When faced with a delicate family law issue, navigating the court system can be overwhelming. As a Texas family law attorney, I understand how difficult it can be to know what to expect throughout the entire process.
If you’ve found yourself wondering, “How does family court work beginning to end?” I want to share with you the basics of Texas family court proceedings to address any questions you may have.
Family Court in Texas: A Step-by-Step Approach
From filing paperwork to a judge making a final decision about your family law case, here are the steps involved.
Step 1: File the Initial Paperwork
The first step in a family law case is filing the necessary petition or complaint. Each type of family law case in Texas has different forms that need to be filed. For example, if you are filing for divorce, you must file a Petition for Divorce.
In any case, you will need to fill out the paperwork, sign it, and file it with the court clerk in your county of residence. This paperwork will request background information about you, your family, and the nature of the dispute.
Depending on the type of case you are pursuing, additional documents may need to be submitted, such as evidence of income or proof of residency.
Step 2: Serve the Respondent
Texas family law cases typically involve two people who are not on good terms. They may need help communicating to sort out their dispute.
In these situations, the petitioner (the person who filed the case) must serve the respondent (the other party involved in the dispute) with a court summons, which is a document that notifies them of your lawsuit and provides court date information.
This step can be completed in several ways, depending on the county, but is typically satisfied through mail or in-person communication.
Step 3: Wait for a Response
After the respondent has been served, you will need to wait for their response. The respondent has a certain number of days (as specified in the summons) to respond or otherwise make an appearance in court.
If they fail to respond to your petition, you may be able to obtain a default judgment. The court will automatically rule in your favor since the respondent failed to appear. However, if the respondent files a response, the case will proceed to the following steps.
Step 4: Participate in Discovery
Discovery is a process that allows the parties involved to exchange information in order to prepare for trial. This process typically includes exchanging documents, such as financial records or emails, and depositions (oral testimony recorded under oath).
In Texas family law cases, discovery is a crucial step as it helps the court understand all relevant facts to make a fair ruling. The parties involved in the case are allowed to request documents and information from one another, but they must comply with the rules of discovery set forth by the court.
For example, if a party fails to provide certain requested documents, the court can issue sanctions against them.
Step 5: Settle or Go to Trial
In many family law cases, the parties involved are able to come to an agreement outside of a court hearing. This result is known as a settlement, which can resolve the dispute without needing a trial. Settlements are generally faster, less expensive, and allow the parties involved to have more control over the outcome of their case.
If the parties cannot come to an agreement, then the case will proceed to trial. During a family law trial, each party involved can present evidence and argue their case before a judge.
The judge will then make a ruling based on the evidence presented and issue the final order. Depending on the nature of your case, the order will include details such as:
- The official parenting plan
- Child support order
- Divorce decree
- Other family law agreement
Types of Family Law Cases You May Find Yourself In
Family law cases can involve any dispute that is related to familial relationships. Disputes include divorces, child custody/support disputes, adoption proceedings, protective orders, and enforcement or modification of existing orders. Let’s take a closer look at the most common types of cases.
Divorce cases are common family law matters that involve the dissolution of a marriage. Court proceedings for divorce cases typically involve determining how assets will be distributed as well as setting up child custody and support arrangements.
Child custody and visitation cases involve determining the living arrangements for minor children and setting up a plan for parental visitation rights. This type of dispute is often one of the most contentious issues in a family law case.
Judges must take into consideration what is in the best interests of the child when making their final decision about the custody order.
Child support cases involve determining the amount of money a non-custodial parent is responsible for paying the primary custodial parent to financially support the child.
The amount of child support is determined based on each parent’s income and other factors, such as the number of children involved.
If either parent wishes to adjust the child support arrangement after it is ordered by a judge, they may need to return to court and request a modification. And, if the paying parent fails to make payments, the other parent can file an enforcement action to collect the unpaid support.
Proceedings for adoption in Texas are used to establish the legal relationship between a parent and a child who is not biologically related. The court will consider the child’s best interests when deciding if adoption should be granted.
Protective orders are used to protect victims of domestic violence by restricting the abuser’s access to the victim. The court can order that the abuser stay away from certain locations or people or refrain from any contact with the victim.
There are several types of protective orders in Texas, including temporary, emergency, and permanent orders. [Find out how to obtain the legal protection you need on this page.]
More Answers on How Does Family Court Work Beginning to End
No matter what type of family law case you find yourself in, it is vital to seek the advice of a qualified attorney such as myself. With the help of a knowledgeable Texas family law attorney, you can get the guidance you need to protect your rights and improve your odds of receiving a fair ruling.
I understand you may have more questions about specific steps in the process or certain family law disputes. I am glad to answer your questions like, “how does family court work beginning to end?” and other questions you may have.
Or, if you are ready to start discussing your family law situation, you can also contact my office for a legal consultation. I currently help clients in Fort Bend County, Brazoria County, and Harris County. Reach out to me if you live in one of these counties.
I can help you navigate the family court system and fight for the best possible outcome for your case. Call my offices at 281-944-5485 or 979-267-7660 to discuss your case.