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How COVID-19 Could Affect Your Family Law Case

Court Basics

The Texas Supreme Court has issued several emergency orders that affects all trial courts. See Court Closures, Orders, Postponements, and Updated Procedures Due to COVID-19. This article explores how those orders affect family law cases.

Are the courts operating differently due to the pandemic?

Yes, Texas courts are taking precautions due to COVID-19. The Texas Supreme Court has issued orders and guidance for how courts should operate right now. See the Texas Supreme Court's emergency orders.

Also, read your court’s local rules and standing orders. Local rules are important, because some courts may have specific guidance about what to do in this situation. TexasLawHelp is regularly updating its coronavirus-related material about court operations during the crisis.



Can I finish an agreed family law case?

Possibly. Some judges are accepting Prove-Up Affidavits for agreed family law cases in lieu of holding a prove-up hearing. Many of the toolkits for agreed family law cases on TexasLawHelp now include prove-up affidavit forms.

Other judges may choose to hold a virtual prove-up hearing. Read Virtual Court to learn how it can work. Also, in some cases, you might be able to participate by telephone if videoconferencing is not available.

A few Texas courts are not requiring hearings at all for cases that are simple and 100% agreed, but you should check with the court to see how it is being handled in your jurisdiction. 

What if my case is contested?

Each court has its system and requirements for setting contested hearings. Check your court’s local rules and contact the court administrator with any questions about setting hearings. See Court Closures, Orders, Postponements, and Updated Procedures Due to COVID-19

If you are not sure whether or not your case is contested, see:

Can I finish my case by default?

The Texas Supreme Court’s emergency order allows courts to modify or suspend all deadlines for a stated period ending no later than 30 days after the governor’s state of disaster has been lifted. This means that some judges may be extending the time a respondent has to file an Answer to a family law case. So, you may be unable to finish your case by default. You will need to check with the court to see if they are scheduling default hearings.

Will I be able to schedule a hearing for my case?

Courts are still holding both essential and non-essential proceedings. The Texas Supreme Court has issued orders and guidance for how courts should operate right now. The most recent Texas Supreme Court emergency order encourages courts to continue to use reasonable efforts to hold proceedings remotely, but it permits all courts to hold in-person proceedings. If a proceeding is conducted in-person, the court will follow guidance from the Office of Court Administration regarding social distancing, maximum group sizes, and other safety precautions. 

See the Texas Supreme Court orders. You should check with your court to see what their procedure is for scheduling a non-essential proceeding.

What is an “essential” proceeding?

There is no exhaustive list of essential proceedings, but some examples include: CPS removal hearings, temporary restraining orders/temporary injunctions, and family violence protective orders.

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