This article about uncontested hearings was written by Texas Legal Services Center.
Do all Texas courts approach uncontested family law matters the same way?
No. Texas courts have various approaches to how they handle uncontested matters. One district court in a Texas county might handle uncontested family (and other civil law) matters in a way that differs from how another district court in the same county handles them.
Do some research to determine how to have a particular uncontested matter heard by a certain court in a particular county.
Tip: If you are not sure if your legal matter is contested or uncontested, TexasLawHelp has pointers. See, for example: Is my divorce uncontested or contested?
Who do I ask about uncontested docket?
The best way to start this research is to look at the first page of a petition or another pleading in your case. Usually, the specific court where your case is being handled will be in the top right section of that first page.
For example, it might say:
- In the District Court of Williamson County, Texas, 277th Judicial District (which means that your case is set in the 277th District Court of Williamson County), or
- In the County Court at Law No. 1 of Williamson County, Texas (which means that your case is in the County Court at Law No. 1 of Williamson County).
Then call the court coordinator who works for the court where your case is set. Ask how you can have the court hear your uncontested case. The court coordinator is basically the judge’s right-hand person for handling the caseload and schedule (docket) and managing the court offices.
Listen carefully to what the court coordinator tells you about having your uncontested family law matter considered by the court. Follow the directions to the last detail. Politely ask the coordinator to repeat the information if you do not completely understand what was said.
What if I am representing myself and need an uncontested hearing family law hearing?
Tell the court coordinator that you are handling your case without an attorney (pro se), because the court might have different approaches to handling uncontested matters of pro se litigants (as opposed to uncontested matters handled by attorneys).
What is uncontested family court docket?
If there is an uncontested family court docket, that means the judge hears uncontested family court matters (like divorce and custody) on particular days and times. If you cannot find information on the county's website, ask the court coordinator or law librarian when the uncontested docket is, or if that county has uncontested docket.
Examples of how counties approach uncontested docket:
- You might have to file an agreed motion to request a setting on an uncontested matter at a particular time on a particular day, and you have to submit a proposed agreed order accompanying that agreed motion. TexasLawHelp offers several forms for that purpose:
- Agreed Motion to Set Uncontested Hearing in Divorce
- Order Setting Hearing - Uncontested Divorce
- Agreed Motion to Set Uncontested Hearing - Modification
- Agreed Motion to Set Uncontested Hearing - SAPCR
- Order Setting Hearing - Agreed SAPCR or Modification
- Motion to Set Hearing - Default Divorce, No Children
- Order Setting Hearing - Default Divorce
- Motion to Set Hearing - Default SAPCR or Modification
- Order Setting Hearing - Default SAPCR or Modification
- You ask for a time and day for an uncontested hearing at a time and day that the court regularly hears uncontested matters. Particularly in populous counties, district court family and other civil matters might be heard by a designated district court judge at specific times (such as 8:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.) in a particular courtroom at the courthouse each weekday, with exceptions. With an arrangement like that, you appear at that time with your proposed documents. In some counties, a county law librarian will look over your documents if you submit them in advance before having your matter heard at the uncontested docket to make sure that your documents are in the form the judge will approve. This review may take some time.
There may be other ways that courts handle uncontested matters. These are just some of the approaches.
Do I have to bring my case file to the courtroom?
Ask the court coordinator if the judge would like you to get the court’s case file from the district clerk (district court cases) or county clerk’s (county cases) office and bring it to the uncontested docket. Procedures vary by county.
How do I act at uncontested docket?
Dress appropriately for your court appearance—for example, no shorts or flip-flops. Dress like you would for a job interview or religious service. Silence your mobile phone before you enter the courtroom because most judges do not like ringing phones in the courtroom.
Read Tips for the Courtroom and some other guides that that discuss how to act in court:
- Information for Pro Se Litigants (Harris County)
- Basic Information for Self-Represented Litigants (Hidalgo County)
- Court Policy Regarding “Pro Se” Applicants (Applicants without an Attorney) (Montgomery County)
Be polite and respectful toward the court coordinator and all court staff.
Do I sign in at uncontested docket?
Sometimes, the judge will also want you to place your name on a sign-in sheet of uncontested matters when you arrive at the courtroom. The judge will then call the uncontested matters in the order listed on the sign-in sheet or in the order that the documents (and in some cases court files) were handed to the court clerk or court coordinator in the courtroom.
Again, this varies by county. Ask the court staff about local practices. Or talk to a lawyer who practices in that court.
When do I give my proposed order (like a divorce decree) to the judge?
Usually, the judge will want you to hand the proposed agreed order you would like the judge to sign (and perhaps the court’s file on your case) to the court clerk or the court coordinator at the time that you enter the courtroom.
Should I talk to an attorney before going to uncontested docket?
Yes! An attorney can help you make sure that the process is completed correctly and that your documents are in order. If you can’t afford to hire an attorney to fully represent you, you may be able to hire an attorney just to advise you. This sort of arrangement is called limited scope representation and may allow you to get this limited legal assistance for a lower fee.
This basic overview is not a substitute for the legal advice and counsel of a lawyer. A lawyer is trained to protect your legal rights. Even if you decide to represent yourself, try to talk to a lawyer about your case before filing anything. Use the TexasLawHelp Legal Help Finder tool for help finding a lawyer.
There is a Virtual Self-Help Center that might be able to help you. Also, some counties have self-help centers staffed by attorneys who can help you understand your county court, or even review your documents; for example, the Travis County Law Library and the Harris County Law Library.
This article tells you how to set a contested final hearing in a family law case. FORMS ARE INCLUDED.
This article tells you general information on what to do and not to do in a courtroom.
This article was written by TexasLawHelp.