When you have a hearing in front of an Attorney General Judge that’s usually an “Associate Judge.” That’s a Judge who’s been hired by the local County to perform certain tasks to free up the main Court’s schedules for other types of cases. In larger Counties they may have multiple Associate Judges handling a variety of things from Attorney General cases, Protective Orders, or daily short matters like agreements or quick hearings like Temporary Orders.
When you have a hearing it’s important for you to find out whether your Judge was an Associate Judge or one of the usual, elected, County or District Judges. If it was an Associate Judge, and you get a bad outcome, you do have options for another hearing, but you need to act quickly.
In Texas, Family Code 201.1042 and 201.015 layout what steps you should take and the deadlines to take them.
You have “three working days” i.e., business days, to file a “de novo” hearing request. This is your request to have a do-over hearing on the same topics in front of the main Court and not the Associate Judge’s court. You have to file a specific Notice with the clerk and forward a copy of the filing to the other parties (and attorney general if they are involved). The request must specify the issue that will be presented to the referring court. This means the topics you think the Associate Judge got wrong any why. It doesn’t need to be a full scholarly legal article, just a general outline of what went wrong (in your mind) and what the Judge missed, like evidence that was excluded or you feel wasn’t given the proper weight in making the decisions.
Once the Notice is filed the referring court then has 30 days to hold the do novo hearing. This last step is usually where most unrepresented parties fail. It’s up to the party filing the request to get that hearing scheduled (don’t forget to coordinate the setting with the other parties) and get it properly setup.
Check your local rules in whatever County you’re in to make sure you set the hearing and give proper notice to everyone to make sure when you show up you are ready to go forward on the hearing. Don’t forget, this is a brand new hearing so be ready to start from the top and go through it all again with evidence, testimony, witness, etc.
Hiring an experienced local attorney will greatly help you through this process. If you tried to represent yourself the first time and things didn’t go well, it would be a good idea for you to hire someone to represent you and put your best case forward at the de novo rehearing.