As a Houston, Texas divorce and family law attorney I have had the opportunity to help service members through divorce and family law cases. In order to do this, it is important to not only be aware of Texas Family Law but also familiar with the local rules of the court each family law court in Harris County, Texas.
Texas has statewide rules of court that parties an attorneys must follow. In addition to these rules Judges of each court are allowed to adopt procedural regulations which are mandatory upon parties and their lawyers on matters within the jurisdiction of those Courts. These rules are violated or ignored at the peril of the client and his or her counsel.
One good place to look at to start getting familiar with Local Rules is the District Clerks website.https://www.justex.net/LOCALRULES/LOCALRULES.ASPX
In order to assist my client’s and the residents of Harris County I decided to work on a series of blogs that would discuss the local rules of the different family law courts in Harris County.
Thus far I have written blogs on the:
This will be my 3rd blog on this topic.
257TH Judicial District Court – Phone: 713-274-4560
- The Presiding Judge: Judy Warne
- The Associate Judge: Deborah Patterson
- Address: 201 Caroline, 16th Floor, Houston, TX 77002
Some of the following rules can be found on the 257TH Judicial District Courts website located at https://www.justex.net/Courts/FAMILY/FAMILYCourt.aspx?crt=54
8:00 a.m.– 9:30 a.m.
Monday – Friday
Tuesday or Wednesday depending on the calendar
Mediation provides the opportunity to reach an agreement in a cooperative environment in which the parties determine the outcome of their case. Parties are generally better served when disputes are resolved amicably.
- Mediation prior to a temporary orders – Required if custody is an issue.
- Court cannot issue ‘Band-Aid’ Temporary Orders without testimony
- Mediation prior to final trial – Mediation is required prior to final trial in all cases unless waived via motion and hearing in accordance with local rules.
- Appointment of a Mediator – Parties may select their mediator by agreement. In the absence of mutual agreement, the Court will select a mediator.
- Social studies are ordered only when required by statute, such as adoptions, or when requested by counsel in a custody case.
- May be done on ancillary docket.
- Need birth certificate for prove up.
- Children’s name change requires birth certificates/ID – parents.
- Parenting classes are required by local rule 12.1.
- As I understand it this rule is generally not enforced
- As set by the court coordinator.
- Generally, uncontested terminations, jury Trials
- Scheduling Orders will be issued by the court coordinator.
- Issued 90-100 days after filing and set for 9 months from filing
Dismissals With Out Prejudice (DWOP)
- Court sends out DWOP notices and that docket is set for 9:00 a.m.
- If no service after 75 days, case set for DWOP
- Appearance at the dismissal docket is required. If your case gets dismissed, you MUST comply with the law on the Motion to Reinstate [must be sworn to].
- On case by case basis court will appoint.
Child Interviews – Cases Involving Children’s Preferences
- Must file Motion and notice other side.
- Do not bring the children to court unless specifically ordered to do so (Example Habeas Corpus).
- If interview is concerning preference for purposes of TO hearing, Court will notice both counsel/parties after interview if a designation was made and that is all.
- If it is requested that Court confer with child for testimony purposes that requested interview may be granted only after testimony is given.
- If child is brought to Court without express permission of the Court/Coordinator, the Court may insist that child be returned to school or home immediately.
- Set Motion or on Court’s own Motion.
- If a case is to be preferentially set, this shall be done by the court following the filing of a motion. Otherwise, the court follows the Local Rules of the Family Trial Division for the county.
- Consideration of Preferential Setting includes times issues and out of area parties/witnesses.
- If a case is preset it will start on time so don’t come in late absent an emergency
Motions for Continuance
- Should be set 10 days before final trial in accordance with the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure [sworn to] and the scheduling order of the 257TH.
- Set Motion and Hearing before Trial on Merits – Clerks will accommodate you.
- Do not show up on trial day and inform court you have an agreed continuance.
- It may not be granted. You cannot agree on continuances.
Motions for Submission or Requiring an Oral Hearing
- Motions requiring an oral hearing are set by the clerks, and should be accompanied by a notice of hearing.
- The 257th does not have a regular submission docket.
- If a phone rings in the courtroom the bailiff will take it.
Telephone Conferences for the Resolution of Motions or any other Matter
- Generally, the 257TH does not allow telephone conferences.
- Occasionally, one is scheduled due to circumstances beyond anyone’s control, but they are not preferable.
Courtesy Copy of a Document for the Court
- Courtesy copies are needed only of documents that reflect complicated issues or facts/figures that might require the court to take notes on.
- Examples of these would be inventories in complicated property cases or contempt’s with voluminous counts that require figuring, like uninsured medical expenses.
Refusal of a Party to File an Inventory
- A party who fails to comply with the local rules regarding filing an inventory simply does not get to testify or put on any evidence of value.
- Failure to file an inventory will not delay the divorce unless neither side files one, in which case the court will determine the appropriate sanction.
- Defaults require and inventory and proposed division.
Approval of Decrees with Variancces from Standard Possession Order or Variences from Statutory Guidelines for Child Support when a case is a “waiver or default Divorce”
- Variances from either the standard possession order or statutory child support guidelines simply require testimony to support the statutorily required findings for such a variation.
- The 257TH does not grant “no child support” orders, whether uncontested or otherwise.
- If the possession order is going to vary widely from the standard possession order, the 257TH requires significant evidence on the best interest issue—for instance, the 257TH has rarely seen sufficient evidence to approve a “week on/week off.”
Periods of Possession for Children Under Three
- For children under the age of 3, the 257TH is guided by best interest and the factors spelled out by the legislature in the family code for these cases.
Amicus Appointments / Guardians / Ad Litem
- Court appoints as required by the code. Additionally, the court will appoint depending on specific circumstances [for instance in publications, terminations, and cps cases].
- An amicus is appointed in the absence of an agreement only if the law requires, or in very rare circumstances.
- Amicus generally will be appointed with the both sides agree such an appointment is necessary and if there is money to pay the fees.
- Don’t ask for amicus and then inform the court there is no money to pay amicus.
- Parties/ counsel may not choose amicus.
When is a Special Master Used?
- The 257TH refers matters to special masters in very unusual and rare circumstances [three times in 10 years], and in those cases, there was voluminous discovery and/or multiple parties with issues that the attorneys needed resolved and court time would not allow for the time it needed.
When is a Receiver Used?
- If a requesting party complies with the statute regarding appointment of a receiver, the 257TH will appoint one as a last resort.
- It is an expensive endeavor which the 257TH believes should be used in extreme circumstances.
- Attorneys fees are granted if the request is meritorious and the law permits.
- An attorney seeking attorneys fees should be able to prove up his or her credentials and the fees, in addition to any requirement under the existing law [e.g. reasonableness and necessity].
- Legal fees for other support staff are very strictly governed by case law and will be granted if properly established
Interim Attorney Fees
- Interim attorneys’ fees may be granted in a divorce or modification when necessary to protect the safety and welfare of a child or children.
- Additionally, in a divorce, they may be awarded to equalize the ability of the spouses to utilize community property to retain counsel and permit them equality of representation.
Matters that are Set Before the Associate Judge
- Associate Judges are prohibited by statute from hearing name Chapter 33 cases.
- Other than that, the 257TH District Judge will permit the Associate Judge to hear anything, and refer most temporary issues to her.
- Remember to stand when addressing court or court may not rule on your objections.
- Ask to approach a witness on the stand.
- Docket call is not final argument, just make announcement of here and honest time estimate.
- Be courteous to opposing counsel as sniping at each other especially in front of the bench is no longer entertaining.
- Despite above rules, we are a Court that will consider extenuating circumstances.
- File motions and set hearings – or request approach, if all parties or counsel are present.
- Beverages are permitted at counsel table but this is discussed that with the attorneys prior to commencement of trial.
- No food is permitted in the courtroom.
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Other Articles you may be interested on regarding Houston Court Local Rules:
- 246TH Judicial District Local Rules
- Harris County, Texas Family Law Court – 308TH 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
- Business Owners and Business Assets in a Texas Divorce
- Can you negotiate child support during mediation?
- Can grandparents keep child from father?
- The Harris County District Family Courts at a Glance: February 2023
- Harris County, Texas Family Law Court – 247TH Judicial District Local Rules
- Harris County, Texas Family Law Court – 246TH Judicial District Local Rules