How to get what you want in a Final Divorce Hearing; Making a list, checking it twice.

The best advice for someone, attorney or not, when going for a final divorce hearing is this: make a list of all the property you want the Court to divide. I suggest hiring an attorney who can help you with your divorce, regardless of how many assets or debts you have. But if you want to go it alone then preparation and organization are your best tools.
I see people make the mistake of assuming the Judge knows everything about their case down to the last nickel. If you have your case together and are well prepared then the Court will give you more weight (believability) on other issues, like which person is better suited to keep the house or establish where the children live.
Travis County and Williamson County divorce courts have what’s called “local rules” addressing the topic of what lists to create and bring to a final hearing. In both counties everyone is required to bring in a list of all the property and what each party’s preference is on how to divide everything. In most cases, you MUST give this list to the other side a couple weeks before the final hearing. My advice is, if you forget to do this, at least bring a list with you to the hearing. Something is better than nothing and the Judge might take pity on you and allow that list to be discussed. Judges want YOU to create this list because it speeds things up and keeps everyone on topic. You should check the local rules for your county and see if there is a similar requirement in your case. Even if there is not something firm on the subject, you should still make a list and pass it around. It is good for everyone to be on the same page and you want to establish that it is YOUR page everyone should be on.
Regarding the list itself, you should include all debts, like mortgages, loans, and credit cards, as well as all assets, like the house, cars, bank accounts, investments, and other large pieces of property. If you want to list out the entire contents of your house, go right ahead, but do not expect the Judge to divide every fork and footstool. I would suggest at least naming the big items of furniture like couches, tables, bedroom furnishings, TVs, computers, tools, and collectibles. Once you have a working list of all these items, put down how much each is worth and any debts attached to them. For example, if your car is worth $10,000 and you have a loan on it with a balance of $3,000 then your car has equity of $7,000. Put down both the value and the debt so everyone is aware of both amounts.
Making this type of list will impress the Judge hearing your case and make him or her more inclined to see things your way. This is not to say that all the other problems in your case will go away with you drafting this list, but it is one step that puts you in the good graces of the Judge. A happy Judge is more likely to rule in your favor and a list makes it very easy for them to do that.

 

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