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How to Set a Contested Final Hearing (Family Law)

If you choose to represent yourself in a Texas family law case, then there are certain processes involved in getting your case inside of a courtroom. Typically, when you hire an attorney to represent you in a divorce or child custody case it is the attorney who will work with the court directly to set up hearings and other courtroom appearances. However, by choosing to represent yourself you are deciding to forgo the assistance of an attorney and instead handle those matters on your own. While there is nothing wrong with this necessarily, you need to be aware of the challenges presented by representing yourself.

What is a contested final hearing in a Texas family law case?

Whether your case is a divorce or child custody case the two of you may be unable to settle the outstanding issues of your case. In that event, you and your opposing party would need to ask a family court judge to make decisions on any issues that you and your opposing party have not settled between yourselves. In this setting, this decision-making would be a contested final hearing or trial. This is where you can present evidence, testimony, and other information to a family court judge to prove a point or make an argument. Today's blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan will focus on providing you with information on how to set your case for a contested final hearing without the assistance of an attorney.

One of the unfortunate issues that we run into as attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan is that many times clients that hire our office have already tried to represent themselves in a family law case. As a result, they have spent some time attempting to Go through the case themselves and accomplish their goals in whatever manner they understand best. As a result, once someone makes a mistake It costs them both time and money. With that said, it is best to consider the likelihood that you will be able to represent yourself adequately in a family law case. Sometimes an idea may sound good in your head but may not be practical or achievable. You would need to examine yourself, your skill set, and your schedule to determine whether or not it would be feasible for you to represent yourself in a family law case. 

One thing that I will point out for you is that your normal schedule and list of responsibilities will not go away simply because you have a family case ongoing. Your family, work commitments, and other responsibilities become no less time-consuming As a result of being involved in a family law case. Simply assuming that you will be able to make time for your other activities while also adequately preparing for your family law case is a major risk to take. With your children and your finances at stake in a divorce and child custody and conservatorships issues at stake in that child custody case, there are certainly a few issues for you to consider. As a result, your best plan may be to hire an experienced family law attorney from our office early in the process.

The importance of filing a counter-petition if you are the respondent

As the responding party to a divorce or child custody case, you may be under the impression that it is your opposing party who can set the case for a hearing. However, that is not true. as the respondent, you can file a counter-petition early in the life of your case that would allow you to set the case for a hearing, as well. What you would need to do in this situation is filed the counter-petition which states what orders you want the judge to make after your case. This also allows you to have the ability to send the case for a final hearing.

No matter if you are the respondent or the petitioner in your family law case you need to be aware that at least 45 days of notice needs to be provided to your opposing party before the final hearing date. it is not appropriate to set the case for a hearing and then wait until the day before the hearing two notify your closing party of the hearing date. Rather, there are some steps that you need to follow to make sure that not only do you provide actual notice long enough before the hearing but that the notice complies with the law in terms of its different requirements. Let's walk through the process of setting up a contested final hearing in your divorce or child custody case.

the first thing that you would need to do is print out a notice of final hearing form. The form that you would need to use can be found on the Internet and would differ depending upon the type of case that you are involved in. Specifically, if you're there was one that did not involve children then your notice of hearing form would be different than if you were going through a divorce with kids. Otherwise, a modification, suit affecting the parent-child relationship, or paternity case would have different types of notice that must be filed.

Once you have completed the notice of hearing you could move on to the next step in the case which would be to contact the county or district clerk's office to learn when the judge you have been assigned to schedules their contested final hearings. Different judges have different times and dates of the week where they hold uncontested and contested final hearings and their family law cases. That schedule may change depending on the schedule of the judge or the needs of the court for the next couple of weeks. As a result, it would be reasonable for you to contact the court ahead of time to find out when and where These final hearings can be set.

Have you attempted to try negotiation with your opposing party?

One of the great missed opportunities that many people failed to take advantage of in their family law case is regarding settlement negotiations with your opposing party. I think that many people in your position may assume that just because they disagree with their Co-parent, spouse, or another opposing party on some issues that there is no room for Negotiation or finding a middle ground on the issues most important to your case.

In some situations, it is not practical for you to do this and may even not be that safe. If you believe that interacting with your opposing party on any level will put your safety or that of your children in jeopardy, then you should not do so. However, what I am talking about relates to the vast majority of those who are reading today's blog post. If your safety will not be put at risk by attempting to negotiate with your spouse, Co-parent, or another party then you should certainly do so. There are many benefits to working out a settlement with your opposing party before going to court. Not the least of which would be not having to worry about setting your case for a final hearing.

In other circumstances when it becomes apparent that you will need to set your case for a final hearing, you should probably reach out to him or her before doing so. Most counties will require that you contact your opposing party to conference with him or her on a date that works for a final hearing. This is important regardless of whether you're opposing party is represented by an attorney. You need to work with your opposing party if he or she is represented by an attorney. There are decent odds that the attorney you are trying your case against has a schedule of their own that is quite a busy period as a result, it would be sensible to check with that attorney before setting the case for hearing. That way you can verify that you are not setting the case for a trial on the date the opposing attorney has other cases or commitments.

 This is one of those situations where you should proceed carefully if there is a protective order in place for your case. You need to realize that even if he wants to avoid going to a trial in your case that you should not violate any protective order that has been created. The creation of a protective order is done to prevent your Party from being able to contact you or otherwise disrupt how you live your life. Even if the protective order protects you and not the other way around you are still in violation of that order if you attempt to reach out to the opposing party. As a result, you would need to tread carefully in this area. For that reason, it is wise for you to consult with an attorney before proceeding period the last thing you want to do is violate a protective order that was created to protect you and your children.

The final step in this process involves scheduling the hearing and notifying your opposing party of the hearing date. It will be wise, if you are representing yourself in the family law case to set your case for a final hearing at least 60 days in the future. Remember that it is required for you to provide your opposing party with at least 45 days of notice before a final hearing. Many divorce and child custody hearings can be completed in less than three hours. However, the circumstances of your case may require a day or longer trial period the difficult part of making this determination from your position is that you are likely inexperienced in terms of being able to estimate how long your trial our final hearing will last.

If you are filling out a notice of final hearing form, then you should do so clearly and be sure to write in the date and time of the hearing. You will also need to fill out the complete physical address of the courthouse. It does not matter if your opposing party has already been in court with you. You cannot assume that he or she knows exactly where to go for this final hearing. That means you should state explicitly the address for the final hearing. Inside of the final notice you should include how much time you estimate the hearing will take both for you and your opposing party. once notice has been completed you should sign and return a certificate of service to the court so that they understand that you have served your opposing party with this information. If your opposing party is represented by an attorney, you can simply fax or email a notice to him or her. It may be wise to send the notice via certified mail to your opposing party if he or she is unrepresented.

How does mediation figure into this discussion?

Mediation can be an important part of avoiding the need to set your case for a final hearing. Most Texas family law cases settle in mediation and do not require you to attend court. However, your ability to take advantage of the resources provided to you through mediation tip end in large part with your preparation and willingness to remain organized in the process. Not being prepared for mediation is certainly a wasted opportunity. In that case, you will be leaving it up to a family court judge to make decisions that will impact you and your family for years to come.

Mediation typically takes place at the office of the mediator. That mediator is usually a former judge or a currently practicing family law attorney. The mediator will be present to provide you and your opposing party with an opportunity to settle your case before a trial. This is done by helping the two of you communicate settlement offers and counter offers as well as to help you create solutions to problems that may have been significant in the life of your case. These mediators do not represent you or your opposing party. However, they can help the two of you recheck consensus on issues that were previously giving you issues. 

Mediation typically takes place at the office of the mediator. You would be in one room with your attorney and your opposing party would be in another room with their attorney. The mediator would bounce back and forth between your rooms like a ping pong ball. He or she would convey submit offers, listen to feedback, and generally try to give their impression of what is happening in this situation.

At the end of the mediation session, the mediator would create a mediated settlement agreement for any issues that you and your opposing party were able to settle. This mediated settlement agreement is not a substitute for court orders. Rather, whichever party is responsible for drafting the orders would take the mediated settlement agreement and create court orders based upon what was agreed upon in mediation. You need to make sure that the mediated settlement agreement accurately reflects what was agreed between you and your opposing party. The last thing you want to do is draft orders based on an incorrect mediated settlement agreement.

Whether it is scheduling your case for a final hearing or setting up mediation all these steps can be made simpler do too having an experienced family law attorney assisting you. You were busy life, and many responsibilities create a situation where you may not have as much free time or flexibility as you would like or need in terms of being able to handle your family law case. This is not a reflection on you or bringing into question your intelligence. Rather, it is simply acknowledging the fact that you have responsibilities that exist beyond representing yourself and a family law case. Additionally, by taking advantage of the services offered to you by an attorney you can usually obtain a more favorable judgment or certainly one that is more well thought out and considered.

The contested final hearing is also complicated in terms of its preparation. You are needing to look through previously filed documents, consider the long-range implications of this decision that you make, and put together a lot of different viewpoints which are competing with one another. 

Questions about the material contained in today's blog post? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you have any questions about the material contained in today's blog post, 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 over the phone and via video. These consultations are a great way for you to learn more about the world of Texas family law as well as about how your family circumstances may be impacted by the filing of divorce for child custody case period


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