Texas Child Conservatorship Hearings: What to Expect

In a conservatorship and possession (i.e., custody) case, hearings are when parents briefly present information so a judge can decide next steps.

Some cases may not have hearings, while more complicated cases can have multiple.

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Types of hearings

The topic of your hearing determines how long the hearing lasts, what information you present, who speaks and more.

Temporary order hearings

If a parent has requested temporary orders, this is when both sides explain to the judge what the orders should say and why.

Temporary orders provide short-term solutions to parenting disputes that can't wait until the end of legal proceedings.

The hearing can resemble a short trial. Counties usually limit each parent's time to make arguments. They may get as few as 20 minutes or as many as 90.

If parents agree on temporary orders, they can get a judge's approval without a hearing.

Uncontested or default final hearings

Your case is uncontested if you and the other parent reach an agreement on all issues. It's a default case if the other parent doesn't file a response despite having been formally served with court paperwork.

Hearings for uncontested and default cases often last no more than five minutes. You'll present your closing documents to the judge, then answer a few questions or read your testimony. As long as the judge considers your request good for your child, they'll sign your proposed final orders.

Other hearings

Attorneys regularly schedule hearings to ask the judge to rule on something. For example, if only one parent wants a custody evaluation, a judge decides whether to order it in a hearing.

Preparing for your hearing

The impression you give at a hearing could affect you for years. Be sure to prepare thoroughly with your attorney. If you're representing yourself, use all the resources at your disposal.

Well in advance, gather evidence that will support your argument. Focus specifically on the issues being addressed in the hearing, and follow the Texas Rules of Evidence.

Depending on the reason for your hearing, you might present your requested parenting plan and schedule as exhibits so the judge understands what you believe is best for your child. If your hearing is in person, bring enough copies for you, the other parent and the judge.

Hearing procedures

Hearings rarely begin at the scheduled time. Even if the hearing itself is brief, you may spend a significant part of your day waiting to be heard.

Whether they take place online or in a courtroom, hearings are open to the public, except when both parents and the judge agree to limit attendance (which is very rare).

Parents are sworn in as witnesses before the judge asks them questions. If both are testifying, the parent who opened the case (or their attorney) has the first opportunity to speak, followed by the other parent (or attorney).

Tips for hearings

  • Observe other hearings ahead of time, especially ones with your judge.
  • With an attorney or friend, practice answering questions you're likely to receive from the judge.
  • Dress like you're going to a job interview.
  • Don't bring children. If your hearing is online, don't have children in the room.
  • Arrive or log in early.
  • Keep your calendar open for the entire morning or afternoon.
  • Don't talk about the case when you're in or near the courthouse. You never know who might overhear.
  • Assume the judge is unfamiliar with the facts of your case; it's better to tell the judge something they already knew than to skip over something they haven't heard yet.
  • Speak slowly, but don't ramble.
  • Look at your notes to help you gather your thoughts.
  • Ask for clarification if you don't understand a question, and admit when you don't know an answer.
  • Be honest. You are under oath.
  • Show respect to everyone. Never interrupt anyone, and refer to the judge as "Your Honor."

Using technology to prepare for your hearing

Since there are many types of hearings, the evidence you need to prepare for them varies.

You may want to present messages exchanged with the other parent, entries from a parenting journal, a list of child-related expenses and beyond.

The Custody X Change online app lets you create and manage all of these in one place. It helps you prepare for whatever hearings come up in your case.

Take advantage of our technology to get the very best outcome for your child.

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