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Harris County Family Court Update

In light of the current public health concerns related to COVID-19, the Harris County family courts have issued a joint statement (view here) regarding operational changes as a result of coronavirus health and safety concerns. While this uniform statement communicates some of the changes that have been made in Harris County, each individual family court may issue their own policies and procedures to update attorneys and litigants regarding their active cases.

Should you have any questions we can help with, do not hesitate to contact us at 832-781-0320.

Below you will find the most current updates for Harris County.

As of April 1, 2020:

Yesterday, the Harris County family court judges issued a new uniform order laying out their policies during the stay at home order related to COVID-19. The new procedures apply to all Harris County family courts and are in effect until May 8, 2020 unless otherwise extended.

First, the judges clarified which hearings are deemed essential and which are non-essential. Second, the judges laid out which types of matters can be heard on a written submission docket (i.e. no oral hearing). Third, the judges provided guidance on conducting Zoom hearings, contacting the court (most court personnel are working remotely), etc.

We will continue to provide updates as we receive them.

As of March 19, 2020:

Today, Harris County Family Court Administrative Judge Julia Maldonado ordered that a new
“Standing Mutual Temporary Restraining Order” be attached and apply to all news cases filed in the Harris County family courts starting March 19, 2020 and ending May 8, 2020 (unless extended by her order at a later date).

Temporary restraining orders (TRO) are a common occurrence in many family law cases. TROs order one or both parties not to take a particular action(s) until a hearing can be held.

Many courts are rolling out electronic and telephonic hearing guidance and we expect to hear more about how hearings and trials will be work for the next few months soon.

As of March 17, 2020:

245th Judicial District Court

The 245th Judicial District Court has not released any court-specific updates to their policies and procedures, though this court shall follow the joint statement released regarding the hearing and setting of essential and non-essential matters.

246th Judicial District Court

The 246th Judicial District Court have updated their policies and procedures to address current concerns regarding COVID-19, and beginning Friday, March 13, 2020, all in-person uncontested dockets were cancelled until further notice.

Parties and attorneys may utilize the submission docket for uncontested matters, which include prove-ups of agreements, as well as entries of final orders. The 246th Court has communicated that all “non-essential” hearings will be reset.

247th Judicial District Court

The 246th Judicial District Court have updated their policies and procedures effective March 16, 2020. Until further notice, there will be no in-person hearings in the 247th Judicial District Court. All hearings that were set between March 16th, 2020 and March 31st, 2020 will be rescheduled.

Further, beginning on April 1st, 2020, all oral hearings in the 247th shall take place by videoconference. Until a county-wide solution has been implemented, the 247th plans to use a free video-conferencing service, such as www.zoom.com, in combination with a teleconference bridge.

257th Judicial District Court

The 257th Judicial District Court has not released any court-specific updates to their policies and procedures, though this court shall follow the joint statement released regarding the hearing and setting of essential and non-essential matters.

280th Judicial District Court

The 280th Judicial District court has issued fairly comprehensive guidelines and procedures for appearances in that court, in light of the health and safety concerns posed by the COVID-19 virus. For the health and safety of all in court, the 280th court requests that all persons entering the Court must sit 6 feet apart and shall be dispersed through the Courtroom. Further, in the 280th no one shall be allowed within 6 feet of the: Judge’s bench, clerk’s desk, coordinator’s desk, court Reporter’s desk, and the Bailiff’s desk.

In taking a pro-active approach, the 280th has now requested that all persons shall use hand sanitizer before asking to approach these areas and may be asked to put on disposable gloves. According to the guidelines published on the 280th court’s website, persons who appear sick may be asked additional questions and may be subject to further protective measures.

With respect to scheduling in this court, anyone requesting a reset will be given one and the temporary protective order will be extended to the date of the hearing. In light of these developments, all compliance hearings from March 13th, 2020 through April 30th, 2020 will be canceled until further notice.

308th Judicial District Court

The 308th Judicial District Court shall follow the joint statement released regarding the hearing and setting of essential and non-essential matters and has also released their own updated policies and procedures, which began March 16th, 2020.

Until further notice, there will be no in-person hearings in the 308th District Court. All hearings that were set between March 16th, 2020 and March 31st, 2020 will be rescheduled. Beginning April 1st, 2020 all oral hearings shall take place by videoconference. Until a county-wide solution has been implemented, the 308th Court plans to use a free video-conferencing service, such as www.zoom.com, in combination with a teleconference bridge.

309th Judicial District Court

The 309th Judicial District Court shall follow the joint statement released regarding the hearing and setting of essential and non-essential matters and has also released their own updated policies and procedures, which began March 16th, 2020.

The 309th has also clarified their position that the 309th is also under the order on Harris County District Court Inclement Weather, Emergency, and Public Health Scheduling Procedure, which follows Houston ISD school schedules. The 309th indicates that in accordance with HISD policy which has resulted in school closures, therefore, if you have a non-essential matter scheduled your hearing or trial will be passed and you will be contacted by this Court with a new date.

The 309th will only be having in person hearing on essential court matters as listed in the family courts joint statements. We will continue to handle certain matters by submission.

310 th Judicial District Court

The 310th Judicial District Court shall follow the joint statement released regarding the hearing and setting of essential and non-essential matters and has also released their own updated policies and procedures.

This court has also provided the guidance that entries will be considered by submission. Contested entries and cases in which more time is required to complete the final order will be reset by submission.

311 th Judicial District Court

The 311th Judicial District Court shall follow the joint statement released regarding the hearing and setting of essential and non-essential matters and has also released their own updated policies and procedures.

Beginning March 13, 2020, the 311th Court released a new policy regarding prove up of agreements and agreed orders by affidavit or unsworn declaration. While the 311th has not issued any further court-specific policies, the court has communicated that their trial docket for March 23, 2020 will be reset to June 15, 2020 at 9:00 am.

312 th Judicial District Court

The 312th Judicial District Court shall follow the joint statement released regarding the hearing and setting of essential and non-essential matters and has also released their own updated policies and procedures.

Cases currently set on the general trial docket Monday, March 23, 2020, at 9:00 a.m. are reset to Monday, May 18, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. Cases currently set on the general trial docket Monday, March 30, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. are reset to Monday, June 1, 2020 at 9:00 a.m.

If a hearing is necessary due to a true emergency involving an immediate risk of loss of property or harm to a child, the 312th Court indicates the filing party should support such request by affidavit. To ensure that your affidavit is timely reviewed, please notify the clerks once the affidavit has been filed. If your hearing is approved, then you will be noticed by the court so that appropriate arrangements can be made.

All Child Protective Service suits filed by a governmental entity under Texas Family Code Title 5 will be heard by the 312th court as scheduled.

507th Judicial District Court

The 507th Judicial District Court shall follow the joint statement released regarding the hearing and setting of essential and non-essential matters and has also released their own updated policies and procedures. Similar to the 311th Court, the 507th Court have updated their policies and procedures to reduce the need for in-person appearances on many uncontested matters, including prove-ups and entries of orders.

In a supplemental statement, the 507th Court indicated they make update or modify these policies as new information becomes available – in particular, the Court expressed their intention to take testimony by videoconferencing in the near future, though no exact plan to implement remote hearings have been published at this time.

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As the COVID-19 situation continues to change, we can expect the Harris County family courts will continue to adapt as well. Hunt Law Firm will continue to seek guidance from the courts and public health officials, and we will update you as new information becomes available.

If you have questions or concerns about a child custody, child support, or divorce matter in Harris County, our office remains open and will be accepting consultations. We are taking the recommended precautions, including disinfecting all common areas, tables, countertops after every meeting. In addition, hand sanitizer stations are located in each conference room and all common spaces.

If you are unable to come to the office, we can meet by telephone or videoconference (compatible with most smartphones, tablets, and computers). We can also conduct meetings, group conferences, and mediations 100% virtually.

This page is for informational purposes only. All updates are to the best of our knowledge. Updates are moving very quickly and the most recent update you see here could be out of date by the time you read it, or we update again. Please do not rely on our updates, but instead rely on information provided directly by the court and your attorney. The information above is not intended to be legal advice nor is it intended to create an attorney-client relationship where none exists.

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