial is necessary.
Even in family cases where temporary orders are a part of the case, mediation and informal settlement negotiations will typically eliminate any need for the courts to interject their opinions.
With that said, there is a chance that your family case will head to the courthouse if negotiations on whatever issues are apparent in your case are unsuccessful. With that said, let’s examine some of the terms and processes that are involved with going to court in a family law case.
If at the end of this article you have any questions please feel free to reach out to us at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We can help you to schedule a free of charge consultation where we can answer any question that you have regarding family courts or another matter related to family law in Texas.
Family Courts- What are they and what do they do?
Family law courts are where cases regarding subjects like divorce and child custody are heard. Judges are elected to their positions and serve to make decisions for families when they are not able to on their own. If you decide to file a family lawsuit then your case will be assigned to a family law court in the county where you reside.
In larger counties like Harris, Montgomery or Fort Bend your case will be assigned a court randomly due to there being more than one family law court available to hear your case. If you already have a pre-existing order then your new case will be assigned to the pre-existing court that handed down that order.
More on Presiding Judges and Associate Judges
If you reside in Harris County or one of the other larger counties around Harris your court will have a presiding judge who serves in it. He or she will have been elected to that role. The presiding judge will also choose a second judge to serve with him or her known as an associate judge.
These associate judges are not elected but have the same ability as a presiding judge to make rulings on cases and generally handle the case as the elected judge would. If you attend court on any particular day you will see the presiding judge call the docket for the court on that day and assign particular cases to the associate judge as he or she sees fit.
Courtroom personnel besides Judges
Outside of the judges that will hear your case, there are court coordinators, court clerks, bailiffs and court reporters each with their own responsibilities and roles to play in court. Bailiffs are law enforcement officers who ensure the safety of the courtroom for courthouse employees and litigants such as yourself.
Court coordinators and clerks handle administrative matters for the judges and generally help litigants and attorneys schedule hearings and things of that matter. A court-reporter sits close to the litigants, attorneys and judge while a hearing or trial is occurring.
A judge will put all parties and their attorneys “on the record” at the beginning of a proceeding which signals the court-reporter to begin transcribing every word that is said during that particular hearing.
This is done to ensure that an accurate representation of what occurred in a hearing is maintained and also to assist appellate courts in making a decision on a particular matter if the case is appealed by a party.
What can you expect when you go to court?
Texas being what it is, you will find that your courthouse and courtroom can vary depending on where you live. If you reside in Liberty or Chambers Counties then you will find your courthouse to be relatively small and simple. It will have everything a judge and court personnel need to hear your case.
There will likely be only one judge for your court and the docket (list of cases scheduled for hearings that day) may be relatively short.
On the other hand, if you reside in a larger county like Harris, then your courthouse experience will be a tad different. The civil courthouse in Harris County is seventeen stories tall and as we mentioned has multiple family law courts to which your case can be assigned.
While the law is the same in any courthouse in Texas, the courtrooms in Harris County are a little more modern looking and may have technology available for hearings and trials that are not available in smaller counties.
Physically speaking, your court will have a judge’s bench at the front of the room with the clerk and court-reporter flanking the judge on either side. A jury booth will likely be to the side of the room. Rows of seats (like pews at church) are in the back of the courtroom where litigants waiting to go before the judge can sit.
In the middle of the room will be a fence of sorts set up where only attorneys can cross. Once your case is called your attorney will walk with you past the fence, from the gallery to the area where the judge and other court personnel work.
Part Two of our series on Family Law Courts to be posted tomorrow
Please check back with us tomorrow as we discuss mediation and some of the basics of a divorce case. If you would like to reach out to an attorney with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to ask a question please do not hesitate to contact us.
Again- consultations are free and can be extremely helpful to you if you are beginning the process of filing a family lawsuit of your own.
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Other Articles you may be interested on regarding Houston Court Local Rules:
- 247TH Judicial District Local Rules
- 246TH Judicial District Local Rules
- Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 308TH Judicial District Local Rules
- Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 257TH Judicial District Local Rules
- Why is Separate Property Important and How to Keep it Separate in a Texas Divorce?
- What Wikipedia Can’t Tell you About Texas Divorce and Marital Property Division
- Texas Divorce Property Division Enforcement
- Separate Property in a Texas Divorce?
- Does it Matter Whose Name is on Title or Deed of Property in a Divorce in Texas?
- Is Social Security Considered Separate Property in a Texas Divorce
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Houston, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce 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 Divorce 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.