10 TIPS FOR GOING TO COURT IN HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS
By: Marilyn Gale Vilyus
If you have a Family Law case (ex. Divorce, child support, adoption, contempt, C.P.S., Attorney General or modification, etc.) in Harris County, here are some things you should know!!!!
1. Your case will be heard in one of these buildings:
Always bring your PAPERWORK (the petition or documents you were served or the letter you received telling you the date and time of your hearing) with you.
If you have an attorney, he or she will tell you exactly where to meet him or her! It could be in the snack bar in the basement so you can discuss your case!
These documents will also contain your CASE NUMBER and the number of the COURT (ex. 310th, 308th, etc.) in case you end up in the wrong building.
2. Allow time for traffic and to find a parking space:
There are several lots and garages surrounding the courthouses but they fill up quickly close to 8:00 a.m.
Allow yourself additional time to walk from where you parked to the courthouse. Give yourself enough time in case you go to the wrong place!
3. Bring your cell phone with you:
Make sure it is charged. Have the PHONE NUMBER for your particular court and the CASE NUMBER readily available to you in the car while you are driving. (DO pull over before you make the call.)
It is CRITICAL that you call the Court and let them know if you will be late or a default could be taken against you!
THIS MEANS YOUR CASE COULD BE SETTLED AGAINST YOU BECAUSE YOU DID NOT SHOW UP ON TIME!
In certain enforcement cases, a capias could be issued for your arrest!
4. You will have to pass through security:
Think airport!!!! You will be asked to remove shoes/boots, belts, keys, jewelry, etc. Be aware that long lines can occur -– especially close to 8:00 a.m.
5. The buildings are connected by a tunnel system:
This is helpful if it is very cold or raining, as well as when it is very hot! Also, there are not usually lines to get through security on the basement level. You can enter the tunnels from the basement of any of the court buildings, also from the jury assembly building.
6. Dress appropriately:
It won’t do you any good to be on time if the bailiff kicks you out of the courtroom!!!!
Stay away from shorts and flip-flops! Your attorney will appreciate it (and you should know this if you are representing yourself)! if you think “Sunday church clothes," you will be on the right track! Ladies, please do NOT wear clothes that are too revealing, too tight or too sexy! Guys, this is NOT the time to show your “rebellious" personality! (Trust me on this!!!!)
7. Schedule your day so that you have enough time for your case to be heard:
If you are just “proving up your DIVORCE DECREE” (when you have a signed decree,) and you arrive at court by 8:00 a.m. and have turned in all of your forms and paperwork, then you will probably be done before the 9:00 docket is called!
Sometimes you “get stuck” and have to wait for the docket to be called. This could happen because you did not have all of the forms you needed. You might call the Court or go in person ahead of time to find out exactly what forms will be required. You should also be aware of Court requirements regarding electronic filing.
If you are coming for a TEMPORARY ORDERS HEARING, the Judge will ask you to step into the hallway to see if you can come to an agreement. This can take some time, depending on how many issues are involved. If an agreement can’t be reached, a hearing will either be held – or you may be asked to come back on a different day! These hearings can be short or they can take several days, depending on how complicated the issues are (custody, abuse, etc.).
The same holds true if you are going to trial for your DIVORCE.
Ask your attorney how long he or she thinks you should expect so that you can give your employer a reasonable idea.
Pay careful attention to the TIME your hearing is scheduled to begin:
Be aware that attorney general cases and C.P.S. cases are often called early – before the 9:00 docket, often as early as 8:00 a.m. Also, some court dockets occur at 9:30 a.m.
9. No Attorney:
If you do NOT have an attorney, FOLLOW YOUR PAPERWORK!!!!
If you are in a court in the new CIVIL COURTHOUSE, LOOK FOR SIGNS ON THE DOOR OF YOUR PARTICULAR COURT which may direct you to another office before going to the actual courtroom.
10. Electronic Filing
Be aware that Courts have gone paperless and require that ALL MOTIONS and DOCUMENTS be ELECTRONICALLY FILED! Many an attorney used to practicing law in a different county has shown up in Harris Court only to discover that his Motion for Continuance will not be heard because he did not file it electronically before hand – and, the same goes for your Final Divorce Decree and other orders and documents!
Keeping the above “hints” in mind will help your court experience in Harris County, Texas go more smoothly!!!!!