What To Expect in your Tarrant County Family Law Center Temporary Orders Hearing
So you're scheduled for a temporary orders hearing. This has come about one of two ways: either you filed a court action, or you've had one filed against you. Neither position is one you'd like to find yourself in, but there are several things you can do to make yourself feel more comfortable. This guide is primarily for those who find themselves proceeding without an attorney, or "Pro Se". That being said, my first piece of advice is:
Hire an attorney, ESPECIALLY if the other side has done so. You may have rights you aren't even aware are being trampled on. Remember, your husband or wife's attorney has been hired to represent THEM, not protect you. While Texas has a code of behavior that is binding on all attorneys, opposing counsel has been retained to protect their client, not you. Don't rely on someone else's attorney to protect you.
Be organized. I'm a big fan of lists. Make a list of what you want out of the hearing. Pretend this is a final hearing and this is your last shot at options. Make two lists, a best case scenario and a worst case scenario list. You want to end up somewhere ideally in the middle if not with your best case scenario.
Bring documentation. If you're being acccused of not paying child support, or not visiting the child, bring proof that you have. Bring everything, even what you think might not matter, and make copies. I generally have at least three copies of everything with me. One for the Judge, one for opposing counsel or the other party. That way you never have to give up the only copy of something you have.
Dress properly. No shorts. No flipflops. You want to make a good impression on the Judge so business casual is appropriate. If you don't have a pair of khakis or slacks and can't afford to buy new clothes, a nice clean pair of jeans that aren't torn or ripped is fine, but wear a button down and collared shirt if you're a guy and a nice blouse if you're a woman. Conversely, if you're saying you can't afford to pay more child support or if you're asking for more, leave the designer brands at home, even if they're fake. Nothing says "Liar" like appearing in court with D&G sunglasses on your head. Be mindful of the way you want to appear. Court is not a fashing show, it is the place where a judge is going to decide your future.
Turn your cell phone off. Bottom line. Don't play with it, most bailiffs in the Tarrant County Family Law Center are going to tell you to put it away. The Judges don't want to see them. Keep it in your pocket or purse turned off or on silent. They will take them away from you if your phone goes off in the courtroom.
Park in the parking garage. The metered spaces look tempting, but Fort Worth has a very zealous patrol of traffic police who will ticket you, so unless you want to be in court for 4 hours wondering if your meter is running out, park in the garage. At most, you'll pay $8. The parking garages does not take credit or debit cards, so bring cash or a check book.
Arrive on time or early. Most docket calls in TC are at 8:30 am. Be there early to avoid that last minute stress. If you're stuck in traffic, call the bailiff of the court you're in. It will most likely be an Associate Court room. The phone numbers are all iisted on TC's webpage, so make sure you have the number handy. Speak to the bailiff respectifully and tell them your name, cause number and reason for being late. Remember, the Bailiff works closely with the Judge. They will note if you are disrepectful and that may make it to the Judge's ears. You want the bailiff to have a neutral to positive opinion of you.
Courtrooms correspond to the floor you're on. If your court number ends in an even number, you're on the 4th floor. If the number ends in an odd number you're on the 5th floor.
Check in with the bailiff once you arrive and let them know you are here. They will either tell you to have a seat or let you know if the opposing party has arrived.
You may at that point be directed to meet with opposing counsel to see if an agreement can be reached. If no agreement can be reached a hearing will be held.
If a hearing must be held, don't be afraid. If you have no attorney, the Judge will most likley ask you questions directly. He or she may ask you to state what you want, which is where your list will come in handy. The judge may cut you off or not allow you to speak. Don't be flusterd and do not try to talk over the Judge. Do not get angry at the Judge as that will get you nowhere. Remain calm and collected and speak when the Judge addresses you. Being respectful and calm goes a long way in the TC court system and can get you further than you'd think. Avoid being overly dramatic, but state your facts calmly.
Remember that the outcome is temporary. It may not be what you want, but it's not final. You have the right to appeal an Associate Judge's rulings, but in order to do so, you must act quickly.
Good luck. Remain calm, you can do this.