OF THE DISTRICT COURTS
JEFFERSON COUNTY, TEXAS
FAMILY LAW PROCEEDINGS
(Effective Upon Approval by the Supreme Court of Texas)
RULES GOVERNING ALL FAMILY LAW
PRACTICE AND PROCEEDINGS
RULE 1.1 Conduct and Courtroom Decorum
Judges and attorneys have a duty to uphold the highest standards of conduct and to earn and promote public respect for the judiciary, the legal profession and the American system of justice. Case disposition shall be accomplished effectively and efficiently consistent with applicable rules for the prompt administration of justice.
The Standards of Professional Conduct in Section IV of The Texas Lawyer’s Creed, as promulgated by the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals are adopted and incorporated herein by reference as guidelines for participating in family law litigation in the District Courts of Jefferson County, Texas.
Male attorneys shall be dressed neatly in business suits or sportcoats, with dress shirt and tie.
Female attorneys shall be dressed in conservative dress or business attire.
All persons in the courtroom during trials and other proceedings shall be attentive to the proceedings and shall refrain from any action that may disrupt the proceedings. Therefore, all persons shall comply with the following:
Except with the permission of the Court, all persons entering the courtroom shall be dressed in clothing reasonably befitting the dignity and solemnity of court proceedings. Tank tops, T-shirts, shorts, thongs, and clothing that is tattered or soiled are among those items of clothing not considered appropriate courtroom attire. No hats, caps or sunglasses shall be worn in the courtroom.
The bailiff of the Court shall enforce the rules of conduct and courtroom decorum.
RULE 1.2 REQUESTS FOR CONTINUANCE OR POSTPONEMENT
No request for a continuance, to pass, postpone or reset any trial, pretrial, or other hearing shall be granted unless counsel for all parties consent, or unless all parties not joining in such request have been notified and have had an opportunity to object.
b. Contents of Motion
Unless counsel for all parties consents in writing to the request for a continuance and the same is approved by the Court, a motion must be filed pursuant to Rule 251, et seq. of The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, or Article 29.01, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, as applicable, and the motion must be accompanied by an order setting the motion for a hearing. Any motion that does not meet these requirements will be denied without prejudice to the right to refile.
RULE 1.3 CONFLICT IN TRIAL SETTINGS
Whenever an attorney has two or more cases on trial dockets for trial at the same time, it shall be the duty of the attorney to bring the matter to the attention of the Courts concerned immediately upon learning of the conflicting settings.
Insofar as practicable, the affected Courts shall attempt to agree upon which case shall have priority.
RULE 1.4 WITHDRAWAL OF COUNSEL
Withdrawal of counsel shall be governed by Rule 10 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, and the following rules.
b. Notice to Client
If another attorney is not to be substituted as attorney for the party, or if the party does not consent to the motion to withdraw, the withdrawing attorney shall notify the client in writing and set the motion to withdraw for a hearing with notice of the date and time of the hearing provided to the client.
All orders granting withdrawal of counsel shall require withdrawing counsel to notify his or her client of all pending settings and deadlines known to withdrawing counsel.
d. No Delay of Trial
Unless allowed in the discretion of the Court, no motion to withdraw shall be granted when it is presented within thirty (30) days of the trial date or at such a time as to require a delay of trial.
RULE 1.5 ALTERNATIVE DISPUTE RESOLUTION
In family law matters, it shall be the policy of the District Courts of Jefferson County, Texas to encourage the peaceable resolution of disputes and early settlement of pending litigation, including family law litigation, by referral to alternative dispute resolution (ADR) pursuant to the Texas Alternative Dispute Resolution Procedures Act, Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Chapter 154.
b. ADR Mandatory
No jury or nonjury trial which is expected to exceed three (3) hours of court time shall be conducted in any case (except juvenile delinquency cases) until all contested issues have been referred to an ADR procedure and ADR has been unsuccessful, or the Court has determined that ADR is inappropriate for the case.
c. Manner of Referral
It is anticipated that the parties shall cooperate in referring such issues to an ADR procedure under terms and conditions as are mutually agreeable, without the need for Court intervention. If the parties are unable to cooperate or agree to a referral of such issues to an ADR procedure, then upon written notification to the Court by one of the parties that efforts to coordinate a referral have been unsuccessful, the Court, without a hearing, shall enter an order of referral to an ADR procedure, and under such terms and conditions selected by the Court.
d. Objection to Referral
If the Court enters an order of referral to an ADR procedure, any party may object to such referral pursuant to Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Chapter 154. Upon the filing of an objection, the Court shall schedule a hearing. If the Court finds that there is a reasonable basis for the objection, the Court shall order that the case not be referred to an ADR procedure and order the case set for trial on the merits.
RULE 1.6 PRIORITY OF JURY CASES
The Courts shall give priority of court time to jury cases, recognizing the personal sacrifices jurors make to further the administration of justice. All jury trials will be conducted with punctuality and dispatch. All cases in conflict with the time allocated to a jury trial shall be re-set or heard in another court upon agreement of the affected courts.
RULE 1.7 FILING OF SUITS
At the time a suit is filed seeking relief from the 279th or 317th District Courts, the District Clerk, with the approval of the Court, shall set the case for a "Status Hearing" by impressing on the first page of the initial pleading a stamp in the form set forth in Appendix 1 hereto which gives notice of the date and time of the Status Hearing.
Suits filed initially by the Attorney General of the State of Texas and suits filed by the Jefferson County Criminal District Attorney do not require a Status Hearing unless specifically ordered by the Court. The District Clerk will not affix a Notice of Status Hearing to such suits.
The Status Hearing will be set approximately 75 to 85 days after the suit is filed. Prior to the Status Hearing, the parties may seek temporary orders, proceed with discovery, set the case for hearings or final trial in accord with the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and these rules.
If the Status Hearing is scheduled for a date when an attorney is unavailable due to a "vacation," it shall be the responsibility of such attorney to reschedule the Status Hearing with opposing counsel and the Court.
d. Scheduling Order
At the time of the Status Hearing, or by agreement prior to the date of the Status Hearing, a Scheduling Order will be entered scheduling the case for trial and setting forth deadlines and agreements of the parties necessary to prepare the case for trial. The Scheduling Order shall be in the form described in Appendix 2.
If an attorney otherwise fails to appear at a Status Hearing without good cause, the Scheduling Order may be entered in his or her absence.
RULE 1.8 APPLICATION FOR EX PARTE ORDERS
Counsel presenting any application for an ex parte order shall, at the time the application is presented to the Court, certify in writing that:
RULE 1.9 TEMPORARY HEARINGS
All temporary hearings shall be set on a date and at a time scheduled by the Court. At the time set for the temporary hearing, counsel shall make an announcement of the estimate of time required to present the case.
An application to the Court for a temporary order and notice of any hearing thereon which is presented by a party responding to an application for temporary orders in which that party is seeking affirmative relief shall be served on the adverse party in accordance with Rule 5 and Rule 21a of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended.
In all matters in issue, the parties shall be granted a reasonable amount of time to present the case. Counsel should request a special setting at the time the application for temporary relief is presented to the Court for scheduling when, because of unusual circumstances, the time allotted for hearings in any particular working day are unworkable or inappropriate. The Court shall determine the amount of time that shall be allotted for the hearing on a case-by-case basis after consultation with the attorneys on the case.
All cases in which counsel announces a settlement shall be heard first. All other cases shall be docketed according to counsel’s announcement, with those matters requiring the least amount of time to be heard first.
In all cases in which temporary support of a spouse and/or the child is in issue, each party shall be required to furnish:
RULE 1.10 SEMINAR FOR PARENTS
All parties in divorce suits involving a suit affecting the parent-child relationship, who are parents of a child the subject of the suit, shall attend and complete an educational seminar or course approved by the Court in which the suit is pending. The Courts of this County have determined that it is in the best interest of children of divorce to require parents to attend a seminar or course to enhance their parenting abilities and to better understand the effects of divorce on children. The content of the seminar or course shall include, but not be limited to:
A course or service taken in compliance with Section 105.009 of The Texas Family Code, as amended, satisfies the requires of this Rule.
Each party shall attend the seminar or approved service of equal value at that party’s sole cost and expense. The fee shall be payable to the service provider at the time of registration. The fee for the seminar shall be reduced or waived in cases of indigence, in the manner provided by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
Each party shall complete the seminar or approved service of equal value within sixty (60) days after the date the respondent parent is served with process or executes a waiver of citation in the case, and prior to a final hearing on the merits of the case.
Each party completing the seminar shall be provided with a certificate of attendance which that party shall present to the referring Court prior to final hearing of the case.
The Court may take appropriate action with regard to a party who fails to attend or complete a course or seminar ordered by the Court, including holding the party in contempt of Court, striking pleadings, or invoking any sanction provided by Rule 215, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
RULE 1.11 PRETRIAL AND TRIAL SETTINGS
Except in settings ordered in Scheduling Order (Rule 1.7d of these rules), settings of contested cases shall be made ONLY upon the dated, written request of any attorney of record by delivering or mailing such request to the Clerk of Court. A copy of the request for setting shall be served, pursuant to Rule 21a, T.R.C.P., upon all attorneys of record in the case and all parties not represented by counsel. The written request shall be in substantially the same form as the form described in Appendix 4.
In the 279th District Court, all uncontested matters will be heard at 8:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. In the 317th District Court, all uncontested matters will be heard at 9:00 a.m., Monday through Friday. Attorneys desiring to have uncontested matters heard at the above times should be in the appropriate court at the appropriate time.
Attorneys desiring to have their uncontested cases heard at the beginning of the morning docket of each Court (8:30 a.m. for the 279th and 9:00 a.m. for the 317th), should contact the Clerk of Court before 3:00 p.m. at least one (1) day prior to the setting.
If there is ANY issue that is not settled, the case will be considered to be a contested case and handled as such.
RULE 1.12 TRIALS IN EXCESS OF THREE (3) HOURS
All trials projected to require more than three (3) hours of court time will require a pre-trial hearing and will require an approved ADR procedure as set out in Rule 1.5 of these rules.
RULE 1.13 INVENTORY AND APPRAISEMENT
In all cases in which the character, value or division of property or debts is in issue, each party shall file, not less than thirty (30) days prior to trial, a sworn inventory and appraisement of all of the separate and community property owned or claimed by the parties and all debts and liabilities owed by the parties. It is recommended that each party file this inventory in a form substantially similar to the form attached as Appendix 5.
After each party’s sworn inventory and appraisement has been filed, the parties shall file a composite inventory and appraisement in a form substantially similar to that attached as Appendix 5, which will include all items on each party’s sworn inventory and appraisement. The petitioner shall initiate the composite inventory and forward it to the respondent for completion not less than seven (7) days prior to trial. The respondent shall complete and file the composite inventory with the Court and serve a copy of the same on the petitioner not less than three (3) days prior to trial. On the composite inventory, each party will indicate in the space provided any asset or liability he or she requests as an award from the Court. All values assigned by the parties will be assumed by the Court to fairly represent the value each party assigns to the asset or liability described.
If a party or the parties fail to prepare and/or file the initial inventory or the composite inventory as required, the Court may conduct a pretrial hearing and make such orders with regard to the failure as are just, including but not limited to, sanctions pursuant to Rule 215(2)(b) of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended.
RULE 1.14 DISCOVERY
In all suits involving child support, each party who is a parent shall furnish to the Court the information described for determination of child support set out in Section 154.063, Texas Family Code, as amended.
In all suits for divorce, the parties may submit a Request for Disclosure in the form of the document described in Appendix 6, subject to sanctions provided for failure to properly reply as set forth in the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
c. Other Discovery
All other discovery shall be obtained by agreement or in compliance with the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
RULE 1.15 ORDERS AND DECREES
Within no more than thirty (30) days after rendition, announcement of the Court’s ruling or announcement of settlement by counsel, counsel shall cause all judgments, decrees or orders of any kind to be reduced to writing, forwarded to opposing counsel for approval as to form, and delivered to the Court for signing. At the end of each hearing or trial, the Court may set a date for receipt of written documents reflecting the judgment or order of the Court.
Upon failure to furnish the Court with a judgment, order or decree disposing of the case within the thirty (30) day period, the case may be dismissed and costs may be taxed at the Court’s discretion.
If counsel is unable to secure all opposing counsel’s approval as to form, counsel may:
RULE 1.16 DISMISSAL FOR WANT OF PROSECUTION
The court may set a "Try or Dismiss" Docket in any month, except June, July or August. All cases which have been on file for more than one (1) year may be dismissed for want of prosecution unless retained on the docket by order of the Court.
The Court, on its own motion, may dismiss a case for want of prosecution. The procedure provided in Rule 165a of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, shall apply.
A case may be dismissed for want of prosecution for any of the following reasons:
TITLE 2. MISCELLANEOUS
RULE 2.1 AUTHORITY FOR RULES
These rules are adopted pursuant to Rule 3a of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, and the constitutional, statutory and inherent powers of the courts to regulate proceedings before them and to provide for the orderly and efficient dispatch of litigation.
RULE 2.2 TITLE AND CITATION
These rules shall be known as the Local Rules of the District Courts of Jefferson County, Texas for Family Law Proceedings.
RULE 2.3 PARTIAL CIVIL INVALIDITY
In the event any of the foregoing rules or any part thereof is held to be invalid for any reason, such invalidity shall not affect the validity of the remaining rules and parts of rules, all of which have been separately numbered and adopted.
RULE 2.4 TERMS
The terms counsel, lawyer, and attorney of record as used in these rules shall apply to an individual litigant in the event a party appears pro se.
RULE 2.5 CONSTRUCTION OF RULES
Unless otherwise expressly provided, the past, present or future tense shall each include the other; the masculine, feminine or neuter gender shall each include the other; and the singular and plural shall each include the other.
RULE 2.6 APPLICATION OF RULES
These rules supersede any prior local rules of practice specific to family law matters in the District Courts of Jefferson County, Texas. These rules shall become effective upon approval by the Texas Supreme Court.
|SIGNED ____9-13________, 1999.|
|Judge, 279th District Court|
|Judge, 317th District Court|
|James W. Mehaffy|
|Judge, 58th District Court|
|J. G. Sanderson|
|Judge, 60th District Court|
|Milton G. Shuffield|
|Judge, 136th District Court|
|Judge, 172nd District Court|
|Judge, Criminal District Court|
|Judge, 252nd District Court|