A custody trial is the final stage in your Houston divorce case where you and your spouse fight over who should have the primary residence of your children. In this situation, your case will be decided by a judge or jury. Judge trials are shorter than jury trials and typically less expensive; however a jury trial may give you a better opportunity for you to prevail. A custody trial is the culmination of many months of legal fighting that often is stressful, expensive and time-consuming. At the same time if you can afford it AND you believe that the best interest of your children is truly at stake, then it may be your best choice. Custody trials are almost always justified when the evidence is strong that the other parent would provide an unsafe environment or an environment that would seriously endanger the physical or emotional well-being of your children in the long haul. The following is a step-by-step outline of a custody trial (or divorce trial) from start to finish. The only step that we did not include is a possible posttrial appeal, which would happen only if you or the other parent doesn’t like the result and wants to challenge it.
Traditional Family Law Litigation is when you fully expect for your case to be decided by a judge or jury. We file your lawsuit serve your spouse with papers, and expect an answer from your spouse Or you get served and we file an answer. A Temporary Restraining Order is often issued with the petition to keep you, your property and children protected. A temporary orders hearing usually follows the service. At that hearing, the status quo is normally preserved, unless one of you needs to move out with or without the children. In that case, often a custody hearing is included with the temporary hearing. The judge decides if you get temporary custody of the children, who moves out of the house, who pays what bills, and how much child support you pay or receive. The ORDERS judge makes include temporary injunctions, which are similar to temporary restraining orders.
Michael Hiller will aggressively help you fight through this 1st phase of the litigation, and then discovery begins. Discovery includes written questions and requests for documents and things, as well as psychology, property and businesses evaluations of the parties, the children, your property and businesses. We will take depositions (oral questions with a court reporter present) if needed to more intensely discover information.
After discovery is complete, we begin getting you and your case ready for final trial. That trial is before s judge or jury, and is usually 6-12 months out from the first filing. All along we may try to negotiate partial settlements of the dispute, while fully protecting yours and your children’s rights. These negotiations will likely include mediation.
Michael Hiller, his staff, and other attorneys he involves will aggressively fight for you all along these 3 phases. He of course will advise you from the beginning of your options, including reconciliation, pre-suit private investigation, collaborative law and other options. If litigation is the best option, for example when your spouse or ex cannot be trusted, that’s the path we will pursue.
Based in Houston, Texas, Michael Hiller has practiced law and handled Houston divorces since 1989.