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Judges use docket control and scheduling orders to keep your family law case moving

One of the most critical aspects of a family law case in Texas is the ability of a judge to keep your case moving towards a resolution. It is possible that if you and your spouse never need to have the judge intervene to decide issues relevant to your case that this will not be an issue for you. Consider the possibility that if you all have relatively few issues to decide that one mediation session not long after your is divorce is filled could result in a case that is over in just a couple of months.

On the other hand, yours may be a case that requires a great deal of courtroom time and judicial intervention. For cases like these, where repeated trips to court are the norm, it is important to note that judges have a heavy burden to bear of allowing everyone their fair say in the outcome of the case while maintaining some degree of judicial economy, i.e., having cases steadily progress towards a resolution. How do judges balance these two objectives simultaneously?

Docket control orders is a term that I don’t see used very often in family law blog posts. It doesn’t exactly leap off the page, first of all. Secondly, some may consider it only to be a concept that attorneys need to worry about. Show up when your attorney tells you to, amounts to much of the advice that I see in other blogs written about child custody issues. To me, that’s not good enough.

The attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan would like to share with you some information that I have never seen written about by another family law office. If you are at all interested in how your case will be managed by the judge and how it will impact you and your family then this is a blog post for you.

Docket control orders help parties know what to expect in their family case

Not knowing where your case is going or when you are going to get there makes a family law case a less than a fun experience. I can tell you from experience that having to answer frustrated clients about when their next court date or when their case is going to be over with can be almost as frustrating for the attorney as it is for you, the client. We don't like it any more than you do, as far as having to wait to meet the next milestone of a case.

If are you are planning for a trial date, then they need to know exactly when your case will be heard is even more extreme. Imagine having to prepare once, twice or three times for a trial date because you were not able to proceed on the initial court date that had been set up. This is a reality that some judges were powerless to stop prior to the time when docket control orders were set up by courts. This is a plus for parties because it saves time and money. Time, because you are no longer having to return to court multiple times in order to complete the trial. Money, because you are not having to pay your attorney for each failed attempt that resulted in your lawyer driving to the courthouse for no reason.

A scheduling order is prepared by your court early on in your case. The scheduling order will help your case to proceed down the line without having to get bogged down in needless delays or multiple failed attempts to have hearings or your trial. If you all can ascertain what the issues are in your case that need to be decided, have a deadline to settle and mediate and also avoid costly delays then that sounds like a “win” for all parties involved.

What is covered by a pretrial scheduling order?

In most courts in southeast Texas, your attorney will be sent a letter from the court notifying you of preplanned dates on which certain events will either take place or must take place by. The date your case will be set for trial unless a settlement is reached is perhaps the most notable of the dates included in the pretrial scheduling order. Deadlines associated with sending and responding to discovery requests, amending your petition or counter petition, setting up mediation and the appointment of amicus or ad litem attorneys are probably the most common dates and deadlines provided in pretrial scheduling orders.

Parenting classes are required by many courts in southeast Texas

On a somewhat unrelated note, parenting courses are mandatory in many southeast Texas courts. These courses help parents, especially ones going through a divorce, to help develop a mindset that will allow them to move on with their lives in a productive manner once the divorce case has been completed.

Responsible decision making is the most important part of your post-divorce life as far as being a parent is concerned. These courses will attempt to teach you how to better respond to stressful situations, co-parent with your ex-spouse in an effective manner as well as communicate with your child about the divorce and their new lives.

It is difficult to speak to your children about subjects like the fear of losing one another, changes in home life as well as sadness that is associated with traumatic events like divorce. If you can better learn how to explain these subjects to your child everyone in your family will benefit. This does not mean that you are incapable of being a good parent on your own, or that the State of Texas has to intercede to help you. On the contrary, these classes are intended to reinforce the strengths that you have already imparted upon your children in diligently parenting them for their entire lives.

One area that these parenting courses help out with tremendously in my experience is reinforcing the importance of being able to co-parent with your soon to be ex-spouse. It can be so counterintuitive to persons going through a divorce to consider how you are going to work together with your ex-spouse as a team in raising your child. Just because you both are moving toward an end to your relationship does not mean that your days of being able to establish a culture of teamwork is over. On the contrary, your most important job that either of you will ever have still exists, namely raising your child. Your child will benefit if both of his parents work hand in hand in raising him rather than doing so separately.


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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Houston, Texas Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC 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, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Houston, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, KingwoodTomballThe Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris CountyMontgomery CountyLiberty County, Chambers CountyGalveston CountyBrazoria CountyFort Bend County and Waller County.

Mediation and its role in your child custody case

Most courts in southeast Texas will require that you attend at least two sessions of mediation prior to ever coming to court for a trial. The first mediation session will take place prior to a temporary orders hearing. The second would take place prior to a trial date. Many courts will send you back to mediation prior to trial if a first session did not result in a settlement having been reached. I can tell you from experience that if you are among those people who have no doubt that your spouse will not be agreeable in mediation to attempting to settle your case you are not alone. Many people in your position are pessimistic regarding your ability to settle your case.

However, I would ask you to consider that courts would not be so enthusiastic about mediation was it not for the high rate of success that parties experience when mediating their case. This is across the board success- no matter if your spouse is the nicest person on earth or is tougher than a day-old steak. Mediation allows a neutral party to weigh in on your situation in order to produce a settlement. This person is often able to tell you things about your case you were previously not aware of and can gauge the relative strength of your arguments versus those of your spouse. If you believe that your arguments for becoming the primary conservator are strong you ought to discuss that with the mediator in order to see how right (or wrong) you might be.

Mediation results in orders that are more likely to be followed once the case is over

It should not come to surprise you that parties that settle in mediation feel that the agreement is more reflective of their circumstances than court orders sent down from on high by a judge. The reason is that you and your spouse know the circumstances of your life much, much better than a judge does. You have the time and opportunity to engage in meaningful dialogue with your spouse on any subject that is relevant to your divorce. Once you enter a trial scenario, the talking portion is done. Then it is time to submit evidence and allow the judge to determine where the chips will fall, so to speak.

The other benefit to mediating a case is that from my experience it is parents who have had their orders settled upon in mediation, rather than arrived at by default in a trial, who are more enthusiastic followers of the orders in the post-divorce world that they inhabit. If you buy into the orders in your case more fully, believe that they are fair and apply them to your life in the manner intended by the court then you will be less likely to stray from them and less likely to end up back in court. Endless modification and/or enforcement attempts can further exacerbate wounds created by initial family law cases.

Negotiating towards a Parenting Plan

If you and your opposing party can agree to one, a parenting plan is typically more conducive to happy parenting then a string of child custody orders as set forth by a judge. The reason, from my experience, is that court orders that are handed down by a judge typically vest too much “power” in the hands of the parent who is named as the primary conservator of the children. A parenting plan is typically more egalitarian, more flexible and better takes into account the needs of your child.

If your parenting plan aims to reduce future conflicts and allows your child to have a strong relationship with both you and their other parent, then you have hit the sweet spot. The key is to allow you, your child and your ex-spouse to settle into your post-divorce world knowing that there is stability in the area of your parent-child relationships. It is crucial that your child understand that you are always going to be there for him.

It is also important that your ex-spouse knows their role and keeps proper boundaries with you when it comes to parenting your child. If you both know that each of you has responsibilities when it comes to raising your child and that both of you play an invaluable role in that process, then it is less likely that you will want to stray from those orders. Feeling comfortable within your role as a decision maker in important areas like health care, education, and religious upbringing is incredibly important.

Representation of your child in a child custody case

In recent years there has been an increased emphasis on the appointment of attorneys to represent children and their interests in contested child custody cases. Tomorrow’s blog post will introduce that topic and speak more in detail about what it could mean for you and your family.

If you have any questions about the material that we covered in today’s blog post, please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. We represent clients from across southeast Texas who are facing difficult family law cases. A consultation with one of our licensed family law attorneys is only a phone call away and is free of charge. Please come and ask our attorneys questions in order to have your problems addressed in a comfortable and pressure-free environment.

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