How to navigate family law and the Texas court system, without a lawyer, or legal advice. Tips and inside advice from a pro-se litigant

How to navigate family law and the Texas court system, without a lawyer, or legal advice.Tips and inside advice from a pro-se litigant

justice

I am writing this in hopes to help other parents that need help getting things done in their family law cases. Frankly, I will shoot straight, and say I have very little legal knowledge. This is written purely on my experience in the local county court system in Texas. If this helps just one person understand things better or through this difficult and tedious time, then I will be happy.

Depending on what you are trying to do in the family law court, these tips may differ, but for the most part, I feel that the process is similar. I would like to give you a step by step process on how to navigate the court and what can be done. Some inside advice (the court system is not in favor of you doing this alone, they want your money and they want to drain your bank account with high legal fees). Know this going in, because this is what you are up against. The court including all the people in it, will drag out any case that they do not want to make a decision on, and typically the Judge will not sign off on any contested cases unless you have a lawyer fighting for you, or you change your mind and make an agreement prior to the hearing.

Trying to go through the Attorney General’s Office for anything in Texas is a nightmare. It can take years to receive child support, for instance. And sometimes it feels like no one is on your side. Here are my do-it-yourself tips for getting child support, petitioning for divorce, and modifying the parent-child-relationship.

If you are still trying to do this alone after knowing this, read on.  To petition for divorce, get child support, or modify the parent child relationship, go to, Texas Law Help.Org. There is a section there for do- it- yourself forms. Click on the forms you need and print them, there is no “one form does all.” I quickly learned this. Print all of them if you don’t know which ones you will need.

If you are struggling for child support (like most Texas moms are I talk with) then print out “Petition to Enforce Child Support, (if you already have a order in your divorce decree) or the “Child Support Order” form for starting the process.

Fill these forms out to the best of your abilities, if you are modifying your decree to make changes to the parent child relationship or your child support order, be aware that there are multiple forms. If you are making changes in less than a year, for example, you will have to fill out separate forms. This is what lawyers make all their money on! But, you are more than capable of doing this yourself. If you are unsure what you need (like I said earlier, print off all the forms and you can decide later what to toss).

The district clerk and the court administrator are your buddies. (Don’t piss them off)

Next, go to the local courthouse in your county. Go to the district clerk’s office (not the criminal division). Be sure to bring cash or check (because they charge for copies of anything). Bring all your forms and documents with you and file them. This is where they will file your petition for divorce, modifications, or child support orders. They are usually very friendly and will answer your questions to the best of their abilities.

After these forms are filed, you will have to have the papers served. So look up a local process server or pay the district clerk (only by writing a check to the county sheriff to serve the papers). These fees run around a hundred bucks, depending on if you know where the other parent lives etc.

Wait. And wait some more. The other parent has to file a response. Personally, my spouse had a lawyer and she electronically filed a response for my petition. Since I have an active ex-spouse, the process becomes more challenging.

Once you receive a response, you will have to decide if you want to go further. I got a flat denial from my ex. This is where it gets difficult doing this alone. I decided I was not going to give up, so I looked up my Court Judge’s administrator and started to email her asking her for available hearing dates to get my case reviewed.

Realize that during this process you will have to keep trying and there will be a lot of waiting. I was lucky to be seen in court after three months of filing the petition. This was after constant bugging of the court administrator and resetting dates three times.

Also, know that once you are seen in court, the judge will probably make you feel low and stupid for not knowing much about law. He probably won’t decide anything the first time, especially if there is no agreed upon order by you and your ex-spouse. I ended up having to come back another time after being told I would have an hour in front of the judge. The judge’s words “I don’t have time for this.” I didn’t even get five minutes the first time. The second reset hearing is where you will have more luck and perhaps you will be given fifteen minutes this time, like I was.

But, if you have a valid argument, are extremely persistent and keep bugging your court officials, you may get somewhere. I was able to get a sign-off on changing my geographical restriction in my original decree. Mostly, I think this was due to the fact that I was extremely persistent and my ex didn’t want to have to keep going to court hearings, so he gave in to me. I urge parents to try this method if all else fails, yes, the legal system is flawed, but there are ways to navigate it alone and be successful.

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Why I think Obama should be able to nominate a new Supreme Court Justice now.

I care a lot about affirmative action. Actually I am against it. I will be straight up. You know, the fact is, I am a minority–because I am a woman. I find this ridiculous. I want to be measured on the basis of other things, not my gender. I think that everyone suffers and can taste what discrimination is like on many levels. So, I feel that I have every right to say this. I also think that the white male is becoming a minority. And so, I think that the Supreme Court’s decision on The University of Texas Vs. Fisher is an important case that needs a fast decision. It’s had me concerned, too, since I am waiting on an acceptance from colleges in the upcoming fall semester. I want to know if UT Austin was really out of line in their admissions, or not.vote

Yet, the Republican led Senate is against confirming any high court nomination. By the Senate not recognizing Obama’s right to be able to nominate a ninth Supreme Court Justice, since Scalia’s abrupt death, this delays everything. Things need to change. There are many important cases involving abortion rights, voting rights and this affirmative action case (that I personally care about) and they are now all going to be long delayed or sent to lower courts to make a decision ( how scary, I’ve dealt with Texas courts, and trust me, they are lacking).

This boils down to a bureaucratic power struggle between our political parties, and the Senate’s reasoning is because it’s an election year. So what! Obama is more than qualified to make a nomination, so let him, and recognize it!  This is what fires me up and makes me angry about America’s government and court system. It’s also what makes me hate political parties.

I voted early; perhaps uniformed, but where is my right to privacy? By Molly Farr

I am irritated after my experience today with early voting. And I know I shouldn’t feel afraid or discriminated against, but I do. I decided I wanted to be a good example of a woman who is a “good American” that exercises her right to vote. I brought my two young children with me to the local grocery store and let them watch me cast my ballot in the primary election. How can Americans exercise their right to vote while advocating their right to privacy at the same time? These days seem long gone I fear.

Avoid my mistake if I made one, I’m still not sure. I feel like voting is becoming an non-private event. Walking through the parking lot, the three of us were bombarded with posters-all conservative, no liberals in sight. And there was a woman and man standing out in the parking lot holding up a poster advocating their candidate.

Privacy Photo

 

 

My two children, three and four, and I walked inside the grocery store. I filled out my information and my id was verified by a woman volunteer. I was in the correct precinct, she said. Then I was asked promptly, “What party are you voting for?” Something about this question immediately bothered me. I wouldn’t take it as far to say I felt threatened or harassed, and maybe I am just uninformed. But I didn’t want to have to answer this in front of other voters or the people that were running the poll. I also felt after I answered the question that I was immediately looked at differently, and one woman in particular made me feel strange. I felt persecuted, because after I said  my party affiliation and was getting ready to go to the ballot station, (also very public) I was told that my children were running away and looked over to see them by the front door of the grocery store. The distraction of such a question about what party I would vote for, had overwhelmed my ability to pay attention to what was going on around me. The woman (running one of the stations, who said that my children were running out the door) just glared at me.

I also feel that by making my party decision, I was forced into making voting decisions based solely on that party. Avoid my mistake if possible. When was it ever okay to ask this question of Americans? Americans are uniformed as it is, but we should be given options on all candidates regardless of party affiliation. Why are they all boxed in? This seems unfair. I think it should not be a question what party you are affiliated with. And if it is, you should have the option to pick people outside your party if you want. I was not given this option today, and I still don’t know if this was a mistake because I was confused or overwhelmed, or if this is just the way things go.

As I walked away from the ballot box and me and my kids received an “I voted early sticker” these questions stuck in my mind. They were reinforced when we all walked out into the grocery store parking lot towards our car. Before we got to it, we were bombarded again by the conservative Sheriff, Robert Chody’s advocates, the man and woman we had seen. They all of a sudden seemed interested in the three of us. The woman commented on my kids stickers, and said, “Oh they are the cutest little early voters ever.” The man said, “I hope you voted for Robert Chody.” I looked at him, obviously annoyed, and just stared back at him, feeling more irritation, and I refused to answer. This was another confirmation of my thoughts on privacy and what is acceptable in voting, because I did not feel inclined to answer my daughter when immediately she asked after she heard him, “Who did you vote for mommy?”