Common Family Court Hearings in Texas: Know Before You Go

Last Updated on February 9, 2024 by Turner Thornton

Going to court can be nerve-wracking for anyone, especially when it involves personal family matters. The very thought of sharing details of your private life in a public courtroom can be intimidating and overwhelming.

But the reality is that going to court is often necessary to resolve disputes and protect the interests of the parties involved. In Texas, there are numerous types of family court hearings, all of which serve different purposes. 

In this article, the family law attorneys at Varghese Summersett Family Law Group break down some of the most common family court hearings in Texas, what to expect during these proceedings, and tips on how to prepare.

Family Court Hearings in Texas

Temporary Orders Hearing

A Temporary Orders Hearing is one of the most common family court hearings in Texas, especially when immediate decisions regarding children, property, or finances need to be made. This hearing typically occurs in the early stages of a divorce or child custody case and establishes temporary arrangements until the case can be resolved.

For example, a judge may decide who gets to live in the marital residence while a divorce is pending, who will have temporary primary conservatorship of the children, and who will be paying child support and how much.

During a temporary orders hearing, both parties will have the opportunity to present evidence and make arguments to the judge. The decisions made in this hearing are not final and can be modified later. However, it’s important to be well-prepared for this hearing, as temporary orders can significantly impact family dynamics during the legal process and set precedents that will influence the provisions of a final decree or order. Evidence and arguments presented during this hearing can also set the tone for the rest of the case.

Status Conference

Status Conferences are less formal hearings designed to keep a family court case moving efficiently. During a status conference, the judge may review the case’s progress, set deadlines for exchanging information (formally known as the discovery process), and discuss any issues that could be resolved without a formal hearing. This is an opportunity for both sides to update the court on any developments and ensure that both sides adhere to the procedural requirements of the case.

In many family law cases, clients are not required to attend status conferences, but it typically depends on the judge to which your case is assigned. More often than not, a status conference is a court setting that your attorney can handle on your behalf. If your attendance is required, your attorney will let you know.

Pretrial Hearing

Pretrial Hearings, also referred to as Pre-trial Conferences, are the formal process by which a case is assigned a final trial date. Depending on the court, these conferences occur either with the judge or the court coordinator. Some judges also require clients to be present. If your attendance is required, your attorney will let you know.

In addition to setting the final trial date, the court will also put deadlines in place for conducting discovery, requesting a jury trial, and requesting a custody evaluation (in cases involving children). In courts that require mediation prior to trial, the court will also set a deadline for mediation and encourage the parties and their attorneys to agree on a mediator. 

Before the final trial date, many judges will require attorneys (and sometimes parties) to appear before the court to report on the status of the case. These conferences tend to be more formal and are often the last meeting before a trial. The goal is to streamline the trial process by addressing as many administrative and legal issues as possible beforehand by resolving procedural issues, clarifying the points of contention, and, in some courts, determining what evidence and witnesses will be presented at trial. Pretrial hearings can significantly influence the trial’s efficiency and are a critical time for strategic planning. 

Trial

A trial is the final court hearing in a family court case. At trial, all unresolved issues are presented to the judge or, in rare instances, a jury who will make a final decision. The issues are presented through the parties’ testimony, witness testimony, and the introduction of physical evidence. Once all arguments and evidence have been presented, the judge or jury will deliberate and decide the various contested matters. These decisions can include child custody and visitation, division of property and debts, child support, spousal support, and any other disputes specific to the case.

The judge’s rulings are then formalized in a final order or decree, which legally binds the parties to adhere to the terms set forth by the judge. A final order resolves all outstanding issues in the case, concluding the legal process, except for any future modifications or enforcement actions that may be necessary if circumstances change or if one party fails to comply with the court’s directives.

Prove-Up Hearing

Not all divorces or family law cases are contested. Many are “agreed upon” or “uncontested,” with both parties on the same page about all the issues (sometimes with the help of mediation).

When this occurs, the parties’ attorneys can draft an agreed final decree of divorce (or other order) and file it with the court. While some judges will sign agreed orders without requiring parties to appear, some judges require a “prove-up hearing,” where the parties will answer a few short questions from the judge confirming the agreement. If the agreement satisfies the legal requirements, the judge then approves and signs the agreement, concluding the legal proceedings. 

Prove-up hearings are typically required in cases where one party has defaulted by not responding to or otherwise making an appearance in a case. In a divorce, if a party has not filed a response by the end of the 60-day waiting period, a party can enter a Default Final Decree of Divorce. In any other case (like a Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship or a Modification), a party can enter a default order if the Respondent fails to file a response by the response deadline (the Monday after the 20th day after the party has been served).

At default prove-up hearings, you and your attorney will appear before the District Judge. A court reporter will be present, and your attorney will ask you a series of questions on the record about the terms contained in your proposed order. At the end of the questioning, the Judge may have additional questions or request clarification on some terms contained in your order. As in the cases of agreed orders, if the judge believes that your order satisfies the legal requirements, the judge will then approve and sign the order, concluding the legal proceedings.

Modification Hearing

After a family law matter is finalized, there may be times when changes in circumstances or situations require a modification to the original court order. These modifications almost always involve issues regarding children. In these cases, a modification hearing is held to determine if there are legitimate reasons for modifying, or changing, the existing court order. Some common reasons for modification hearings include changes in financial situations that affect child support, relocation of one party to another state that affects child custody, or changes in the children’s needs that affect visitation schedules.

As with most other court hearings, both parties will have the opportunity to present their case, including evidence and witness testimony, to support their positions. After considering all the evidence, the judge will make a decision. The judge may grant the modification if it’s believed that there has been a material and substantial change in circumstances and it’s in the best interest of the child.

Child Support Modification Hearing in IV-D Court

One of the most common family court hearings in Texas are child support modifications in IV-D Court – commonly referred to as “child support court.”  IV-D courts are specialized courts in counties across Texas that handle child support cases that originate from the Office of the Texas Attorney General.  These hearings are held when a parent seeks to modify the child support order due to a significant change in circumstances, such as a change in income, employment status, or the child’s needs. The Office of the Attorney General also conducts automatic reviews of child support every three years, which necessitate these types of hearings. 

As with any other court hearing, both parties will have the opportunity to present evidence and arguments to support their position for a change in child support. The court will review the new evidence and decide whether to adjust, or modify, the child support order accordingly.

Enforcement Hearing

Court orders are an essential part of all divorce and family law cases, establishing clear guidelines on property division, child custody, support, visitation, and other issues. When one party fails to comply with a court order,  such as not paying child support or violating a custody agreement, the other party can file a motion for enforcement, asking the court to enforce their order. An enforcement hearing is then scheduled where both parties will present evidence and arguments regarding the alleged non-compliance with the court order. The judge will then render a decision. If a violation is found, the court can take enforcement action, which may include fines, community service, or in extreme cases, jail for contempt of court.

We hope you found this information helpful. These are some of the most common family court hearings in Texas, but this is certainly not an exhaustive list. Other types of hearings may be necessary depending on the specific circumstances of a case. If you are facing a court hearing of any kind, it’s imperative to have an experienced family law attorney guide you through the process.  Varghese Summersett Family Law Group can help.

We hope you found this information helpful. These are some of the most common family court hearings in Texas, but this is certainly not an exhaustive list. Other types of hearings may be necessary depending on the specific circumstances of a case. If you are facing a court hearing of any kind, it’s imperative to have an experienced family law attorney guide you through the process.  Varghese Summersett Family Law Group can help.

Texas Family Court Hearings: Quick Guide

Hearing TypeDescriptionPreparation Tips
Temporary Orders HearingOccurs early in divorce or custody cases to establish temporary arrangements for children, property, or finances until final decisions can be made.Be well-prepared, as temporary orders can significantly impact family dynamics and set precedents that will influence the final decree or order.
Status ConferenceA court setting where the judge will review case progress, set deadlines, and discuss issues that could be resolved without a formal hearing.Your attorney may handle this on your behalf; clients aren’t always required to attend.
Pretrial HearingMore formal than a status conference, it addresses procedural issues and clarifies points of contention before trial.Strategic planning with your attorney is critical; often the last hearing before trial. 
TrialFinal court hearing where disputed issues are presented to a judge or jury for a final decision.All arguments and evidence are presented; understand the issues at hand and be prepared to testify.
Prove-Up HearingUsed in uncontested cases to finalize agreements on divorce or other orders through a few short questions and judge’s approval.Both parties confirm the agreement voluntarily; may not require parties to appear in person.
Modification HearingHeld to address changes in circumstances that may require modifications to original court orders.Present evidence and witness testimony to support the need for modification based on changed circumstances.
Child Support Modification Hearing in IV-D CourtSpecialized hearings in IV-D courts for modifying child support orders due to significant changes in circumstances.Present evidence and arguments for a change in child support; understand how the child’s needs or income changes affect the case.
Enforcement HearingScheduled when one party fails to comply with a court order Could result in repercussions, including fines or even jail time.Prepare evidence of non-compliance; understand the consequences of enforcement actions.

We hope you found this information helpful. These are some of the most common family court hearings in Texas, but this is certainly not an exhaustive list. Other types of hearings may be necessary depending on the specific circumstances of a case.

If you are facing a court hearing of any kind, it’s imperative to have an experienced family law attorney guide you through the process.  Varghese Summersett Family Law Group can help.

Tips for Preparing for Common Family Court Hearings in Texas

Most people dread going to court, but if you have a court date approaching, it’s important to be prepared. Here’s some tips for preparing so that your hearing goes as smoothly as possible:

    1. Familiarize Yourself with the Issues
      It is critical to have a clear understanding of the legal issues at stake and what you are trying to achieve. This guide is a good starting point, but it’s important to consult with your attorney well in advance of the hearing so you know what to expect.
    2. Gather Documents & Evidence
      Gather all relevant documents and evidence needed to support your position and give it to your attorney. This could include financial records, emails or texts from the other party, or any other evidence related to the issue at hand.
    3. Prepare for Your Testimony
      Being on the witness stand in a courtroom can be a very intimidating experience. Make a list of key points you want to make and practice what you want to say with your attorney or trusted person before the hearing.
    4. Practice Courtroom Etiquette
      Don’t get off on the wrong foot with the judge by being late, dressing inappropriately, or being loud or disrespectful. Get there early, dress professionally, and be polite at all times.
    5. Trust Your Attorney
      This may be your first time in a courtroom, but your attorney is at home there. They are there to guide you through the process and help you achieve the best outcome for your case. Trust them and listen to their advice. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. You can never be too prepared for a court hearing.

Preparation is key, and by following these tips, you can feel more confident heading into your family court hearing.

Facing a Family Court Hearing? Contact Us.

Family law proceedings can be emotionally and legally challenging. That’s why it’s so important to have an experienced family law attorney representing your interests every step of the way. At Varghese Summersett, we have vast experience handling every type of family law hearing in Texas, from temporary orders to modifications, to enforcement.  Contact us today at 817-900-3220 to schedule a consultation and find out how we can help you. We serve clients in Fort Worth, Keller, Southlake, and the surrounding areas.

Fort Worth Family Lawyer

Turner Thornton
Turner Thornton
Turner Thornton is a well-known family law attorney in Fort Worth who leads the Varghese Summersett Family Law Group. Turner has successfully guided hundreds of individuals and families through the most trying period of their lives as a skilled negotiator and savvy litigator. Turner Thornton concentrates his practice on family law, including divorce, child custody, contempt, and modification cases. He is experienced in handling estates with significant and unique assets that can be difficult to value. He finds amicable resolutions where possible to conserve his client's resources, but knows how to take the gloves off if the situation calls for it. He has had remarkable results in and outside of the courtroom based largely on his ability and desire to understand his clients' needs and guide them on the pathway to what success looks like for them.

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