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Texas Family Law Courts: What to Expect

Suppose you consider whether or not to file a child custody or divorce casein 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 go to court and talk to a judge about a legal matter involving themselves or their family. 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 law courtsin 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 involved with going to court in a family law case.

If you have any questions at the end of this article, please feel free to reach out to us at the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. We can help you schedule a free-of-charge consultation where we can answer any question 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 divorce and child custody are heard. Judges are elected to their positions and make decisions for families when they cannot rely on their own. If you decide to file a family lawsuit, 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 randomly assigned a court because there is more than one family law court available to hear your case. If you already have a pre-existing order, 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. They will have been elected to that role. The presiding judge will also choose a second judge to help with being known as an associate judge.

These associate judges are not elected but have the same ability as presiding judges to make rulings on cases and 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 specific cases to the associate judge as they see 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 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 occurs.

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 said during that particular hearing.

This is done to ensure that an accurate representation of what occurred in a hearing is maintained and assist appellate courts in deciding on a particular matter if a party appeals the case.

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 straightforward. 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, your courthouse experience will be 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. They may have technology available for hearings and trials not public 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 are waiting to go before the judge can sit.

A fence of sorts will be set up in the middle of the room 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 is to be posted tomorrow

Please check back with us tomorrow to 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, PLLC, 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 in regarding Houston Court Local Rules:

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  2. 246TH Judicial District Local Rules
  3. Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 308TH Judicial District Local Rules
  4. Harris County, Texas Family Law Court - 257TH Judicial District Local Rules
  5. Why is Separate Property Important and How to Keep it Separate in a Texas Divorce?
  6. What Wikipedia Can't Tell you About Texas Divorce and Marital Property Division
  7. Texas Divorce Property Division Enforcement
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  10. Is Social Security Considered Separate Property in a Texas Divorce
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