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What does it mean to go to trial in a Texas family law case?

Divorce, oh divorce! It's the word that can send shivers down your spine or make your heart leap with joy. We've all heard the stories, the messy battles, and the courtroom dramas. But have you ever wondered if your own divorce would end up in a thrilling trial? Buckle up, because today we're diving deep into the wild world of Texas family law cases to answer the burning question: Would a divorce go to trial?

Short Answer: Yes, it's possible! But there's a lot more to it than meets the eye.

Reasons to Keep Reading:

  1. Mediation Mayhem: Discover the fascinating process of mediation, where divorcing couples attempt to find common ground. Will they make peace or unleash the legal hounds?
  2. The Art of Negotiation: Learn about the secret strategies and tactics employed during negotiations, where spouses fight tooth and nail for custody, assets, and more. Who will come out on top?
  3. Unveiling the Trial Steps: Peek behind the legal curtain and explore the essential steps involved in preparing for a family law trial. It's like being backstage at a riveting courtroom performance.
  4. The Evidence Game: Find out how evidence can make or break a case. We'll unravel the mystery of admissibility, the concept of hearsay, and what it takes to sway the judge in your favor.
  5. Meet the Associate Judge: Get acquainted with the enigmatic associate judge, the key player in Texas family law cases. Discover their role, their decisions, and how they can shape the outcome of your divorce.
  6. From Default Judgments to Property Wars: Explore the consequences of a party's failure to respond to a lawsuit and the fascinating world of default judgments. Plus, gain insights into the battleground of property division, where assets are fought over like prized possessions.
  7. Spousal Maintenance Secrets: Delve into the intricacies of spousal maintenance, from eligibility requirements to the factors influencing the duration and calculation of support. Is it a lifeline or an elusive dream?
  8. Enforcing Spousal Maintenance: Brace yourself for the challenges of enforcing spousal maintenance orders. We'll guide you through the potential roadblocks and show you how to navigate the stormy seas of support.

Divorce is like a rollercoaster ride with twists, turns, and unexpected loop-the-loops. While the prospect of going to trial may seem daunting, understanding the ins and outs of the process is key to navigating this thrilling journey. So, grab a seat, hold on tight, and join us as we unravel the drama, mystery, and intrigue behind Texas family law cases. Let's dive into the captivating world of divorce trials together!

Would a Divorce Go to Trial? Unveiling the Drama Behind Texas Family Law Cases

Ideally, your family law case would reach a settlement long before it reaches the trial stage. A successful resolution through mediation is the preferred path to avoid the complexities and uncertainties of a trial. Mediation involves both parties and their attorneys coming together to negotiate and find common ground. However, a trial becomes the next step if a settlement cannot be reached. While trials are relatively rare, they are crucial to discuss due to their significance. In this article, we will walk you through the steps involved in the trial process, helping you understand what to expect and how to prepare.

Preparation: The Key to Success

Preparation is the foundation for achieving a favorable outcome in your family law trial. If you have attended a temporary orders hearing, you already have some idea of what to expect in a trial, as the format is similar. However, the issues to be considered expand in a trial. To prepare effectively, sit down with your attorney and review the discovery responses provided by the opposing party. These responses will shed light on your case's arguments, evidence, and strengths/weaknesses. This detailed analysis allows your attorney to strategize, overcome your opposing party's arguments, and build a compelling case on your behalf.

Navigating the Admissibility of Evidence

Not every piece of evidence you find, such as documents, text messages, emails, or social media posts related to your opposing party, can be utilized in a trial. Certain evidence may be inadmissible for various reasons, which your attorney will discuss with you in advance. Even during a trial, the opposing lawyer may object to the admission of evidence, potentially leading to its exclusion. Unadmitted evidence cannot be considered by the judge when making a decision in your trial.

The admissibility of evidence is one of the trickiest and most crucial aspects of a trial. What evidence "gets in" and what evidence is excluded can swing a case in different directions. For instance, you may have come across the term "hearsay" in courtroom shows and movies. Hearsay refers to out-of-court statements offered in court to prove the truth of a matter asserted. The court typically allows witnesses to testify only about what they have personally seen or experienced. Testimony about what someone told you, such as your spouse hitting your child, is not allowed as it falls under hearsay testimony.

The Role of the Judge in Your Family Law Trial

Associate judges are appointed by district court judges elected to their positions. In larger counties of southeast Texas, like Harris County, it is likely that an associate judge will hear your family law case. While associate judges issue decisions regarding your trial, these decisions can be appealed to the district court judge within three days of the original ruling.

The Consequences of Non-Response: Default Judgments

If you have served your spouse or opposing party with a copy of your lawsuit, but they choose not to respond or file an answer, there are consequences. Surprisingly, even in the absence of participation from your spouse, the divorce can still move forward. This is made possible through a default judgment. By demonstrating to the judge that the opposing party was properly served, with the proof of service recorded in court for more than ten days, and confirming that the opposing party is not an active duty member of the military, you can proceed with custody orders, possession orders, property division, and finalize the divorce.

However, it's essential to note that if your opposing party becomes aware of the signed order within thirty days of your court appearance, they can file a motion for a new trial, which is likely to be granted. To challenge the default judgment, your ex-spouse must inform the judge that they were unaware of the case or present legitimate circumstances that explain their lack of response.

Understanding the intricacies of default judgments and their potential challenges is crucial to navigate the divorce process effectively.

While it's ideal to settle your family law case outside of trial, sometimes it becomes necessary to proceed to court. Proper preparation, understanding the admissibility of evidence, and being aware of the role of the judge are crucial elements for success in a trial. Additionally, the consequences and requirements of default judgments should be considered in cases where the opposing party fails to respond. By familiarizing yourself with these key aspects, you can confidently approach your family law trial and work towards achieving a favorable outcome.

Everything you need to know about property issues (mostly everything, that is)

When it comes to spousal maintenance and property division, the laws in Texas can differ significantly from those in other states. As such, it is important for you to know just how your case could end up looking if there is a significant amount of property to divide or if spousal maintenance is necessary to be paid.

Let’s take spousal maintenance on before we discuss dividing up property. You and your spouse may earn very different amounts of money that you contribute to your household. If you find yourself in the position of the spouse who does not earn as much money, you may need a certain sum of money monthly to keep your household afloat once you are relying only on your income.

Say, for instance, that your spouse is a high-powered attorney and you are a stay at home mother. However, you have a college degree and was carving out a fairly successful career for yourself in the business world when you stepped away from doing so in order to raise your children and maintain the home. All the while your spouse was out earning big bucks in the law.

Consider how you would react if you had to re-enter the workforce after two decades of being outside of it. Would you need to work two jobs? Would you need to go back to school? Would you need to re-learn a field of your past work in order to earn a certification? These are all reasonable possibilities for you to face as you finish up with your divorce.

As far as post-divorce spousal maintenance, the rule of the road in Texas is that judges are not overly liberal in handing out spousal maintenance. The thinking behind this is that because community property laws are in effect in Texas, there is less of a need to hand out large spousal maintenance awards with any frequency. The fact that you as the lower-earning spouse are likely to walk away from the divorce with relatively more property to your name than you would have in most other states is a reason why spousal maintenance is so hard to come by here.

Exceptions to this rule include if family violence has been in the picture during recent years. Also, if you are unable to work due to a mental handicap or physical disability a court is much more likely to order that spousal maintenance be paid.

Are you eligible to be paid spousal maintenance?

Before we can consider how much spousal maintenance you could be paid in a divorce, you need to know how you are determined to be eligible to receive those payments. The first requirement that you need to show a court is that you are unable to meet your minimum basic needs taking your income solely into consideration.

Now we can move on to the aforementioned family violence requirement. Namely, you must be able to show a court that your spouse has been convicted of or has received deferred adjudication for an act of family violence against you or your child. The conviction must have stemmed from an act of family violence that has either occurred during the during or in the two year period occurring immediately before filing your divorce.

Furthermore, you can be awarded spousal maintenance in your divorce case if you have a physical or mental impairment that prevents you from earning enough to provide for your minimal basic needs. Or, you can show that you were married to your spouse for more than ten years and that you do not have the ability to earn sufficient income to provide for your minimal basic needs on your own. Lastly, if you cannot work because you are caring for a child who requires around the clock attention due to a physical or mental impairment.

Make no mistake, although a handful of scenarios could lead to your being paid spousal maintenance, the odds are stacked against you overall. The court’s default setting is that you do not need spousal maintenance so the burden is on you and your attorney to show that you need to be paid spousal maintenance.

How long can an award of spousal maintenance last?

If the shoe is on the other foot as far as this discussion is concerned, and you expect to be the spouse who will be paying out spousal maintenance you may be concerned with how long you may be on the hook for paying this type of award.

In general, unless your ex-spouse is disabled or is caring for a disabled child then the court will seek to award him or her with spousal maintenance that is the shortest length possible. The longer you and your spouse married, the more the spousal maintenance can be paid. Marriages of ten to twenty years result in spousal maintenance lasting at least five years. 20 to 30-year marriages can see spousal maintenance extended to last seven years in duration. Thirty-year or longer marriages can result in spousal maintenance awards that last for ten years.

How much money can be paid in spousal maintenance on a monthly basis?

There is a cap that exists in Texas as far as how much spousal maintenance can be paid. Specifically, $5000 or 20% of your spouse’s gross monthly income can be paid in maintenance, whichever of those numbers is smaller.

Tomorrow’s blog post will begin by discussing the enforcement of spousal maintenance orders

One thing about spousal maintenance orders that you need to keep in mind is that the order is only as good as the person who has to pay you. If you cannot expect that money to be paid on a month to month basis, then the order itself is not worth anything of value to you. Enforcement lawsuits concerning spousal maintenance will be our blog post topic tomorrow.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about the material that we shared with you today please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office. These consultations are a great opportunity to learn more about your case and our office in a comfortable, pressure-free environment.

It is our great privilege to represent the people of our community in courts across southeast Texas. While no two cases are the same, the level of experience and the number of attorneys we employ are unmatched in our area. We are a short drive from most any part of the Houston area and look forward to serving you and your family.

Would a Divorce Go to Trial? Understanding the Process in Texas Family Law Cases

When it comes to divorce proceedings, one question that often arises is whether the case will go to trial. The decision to take a divorce to trial is significant, as it can have long-lasting implications for both parties involved. In this article, we will delve into the factors that may lead a divorce case to trial and explore the various aspects of the trial process in Texas family law cases.

Mediation: Seeking Resolution Before Trial

Before we dive into the trial process, it's important to understand that divorce cases often begin with attempts to settle through mediation. Mediation is a process where both parties and their attorneys meet with a neutral third-party mediator to discuss and negotiate the terms of their divorce. This approach allows couples to have more control over the outcome and can help avoid the time, expense, and emotional toll of going to trial.

Negotiation Strategies and Temporary Orders Hearings

During the mediation process, negotiation strategies come into play. Each spouse and their respective attorneys will present their positions and attempt to find common ground on various issues, such as child custody, property division, and spousal support. These negotiations can significantly impact whether a case proceeds to trial.

In some instances, temporary orders hearings may be held to establish guidelines for child custody, visitation, support, and other immediate matters while the divorce is ongoing. These hearings provide a glimpse into what a trial might entail but differ in scope and purpose.

Preparing for a Family Law Trial

If a settlement cannot be reached through mediation or negotiation, the case may proceed to trial. Preparation for a family law trial is crucial and involves several key steps. First, both parties and their attorneys review the discovery responses, including the evidence, arguments, and strengths/weaknesses each side presents. This review helps attorneys strategize and determine the necessary steps to present a compelling case.

Evidence Admissibility and the Concept of Hearsay

One critical aspect of a trial is the admissibility of evidence. The rules of evidence restrict the use of certain information. For example, hearsay, an out-of-court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted, is generally not admissible. Personal testimony based on firsthand experiences and observations is typically permitted, while hearsay statements are often excluded. Not all documents, text messages, emails, or social media posts related to the case can be utilized as evidence.

The Role of an Associate Judge in Texas Family Law Cases

In Texas family law cases, it is common for an associate judge to preside over the trial. The district court judge selects an associate judge and has the authority to issue decisions regarding the trial. However, these decisions can be appealed to the district court judge within a specified time frame.

Consequences of Failing to Respond to a Lawsuit: Default Judgments

There are consequences when a spouse fails to respond to a divorce lawsuit. Even if one party is uncooperative or chooses not to participate, the divorce can still proceed. This is made possible through a default judgment, which allows the court to grant custody orders, possession orders, property division, and even finalize the divorce. However, suppose the opposing party becomes aware of the order within a certain period. In that case, they can file a motion for a new trial, potentially leading to a reevaluation of the case.

Custody Orders, Possession Orders, and Property Division in Trial Settings

In a trial setting, custody orders and possession orders take center stage. The court carefully evaluates the child's best interests and makes determinations regarding custody and visitation arrangements. Property division is another significant consideration during trial proceedings, with Texas law providing specific guidelines and principles for the division of marital assets and debts.

Spousal Maintenance (Alimony) Eligibility and Requirements

Spousal maintenance, known as alimony, may be awarded in certain cases. Eligibility for spousal maintenance in Texas depends on several factors. For instance, a spouse must demonstrate an inability to meet their minimum basic needs with their current income alone. Additionally, family violence, physical or mental impairments, or a lengthy marriage can influence the court's decision regarding spousal maintenance.

Eligibility Criteria


Inability to meet minimum basic needs

Demonstrating that your income alone cannot cover your essential living expenses.

Family violence conviction

Showing that your spouse has been convicted or received deferred adjudication for an act of family violence against you or your child.

Physical or mental impairment

Establishing that you have a physical or mental condition that prevents you from earning enough to meet your basic needs.

Length of the marriage

Being married for more than ten years and proving that you lack the ability to earn sufficient income on your own.

Caregiver for a child with special needs

Demonstrating that you are unable to work due to providing around-the-clock care for a child with a physical or mental impairment.

Duration and Calculation of Spousal Maintenance

The duration of spousal maintenance awards can vary depending on the length of the marriage. In Texas, the court aims to award the shortest length of spousal maintenance possible, with longer marriages often resulting in longer durations of support. The spousal maintenance payments are typically capped at $5000 or 20% of the paying spouse's gross monthly income, whichever is smaller.

Enforcement of Spousal Maintenance Orders and Potential Challenges

While spousal maintenance orders provide a legal framework for support, their effectiveness depends on the paying party's compliance. Enforcing spousal maintenance orders can sometimes be challenging, especially if the obligated party fails to make payments as required. In such cases, enforcement lawsuits may be necessary to ensure the recipient receives the financial support they are entitled to.


Picture this: the dramatic courtroom, the tension thick in the air, and you, the protagonist of your own family law saga. Will your divorce journey lead you to an exhilarating trial? The answer is a resounding yes! But fear not, intrepid reader, for we have equipped you with the knowledge and tools to navigate this thrilling adventure.

We've explored the wonders of mediation, where couples attempt to find common ground like negotiators in a high-stakes hostage situation. Remember, in an ideal world, your case would settle peacefully before the trial stage. But if negotiations falter, the stage is set for a trial like no other.

Preparation is your key to triumph. Just like a master detective, you and your attorney must scrutinize the discovery responses, extracting vital clues and crafting an airtight strategy. Unveiling the mysteries of evidence admissibility, you'll learn the delicate dance of what "gets in" and what's left out, like a well-rehearsed magic trick.

In this courtroom drama, you'll encounter the enigmatic associate judge, the judge behind the curtain, who holds your fate in their hands. Will they be a wise wizard guiding you to victory or a formidable adversary testing your resolve?

But wait! What if your spouse decides to play hooky and ignore the divorce lawsuit? Enter the realm of default judgments, where you can claim your rightful custody, property division, and finalize the divorce. It's like achieving victory by default—cue the confetti cannons!

However, be wary of a plot twist. Your ex-spouse has a limited window of opportunity to file a motion for a new trial, claiming they were caught off guard. Will they seize the chance to challenge your triumph, or will justice prevail?

So, dear reader, armed with this newfound knowledge, you can confidently embark on your family law trial like a hero facing their ultimate quest. Remember, trials are not for the faint of heart, but with preparation, wit, and a touch of legal magic, you can shape your destiny.

Now go forth, brave soul, and may your family law trial be a tale worthy of legends!

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why would a divorce go to trial in Texas?

In Texas, a divorce may go to trial when the spouses are unable to reach a settlement through negotiation or mediation. If there are significant disagreements on issues such as child custody, property division, or spousal support, a trial becomes necessary to have a judge make the final decisions. It allows each party to present their case, provide evidence, and advocate for their interests before the court.

What happens at a Texas divorce trial?

At a Texas divorce trial, both parties present their arguments, evidence, and witnesses before a judge. The judge carefully evaluates the evidence, listens to testimony, and considers relevant factors to make decisions regarding child custody, visitation, property division, spousal support, and other matters. Each party's attorney presents their case, cross-examines witnesses, and argues for their client's desired outcome.

Can you have a jury trial for a divorce in Texas?

No, Texas does not allow jury trials for divorce cases. Divorce matters are heard by a judge who is responsible for determining the outcome based on the facts, evidence, and applicable laws. The judge considers the best interests of any children involved and makes decisions regarding property division, spousal support, and other relevant issues.

Can you get a divorce in Texas without going to court?

Yes, it is possible to obtain a divorce in Texas without going to court. If both parties can agree on all aspects of the divorce, including child custody, property division, and support, they can opt for an uncontested divorce. In such cases, they can prepare a written agreement, submit it to the court, and finalize the divorce without the need for a trial or extensive court proceedings. However, if disputes arise, court intervention may be necessary.

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