How Does A Custody Case Work In Texas?

The Beginning-The Initial Filing

After hiring a child custody attorney in a contested custody case, an Original Petition In Suit Affecting Parent Child Relationship is filed on your behalf. If a custody order has already been rendered by a custody case court, or has been rendered as a result of a paternity suit, prior custody suit, or child support action by the Texas Attorney General's office, then you must file a suit to "modify" the existing prior order. Your case is then randomly assigned to a District Court or County Court at Law (if your county has one) in the county in which you live. If there is a prior order which is being modified, the Motion to Modify that order must be filed in the Court that made the last valid order. The Bloodworth Law Firm, P.L.L.C., handles contested custody cases all over the State of Texas, however, we concentrate our practice in several Southeast Texas counties: Montgomery County, Walker County, Harris County, Polk County, San Jacinto County, Trinity County, Grimes County, Madison County, and Leon County, Texas. After the Petition is filed, a copy of the Petition is served on you're the parents of the children and any other persons with Court Ordered relationships with the child(ren) by a process server. If parents or other party files the Original Petition or Petition to Modify, you must file an "Answer" as well as a "Counter-Petition." It is usually of little legal consequence which party files first.

Temporary Restraining Orders

The Bloodworth Law Firm, P.L.L.C., will also advise to serve a Temporary Restraining Order on other party when the custody case is filed. This is a common practice. In fact, many courts have adopted 'Standing Restraining Orders' that become effective the moment a custody case is filed, whether you ask for a Temporary Restraining Order or not. A Temporary Restraining Order, or "TRO," is not the same thing as a criminal 'protective order', and does mean there has been any misbehavior by you. A TRO is a series of prohibitions that require both parties to maintain the current status (status quo) of their conduct toward each other. All parties before the court are enjoined from disturbing the peace of the child, hiding or secreting the child from the other party, destroying any property belonging to the child or documents that may be relevant in the custody case, changing the children's school or daycare, destroying the child's clothing, cherished possessions, or sentimental items, among other restrictions. The purpose of the TRO is to prevent one party from making any large changes without the consent of the other party. The Bloodworth Law Firm, P.L.L.C., will always try to keep the process as simple as possible. Filing a TRO helps to prevent bad conduct and contributes to a peaceful resolution of the custody case.

The Temporary Orders Hearing

If you and the other party cannot agree on where the child(ren) should live, what visitation a party should have with the child, or who should pay child support; a Temporary Order hearing may be necessary. In a Temporary Orders Hearing, which is designed to be short, a judge will hear from the parties and possibly other witnesses which are necessary for the judge to make a temporary ruling on issues like temporary child custody, and child support. The temporary order ruling the judge makes is not final, but will only remain in place until the custody case is finalized or if circumstances change significantly. Many people can come to a temporary agreement without having a temporary order hearing, some courts, especially those in Montgomery County, require that the parties attend "mediation" before a Temporary Orders Hearing. Many times, parties who request a temporary order hearing, have discussions at the courthouse while awaiting their turn for a hearing and reach agreement on all the issues in their custody case. If this happens, some judges will allow the parties to testify as to the terms of their agreement and if their agreement is approved by the judge, that agreement can be made a Final Order and the case is over. In this way, many times parties who asked for and attended a Temporary Orders hearing get their custody case faster than people who just file for custody and do not request temporary orders.

Discovery

For many custody case cases, especially those who have a lot of "he said, she said" factual disputes regarded past events which are the reason for the modification of custody, 'discovery' is a critical portion of the contested custody case process. Trial by "ambush" is not allowed in Texas, unless you fail to exercise your right to conduct 'discovery'. "A smart lawyer doesn't ask a question at trial that he doesn't already know the answer to." The way the lawyer gets those answers is by doing 'discovery'. During the discovery process both sides can ask questions, in writing(Interrogatories) and in person(Depositions), and request documents from the other party. Your lawyer will work with you to prepare your documents, if they are requested, as well as review and explain the documents provided by your party. By conducting "discovery," and spending valuable time examining the information provided, you and your attorney can many times obtain documents, papers, and things to be used as exhibits at trial. Many times, you discover valuable information, in the discovery phase, that dramatically increases your opportunity to win at trial. If you, for whatever the reason, do not spend the time and money on the discovery phase, you may be unable to determine if the settlement offer made to you is "fair" because you cannot determine if a 'deal' is really a "good deal" for you if you don't know the total that was available to be included in the deal.

Mediation

Many courts require mediation, as part of the process of custody case. Mediation, is a process where a neutral third party, called a mediator, who has specialized training in helping people resolve disputes, will help the you and your opponent reach an agreement. Your attorney will be present during mediation to protect your legal rights and help you negotiate effectively. Agreements reached during the mediation process are binding and enforceable. If the parties agree, the parties can decided to make the mediated settlement agreement "Irrevocable," then when the Irrevocable (Unchangeable) Mediated Settlement Agreement is signed, neither party can change his/her mind. This is why you will probably want to conduct the 'discovery' aspect of your case, and take your time to make certain you are fully aware of the full impact of any agreement that you make, before you make it, and are prepared to live with it.

Final Trial

In the event the parties cannot reach an agreement; a final trial be held. At the final trial, all the issues and evidence will be presented to a judge or a jury for a decision. William Douglas Bloodworth II, is a very experienced trial lawyer who can help you effectively prepare and present your side of the story, to a judge or a jury. Mr. Bloodworth, is comfortable in the courtroom, and is not afraid of anyone. William D. Bloodworth II, is an accomplished public speaker, trial strategist, and has successfully battled some of the largest law firms in the nation, obtaining very favorable and satisfying verdicts and results for his clients. Call the Bloodworth Law Firm, today to schedule an appointment to discuss your case; or E-mail the Bloodworth Law Firm, P.L.L.C., today, and put a passionate, prepared, and effective attorney working for you today!