There are two IV-D Courtrooms in the Family Law center
IV-D Courtroom One is presided over by Judge Steve Owen. His courtroom is on the first floor of the Tarrant County Family Law center. IV-D Courtroom Two is presided over by Judge Clifford Bronson. His courtroom is also on the first floor of the Tarrant County Family Law Center. Each courtroom has their own waiting room. Judge Owen's waiting room is larger, and has windows so you are able to see into the waiting room. As you enter the Tarrant County Family Law center from the Weatherford Street entrance, you will proceed directly to the back of the building. There, you will find the waiting room. Judge Bronson's waiting room is smaller and has no windows. After entering from the Weatherford Street entrance, you will go to the back of the building and turn left. Judge Bronson's waiting room will be on your left, just in front of another security entrance.
Proceed to the correct waiting room and check in.
Each waiting room will have a counter where you will be asked to check in and possibly fill out paperwork. If your attorney is already in the courthouse, they are likely in the designated attorney waiting areas. Cell phone reception is very bad in the Family Law Center so if you need to speak to your attorney prior to the hearing, you will need to make arrangements to meet them after you check in. If you and the other parent do not get along, do not sit near or antagonize them.
The sign that says "You May Be Here All Day" is correct.
In otherwords, do not ask "How long is this going to take?" because honestly, no one knows. Several factors are at play: Are all parties here, are all attorneys here, how many people are in line in front of you, is the Judge here, etc. All these factors can mean that you may not be seen prior to lunch. If you are scheduled to be at the IV-D court, you may be there for one hour or you may be there for five. It is unpredictable, so try to not have any important engagements on the same day as your IV-D hearing.
If you are the custodial parent who is enforcing the child support:
The Office of the Attorney General does not represent you or your child. The Domestic Relations Office does not represent you or your child. You may hire an attorney to represent you if you wish. The OAG and DRO represent the State and County's interest in enforcing child support orders. You will likely be informed by the Attorney assisting in your case of this, but it's important to keep in mind. They will ask you what you want to do and give you the range of options to consider. This can range from serving jail time (commitment) to Judicially ordered participation in various job assistance programs designed to help felons, the disabled and others find work. Usually jail time will not be ordered unless the party is severely behind, or is otherwise belligerent, etc. You may or may not be ordered to attend future court hearings. The attorney for the State or DRO will let you know if you have been excused from future court hearings.
If you are the non-custodial parent who is being asked to pay or is behind on payments for child support:
If you can afford it, hire an attorney to represent you. If you cannot afford it and you are indigent, the Judge may appoint you an attorney (see below section on Court Appointed Attorneys). This attorney will help you understand what the case is about, and how all parties work together. This attorney will also speak on your behalf. Do not bring your new girlfriend/spouse/kids. Come alone, unless you are somehow disabled and need assistance. This case is between you and the custodial parent, and the State of Texas. The Attorney General (or Domestic Relations Office) do not represent the custodial parent. The Attorney General (or DRO) is not out to get you, make your life miserable or any other negative thing. They are an entity endowed with power by the State of Texas to ensure that your child is being supported by both parents. Child support is a payment made in support of your child, not in support of the custodial parent.
What happens when my case is called?
Usually the attorney for the State has met with the attorney(s) for either side and certain options have been discussed. Your attorney may come out and present those options to you, or the State's attorney might talk to you and your ex together to explain the situation. You will be taken back in to an office, where likely you and your ex will be in the same room. Resist any temptation to be emotional and lash out at anyone, especially the Attorney General attorney. The old saying is "You gather more flies with honey" and this is especially true when dealing with the OAG. Attorney General attorneys work very long and very hard hours and they (like Judges) here the same sob stories every day. Do not be surprised if they are not immediately sympathetic to the fact that you can't find a job. You are only the 500th person that week that they've seen that can't find a job. Present your facts, present evidence of looking for a job and avoid emotional outbursts.
What happens if there is no agreement?
A hearing will be held on that day, and a Judge will decide what is best in the situation. For instance: You are the Custodial Parent and you want the Non-Custodial Parent to go to jail because he is 6 months behind on support. The OAG attorney advises that the NCP is eligible for a job-help program and suggests that instead of incarcerating him, you let him have 3 months to cooperate with the program and find a job. You, the CP, disagree with this and want jail time. The OAG will then go and inform the Judge that there is no agreement and you will go in front of the Judge and explain the reasons why you believe that jail time would be an effective means of convincing the NCP to pay. Depending on how the NCP behaves in this hearing will also affect the Judge's decision. Similarly, the NCP can state that he does not want to be enrolled in a job help program and contest that. In that case, a hearing would also need to be held for the Judge to make a decision.
What happens if I don't show up for court?
If you are the custodial parent, the OAG may or may not proceed without you. It will depend on if you have been ordered by the court to be there. If you are the non-custodial parent, you must attend court or risk a warrant for your arrest. It is your responsibility to remember and attend court dates. You may or may not get anything from the Office of the Attorney General for subsequent court dates, after your first court date is held. If you do not have an attorney, the OAG attorney will give you a copy of the court order that tells you when you need to return. It is your responsibility to be there, on time.
What if the Judge appoints me an attorney?
Good question! Because failure to pay child support is an offense that can carry jail time, which is an infringement on your liberty, the Judge must make you aware that you have a right to appointed counsel. You can decline such counsel, but the Judge is going to make sure that you fully understand what you are giving up prior to you being allowed to decline counsel. Court appointed lawyers are fully licensed private lawyers in the community who have told the IV-D Judges that they are open to take appointments. Consider it something close to volunteer work. Court appointed lawyers are paid a (very) minimum fee by the district court system. They are not public defenders and most, if not all of them, also have their own private law practice where they charge a full fee for representation. When the Judge appoints you an attorney it is your responsibility to contact that attorney immediately and request an appointment.
If I am the NCP, can I expect a miracle in my case, ie large arrearages waived?
In general, no. The arrearage can only be waived if a) the custodial parent agrees, or b) you can show proof that you actually paid the money through another means (ie direct payments via money order or check). If you have an attorney, they will do their best to present the proof that you have paid, however the Judge does not necessarily have to accept it, especially if the CP is contesting that you paid anything at all. However, attorneys are not miracle workers and we can only work within the facts of your case. Your attorney should strive to help you maintain a realistic outcome of your case. Remember, politeness and cordiality go a long way. It is unlikely that any one will do you any favors if you are abrasive, demanding or use expletives and inflammatory language towards any opposing party, court or State employee. Treat those around you with respect and it is likely that respect will be shown to you.