Carrie Tapia | Top Tips for Preparing for a Hearing

In this episode, we’re taking it back to basics…

What are the best practices when preparing for a hearing?

Whether you’re a seasoned expert or a new attorney, it’s always a good idea to review the fundamentals, so Holly Draper and Senior Attorney Carrie Tapia are here to share their favorite tips on preparing for hearings, including:

  • Preparing a summary of relief requested
  • Opening statements
  • Cross examination
  • Leading Questions
  • Exhibits 
  • And more

Mentioned in this episode:


Holly Draper: When you’re writing out your questions, tell a story. Your client’s testimony is their opportunity to tell their story.

Voiceover: You’re listening to the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast, your source for the latest news and trends in family law in the state of Texas. Now, here’s your host attorney Holly Draper.

Holly: Hi, everyone. This is Holly Draper. I’m the CEO and Managing Partner at the Draper Law Firm. And welcome to the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast. Today I have our senior attorney from the Draper Law Firm, Carrie Tapia, joining me today. And we wanted to do a little bit of a back to basics podcast to share some information about, that people might find helpful in preparing for hearings. I think it can, a lot of this information can also be used in preparing for trial, although there are some other steps that you might need to think about for trial.

But hopefully, people will find this information helpful. We recently did a training for the attorneys in our firm where we went through these things because we were noticing people didn’t necessarily do things the same way. And maybe there were some things people weren’t even aware of that are really good best practice to use in hearing prep.

So Carrie is going to start us out by kind of talking about one of the things that I know, if I’m preparing for a hearing, this is the first or one of the first things that I do. And that is preparing what I call a summary of relief requested. I know Carrie calls it something else. So Carrie, why don’t you tell us what this is and give us some information on what you do to prepare.

Carrie Tappia: Alright, so the requested relief, as I call it, is going to be your template and your guideline for every preparation that you do for the hearing. You want to make sure that it outlines everything that you’re asking for from the court, and you need to make sure that it matches your pleadings. So this is not something that you want to wait until the night before the hearing or the day before the hearing to get ready.

Because this is also going to make sure that you’re actually asking for in your pleadings, what it is that your client needs, and the relief that your client is looking for from the court. So make sure that it matches your pleadings. Make sure that it all makes sense, and that it all reads in the same tense. Sometimes, you know, our petitions are in one tense, but it makes more sense to have your relief requested in present tense.

You want to be specific and itemize every request. Now this is going to be court specific. There’s going to be a theme and all these things that we’re talking about is that you have to know your court, you have to know your judge, about what your court wants. A lot of courts like their requested relief to be very specific, very detailed, they don’t mind it being a couple of pages long.

And they want to have little boxes so they can check approved or denied. Some courts do not like that. I know one court in particular, if you turn in a requested relief, that’s more than one page, they’re not even going to look at it. So it’s important to know your court and make sure that you’re customizing it to meet with what the judge wants.

Consider including a chart that outlines the rights and duties. That way, you can just check the boxes about you know, independent by agreement, exclusive, exclusive after consult. All the other creative things that we come up with for those conservatorship rights and duties. And if it’s something, if you’re asking for a very customized possession schedule, consider having that attached as an exhibit.

Exhibit A, Exhibit B, rather than having it in the main body. That way the court can go and look at that possession schedule that you’re asking for. Include blanks for the amounts and the start dates for the child support, medical support, dental support. And if you want to go ahead and get mediation ordered on temporary orders, leave a blank for the mediator’s name and a blank for the date to mediate by.

Holly: And sometimes we’ll fill in those blanks ourselves. If we’re specifically asking the judge, you know, we want to mediate with this particular mediator, and that’s what we’re requesting, we will put it in the blank. But then we will also maybe leave a blank below you know, mediator and a blank so the judge can fill in if they choose to do something else with child support.

If we know what the guideline child support amount is, and we’re asking for guideline child support, we may put, you know, order father to pay guideline child support in the amount of $550 starting on October 1, 2023. But then we’ll put a line for granted or denied and then another line below amount of child support ordered. So the court could go with our number that we requested or they could write a different number.

But by including that number in our request, we’re telling the court very specifically what we want and I think a summary of relief requested or requested relief, however you personally choose to whatever you call it, I have yet to meet a judge who did not want this or did not appreciate it. And especially when we have tight time limits on our hearings, it can be super helpful for the judge to know, this is exactly what they want me to do here.

And if you kind of went on a rabbit trail or you did something else, you can always go back to this summary of requested relief. And make sure you’re hitting all those points and telling the judges what you want. I also pretty much uniformly try to get this admitted as an exhibit. Do you Carrie?

Carrie: Yes, I do. A lot of times, opposing counsel will stipulate you know that it can be admitted as an exhibit. But that’s usually the very first question, if not already pre admitted. First question to my client is Exhibit P1. This is the summary of relief requested. See you got me saying it that way.

Holly: All right. So I oftentimes will do it as an exhibit at the end of my client’s testimony, with the idea being that we have gone through all of these things that they’re requesting already. If an opposing counsel is the objectionable type, and they don’t want to agree to let it in, then it’s more accurately a summary because you’ve already gone through those things.

I think as a general rule, you know, I’m never going to object to a summary of relief requested that the other side is trying to put in. And I don’t think most attorneys do, but occasionally I’ve seen it happen. So that’s something to consider. So another thing with respect to hearing prep that we want to talk about is opening statements. Should you do one? If you do one, how much should you prepare? How long should it be?

I think those are the things to factor in here. We practice a lot in Collin and Denton Counties and those counties, both, almost every temporary orders hearing are going to very severely restrict our time. And if I’m gonna get 20 minutes a side, and I have a pretty normal case, then I might just jump right into testimony.

But if I have some unique legal issues, or something I want to make sure this judge is listening for, I might do a really quick 30 second opening just to make sure the judge knows, hey, we’re gonna have a fit parent presumption issue here. Or you know, they’re not going to be able to prove that there’s been a material and substantial change to justify this at a hearing. Putting the judge on alert upfront to be listening for those things.

How long should it be, I think, depends greatly on what kind of issues are involved in your case, and how much time is the court going to give you. If the court is going to give you a half a day for a temporary orders hearing, you know, you’re super lucky. But you can do a lot more in an opening statement. It can be almost more like a trial, when your time is severely limited, you’re going to want to be really smart about whether or not you should do one, and how long it should be.

My advice is not to wing opening statements. I see a lot of, I always, I’ve been doing this for a very long time and I write out my opening statement. I might put a couple of bullet points just at the top introduction or you know, something I know I’m not going to forget. But if I’m making legal arguments, I have facts that I want to make sure I’m saying, you know, the evidence is going to show X, Y and Z. I’m going to have all of that written out so that I don’t forget it. Carrie, anything to add when it comes to opening statements?

Carrie: No, I agree. And again, I will just bring it back to very court specific. There’s some, I practice a lot in Tarrant County. And it’s not common practice to do an opening statement for a temporary orders hearing unless there is like you said a very specific issue that might, not your run of the mill SAPCR or divorce case.

Holly: And don’t be afraid just because something is not normally done. And your particular county or your particular court or the other attorney doesn’t seem inclined to give an opening statement. If you think it’s important to give one because you think there’s a unique issue or you want to alert the judge to some facts you expect to be coming out that they should be listening for. Don’t be afraid to speak up and tell the judge you know, Your Honor, I’d like to make a brief opening statement. I’ve never heard a judge say no.

Carrie: Agreed.

Holly: So Carrie, why don’t you talk a little bit about witnesses and preparing for hearings.

Carrie: So obviously this is going to tie in a lot to how much time you have. If you only have 20 minutes, which is what we have most of the time for most run of the mill temporary orders hearings. You’re going to want to really think about any witnesses that you would call besides your actual client and the opposing party, and make sure that you’re gonna get your bang for your buck with that time that you’re using.

Think about if they’re going to need a subpoena. Make sure that you get that subpoena issued timely, and get them served, get that subpoena on file. You know, there’s a saying that says a lawyer never asks the question that they don’t already know the answer to. And I would say that that’s just about true 99% of the time when you’ve got somebody on the stand. So if you have somebody that won’t return your call won’t talk to you before you’re going to put them on the stand, I would think very long and very hard about what you think they’re actually going to say once they get on that stand.

And whether you want them there or not to begin with, before you issue that subpoena. Even if your client might think that they know what they’re going to say, that would just be a risk that you really want to think through. Also be prepared for the other side’s witnesses. Talk to your clients and say, okay, you know, who do you think that your husband, your wife? Who do you think that they’re gonna have to testify for them? What’s the worst thing that that person can say about you as a parent or, or whatever the case may be.

So really think about that. And prepare your cross for those witnesses, obviously, you know, that you’re going to have to do a cross for the opposing party. But if you know that the opposing party’s going to have their mom or going to have you know, a babysitter, go ahead and get some cross examination questions outlined for that witness. That way, you’re not scrambling there at the courtroom.

Also, think about records. If there’s any record that you need to get in, make sure that you get your business records affidavit done, and that notice of business records affidavit filed timely. If you’re not able to do that, then you might have to, you’d have to subpoena the Custodian of Records to appear if you really need to get those records in.

Holly: And before you go to that step, depending on what the records are, if you have them and you just didn’t get a business records affidavit timely, you might consider talking to opposing counsel and seeing if they will agree. Because the records are almost certainly going to get in and if you subpoena the Custodian of Records, are they going to be difficult and make you do it, just to make you do it?

Or are they going to say, you know, no, school records are going to get in, and we’re fine with that. The next thing that we’re going to talk about is direct examination. I once again, I’m a firm believer in do not wing it. It blows my mind when I go to court, and I see attorneys that just have a yellow pad in front of them, and they’re just gonna, they’re just gonna wing it with questioning witnesses.

And I don’t care how smart you are, I don’t care how good your memory is, you cannot always remember everything. Especially when things get going, a witness says something different than you expected them to say. You go down this rabbit trail, and now you totally forget to ask these questions that were really important. And you know, you forgot to ask about income.

Well, guess what, now you can’t get child support because you didn’t find any testimony to that. You know, so I always I don’t do outlines. I’ve had attorneys tell me that, you know, we were trained in law school just to do outlines. I am not a fan of that. I’m a huge fan of writing out all the questions I plan to ask.

And I might, it might be a lot more than I ultimately can ask in a short hearing. But I’m going to know where I can cut. What’s most important, which things can I fly through? You know, maybe your client is going to tell a story and it cuts out all these questions that I was going to ask. Great, you fly past those. But unless you have them written down, there’s zero guarantee that you’re actually going to remember that.

And I’ve also experienced clients, really appreciating the fact that we write out our questions and give them to the clients in advance. I’ve heard attorneys say, well, you know, I don’t want the client to see the questions in advance because I don’t want them you know, to be scripted, or, you know, I just want them to know, these are the topics that we’re going to cover. And I think that’s a terrible idea.

We’ve had a lot of cases where we took over in the middle after another attorney and we find out, you know, we have a hearing, where we do it our way and we lay out all the questions and we find out this didn’t happen before. I had no prep. I had no I never saw the questions. I floundered. I was terrible, because I didn’t know what they were going to ask me. I didn’t understand the questions, things like that.

When you’re writing out your questions, tell a story. Your client’s testimony is their opportunity to tell their story. And make sure you’re not leaving gaps. You know, if you’re talking about the fact that, you know, the client married the husband in Canada, and then you ask the question of what happened once you moved to San Antonio. I’m like, okay, well, where were they coming from? Were they coming from Canada where they got married 20 years ago, and maybe it’s not important.

But I just use that as an example of are there gaps in your questions where the story is, something is missing that is important for the court to know. You want to make sure you are going step by step through the important parts of the story to get it all out there. Is there an affidavit? Did your client sign an affidavit for a TRO, for a protective order, for flipping primary on temporary orders?

If your client signed an affidavit, that should be the very first thing that you are going through when you’re writing those questions. You should cover every single issue that you covered in the affidavit should be covered in the questions. There are probably going to be more but that should be your starting point. If those are the facts that are important enough to get you an ex parte TRO, you darn sure about recovering those in your hearing.

You also want to make sure your questions covering your summary of relief requested. Did you talk about income? Did you talk about you know if you need temporary spousal support? Did you cover the financial information statement? Did you cover why they need it? Make sure you’re covering all the important issues.

Don’t ask leading questions on direct. You know, sometimes you’re doing it to try and speed things along. Sometimes, especially if you didn’t show your client the questions in advance, they don’t know where you’re going and you feel like you have to lead them. And I have seen judges allow it. But don’t prepare your questions as leading questions because if the other side objects, the judge should sustain their objection.

Because you shouldn’t be leading your client or any of your direct witnesses. I also really recommend having a plan for cutting off a client that rambles. And we have 20 minutes to get our whole story in. And this client wants to talk about things that happened five years ago, and they’re going on and on and on.

So my cue to the clients is to say thank you. And then that’s their cue, stop talking, I’m going to ask the next question. So whatever your cue is going to be, you know, probably you don’t want to stand up and wave your arms and say shut up, but have something prepared in advance with your client that I’m gonna say, okay, or thank you or whatever it is to get them, that’s we need to move on.

Really know, you should know your case well enough to know what are the most important questions and which ones can be cut. If you have that client or a witness, that’s a talker, you’re gonna have to start cutting some of your questions. So you want to make sure the most important things are being addressed. Any other thoughts on any of those things about direct?

Carrie: Yeah, so when I’m writing out my questions, I like to do it with headings. Like okay, these are the child support questions. These are the conservatorship questions. These are the possession schedule questions. And that way, it’s easier to like if you know, if your client addresses everything in one area, it makes it easier to flip through.

Also, if there’s just, you know, a really big question I need to make sure I don’t accidentally skip, I’ll put an asterisk or put some stars in front of it. That way, I know that that’s not one to miss no matter how fast I’m running out of time.

Voiceover: This episode of the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast is sponsored by the Draper Law Firm, providing family law appellate representation for non-parent custody cases, jurisdictional issues, property division, standing, conservatorship, possession and access, termination, parental rights, and grandparent access. For more information, visit, or call 469-715-6801.

Holly: So after you do all your direct questions, then we need to prepare for cross. So I had an attorney say recently that only baby lawyers ask leading questions on cross. I’m curious what your opinion is on that?

Carrie: Well, I love cross because that’s where you ask your leading questions. That’s where you get to tell the story. Your client got a chance to tell the story on your direct questions. And then now when you get to cross examine the other side, where you get to fill in the holes and say, you know, really ask those leading questions and get the other side to say what you want them to say. That’s funny. I’ve never heard that only baby lawyers.

Holly: I mean, I disagree completely. I am 100% an advocate of your cross questions with the exception of you know, could you please state your name or whatever if you happen to be just calling an adverse witness. And by the way, adverse witness questions should be treated like cross questions, even if you’re calling them first. But yeah, your questions should be leading you to want to, you’re making a point. And by asking open ended questions of a witness on cross, if they’re smart, they’re gonna say something that helps their case and not yours.

Carrie: Right. That’s interesting. All right. So when we’re preparing your cross, if the other side has an affidavit, I always, well obviously you send it to your client, but when I send it to my client, I always ask them okay, I want you to say your side of the story. So if they say I went outside and the sky was blue, but really the sky was gray, I want you to say no, it wasn’t it was gray. Because that’s how I then know.

I mean, I wasn’t there. You know, usually these affidavits are about an incident that occurred, there’s two sides to every story. The affidavit is one side. So I want my client to tell me their side of the story. And then I can go through and systematically undermine what that person put in their affidavit. Always prepare ahead of time. Like Holly said, you don’t want to do this on the fly.

Prepare your cross, get those to your client ahead of time too to make sure that your client knows what you’re asking the other side. Sometimes they need to know, maybe they have a suggestion as something that you should include. But they also might need to know ahead of time, okay, we’re going to focus on what’s relevant here. And there’s certain things that sometimes people think are relevant, that aren’t actually relevant to this hearing.

And it’s better for your client to know ahead of time, no, we’re not going to be talking about that at this hearing, because it’s not relevant. It’s better for them to know that ahead of time than in the middle of the hearing, and they’re trying to whisper in your ear. So send those to your client, also.

Like I talked about earlier, try to figure out who the other side might have as their witnesses, so you can prepare cross ahead of time. But that’s not always possible. So what I do is when I see who’s there, I’m looking around the courtroom, I ask my client, okay, who is that? What are they going to say? When’s the last time they saw you? When’s the last time they saw your kids? What could they possibly have to offer that’s relevant for this proceeding?

And then always give your client a legal pad or something to take notes on. And I always tell my client, take notes. If there’s something that you want me to ask this witness, I need you to write it down, and hand it to me rather than whisper it in my ear, while I’m trying to lodge objections and listen to the testimony.

Holly: So another thing, you mentioned the other side doing an affidavit. I always also like to look at, did our own affidavit, if our client filed an affidavit for the TRO or for the protective order or whatever? There’s usually a lot of stuff in the affidavit that’s not really admissible for our client. Or our client said, he said x or he did x. Well, so this is, you know, you want to bring questions in about that. Isn’t it true that you did X? And well, you really said this, didn’t you?

And he’s probably gonna say no, but you kind of got it out there at that point. You know, a lot of cross does happen on the fly, because it’s based on what is said in direct. But you should have as many cross questions prepared in advance as you can. And another, I know you mentioned giving it to your client, because they, you know, they’ll kind of know what you’re gonna ask about.

I think it’s also important to give it to your client, because they might say, don’t ask him that question. Because you know, he’s gonna say, that’s not a good question, for whatever reason, because it’s gonna be bad for me. And by preparing those in advance and letting your client see it in advance, you can find that stuff out. Instead of just throwing it out there and now, it’s a bad fact that you’ve got out of the other side, for your client.

So the next thing we need to do in prepping for a hearing is get exhibits right. Figuring out what exhibits are we going to use? Again, it really depends on how much time do you have and how important is the exhibit? If you have a silver bullet, you want to use it. If you have, you know, I know there’s one judge that I’ve heard of who really likes to see pictures of the kids.

Okay, I mean, I get that. But unless we have a lot of time where we can waste time showing pictures of the kids, or unless there’s a super valid reason why we need to show pictures of the kids, I’m probably not going to waste time. Because by the time you lay the predicate and get those in, how much time have you wasted of your precious 20 minutes? So you got to think, is it important? Is it worth it?

You need to look at did these need to be previously produced? And if so has that been done? And you know, we’re now the initial disclosures are kind of over, but the a lot of cases that still exist, required them, and has that deadline passed, was it abated? Did everybody do them? And if you did them, were these exhibits, did they have to be produced pursuant to those disclosures or not?

If they weren’t produced and they had to be you might better supplement real fast so that they’re produced to the other side, or the other side is likely to object and say you shouldn’t be able to use those exhibits. Think about how many, assuming that you’re not doing this all high tech electronically and if you’re able to do that I’m totally envious. I wish that I could not kill any trees and do it all electronically, but I’m not there yet.

So you know, think of how many copies do I need? I need to copy for me, I need to copy for the witness, I need to copy for the judge and copy for opposing counsel. Is the Attorney General there? Are there any third parties involved in our case? Make sure there’s enough copies for everyone. And think about how are you going to present them?

Are they just going to be kind of individually one paper at a time handed to the court? Or do you have enough exhibits to justify using a binder? If I only have 1, 2, 3 exhibits, I’m probably not going to go to the trouble of making a binder for it. I’m just going to do them individually. But if I have a lot of exhibits, then a binder can really be helpful. If you are going to use a binder, make sure that it’s logically organized and tabbed in such a way that people can find things easily.

One time I had a paralegal prepare an exhibit for me. I was co-counseling on a case and a paralegal prepared the binder of exhibits. And I didn’t see it until I arrived at the courthouse and I opened it up and I was like, how do I find them? They’re not tabbed or numbered. What is this? So you want to make sure that it’s easy to find everything that’s tabbed logically. I always say you should write out the predicate for each exhibit in your questions.

You know, you think, oh, I admit photos all the time. I know the predicate, I’m not going to forget the predicate. Well, guess what, you might. But also, by writing it in to begin with your client’s also going to be ready for the predicate. You know, how many times have you seen an attorney ask a predicate questions, and the client looks like a deer in the headlights and they have no idea what they’re even asking for.

Carrie: Weird questions. No one talks like that in real life. So yeah, the clients get confused.

Holly: So another reason to include them and give those to your client in advance. Also think about how are you going to mark your exhibits. I hate, hate, hate using petitioner and respondent. Nobody knows who petitioner or respondent are. It’s confusing. I’ve never, whether it’s an exhibit, or an order, or a petition or whatever, I try not to use those things.

Mother’s exhibit one, father’s exhibit three. I might use an intervener because it’s obvious the grandparent or whoever is the intervener. But if they don’t like, if I’m against them, I’m going to call them the intervener. If I am, if they’re my client, I’m gonna call them the grandparents. But you know, and find out some courts have very specific rules, how they want exhibits to be labeled and numbered.

So if you don’t regularly practice in that court, and you don’t know, find out and make sure you get your exhibits admitted. When you’re actually there in court, have some sort of system for, you know, checklist of these are all my exhibits, offered, admitted. Or excluded. So that you can make sure did you get that tax return in? Or did you get, you know, one time we had a police report, and it was there was a lot of damaging information in this police report.

And the attorney talked about it, went through it, and never actually offered it into evidence. And later, you know, thankfully, it was able to be gotten in later for that attorney. But only because somebody else reminded them. Hey, hey, we that exhibit in evidence. Any other thoughts on exhibits?

Carrie: So I would say when you’re building out your questions for your client, you know, have those exhibits, like I’ve got the exhibits open on one side and the questions document on the other. So I’m referencing them as I’m drafting out my questions for my client. Also on my exhibit list, my paper exhibit lists that I actually take to court, I will use highlighters.

So if it’s something that I’m getting in through the wife, or the girl, I had it pink, if it’s something I’m getting in through the dad or the husband, I’ll highlight it blue. And then have a box on your exhibit list for admitted or offered and admitted to make sure that you don’t skip that very important step like you mentioned. But the color system helps me when I’m, you know, before I pass a witness, just want to make sure that I got all those colors marked off.

Holly: And you know, on the step of making sure it gets admitted, when I’m writing out the predicates in my questions, the very last line, I put it in all caps. Admit exhibit so that I did not forget, as I get through the predicate, that’s the last thing you have to do.

Carrie: I type out, Your Honor, I ask that exhibit mother’s one day admitted. Like I type it out on the questions so I don’t forget what I’m trying to get admitted.

Holly: So next, we’re going to go through kind of preparing with our clients for the hearings. Talk to us about your procedures for doing that.

Carrie: So a lot of this is going to depend on what stage you are in the case, how many preparation meetings that you need with your client. If you’ve already done an affidavit, for example, and so you re pretty well acquainted with the facts of the case that’s leading to the temporary orders hearing, you probably can go ahead and draft your questions for your client just based off of those previous conversations that you’ve already had with your client to get the to the point of the affidavit.

But if not, if it hasn’t been that type of case, and things have maybe just been lollygagging for a little bit, and then now we’re going to have a temporary orders hearing three months in, you need to really have a sit down or a face to face with your client. That way, you know, the update about what’s going on, what it is that we need to address, what has been happening with the possession of the children, things like that.

Because you don’t know what to ask if you don’t know what’s going on. So once you get to do that session, and then once you get your questions outlined, I always have another one. I like to do this one by zoom, if possible, rather than just over the phone. Because it’s helpful for your client to get used to reading off of your facial expressions and things like that.

Always go through the exhibits with your client, like we talked about earlier, we put the predicate in the questions outline. That way they can be familiar with that. But you want them to know, okay, these are the exhibits that we’re using. This is the purpose of this exhibit. This is why I think this exhibit is relevant.

And sometimes you might, I mean, let’s say you get some text messages from your client, and you’re looking at something and you interpret it one way, but again, you weren’t in that conversation. So that might not actually be an exhibit that you want to use once you get all the context. Or maybe you’ve just completely misunderstood something that was said.

Also, if you know that it’s going to be a really litigious or contested case, or if your client is just a little bit of a like a nervous Nellie, consider having another person in your firm, practice doing cross examination of them. That way they get used to those kind of aggressive leading style questions of trying to get them tripped up. And that way they’re prepared for that as well. You also want to prepare your client for objections and prepare yourself for objections.

You know, tell your client, if the other side makes an objection, no worries, let me handle it, just stop talking. And then let the judge make the ruling. Also you want to talk to your client about their behavior, their demeanor, their facial expressions. You don’t want somebody throwing a tantrum in the middle of the courtroom. And you don’t want the judge to see you acting that way. So don’t make it obvious that you’re upset, don’t have strong reactions, just make a note for me. And that way we can address it and move on.

Holly: So we’ve mentioned this a few times, but I think it’s worth repeating. You know, check your local rules. You know, there may be county wide local rules and there may be court specific rules for how your particular court wants to do things. And particularly if you’ve never been in this court, or you’re not very frequently in this court, or this court just got a new judge, go pull those and make sure you are familiar with whatever their procedures are.

Do exhibits need to be exchanged in advance? And we never used to do that. And then with COVID, people started exchanging exhibits in advance because of zoom, and there are some courts out there that still require it. Or still require it if your hearing is going to happen by zoom. In some ways, I like that, in other ways, I hate that because it’s really hard to, you know, catch someone with your silver bullet if they’ve seen it the day before.

But nonetheless, you want to make sure if you have to exchange them in advance that you have done that. Do you need to send something to the court reporter in advance? Usually I see this only if it’s happening via zoom, where they might be sending exhibits to the court reporter in advance.

But who knows, there may be courts out there where you have to do that for an in person hearing as well. Are there time limits? If you don’t know, find out before you prepare for your hearing. I’ll never forget, I had a hearing in Collin County. This was years ago at this point.

And the other attorney, bless her heart, clearly did not practice in Collin County, and had no idea that this clock that was up on the big screen ticking down was a hard and fast clock and she ran out of time. It was done.

And she spent 15 minutes of her 20 minutes time doing an opening statement. And then she spent the next five minutes asking, you know, foundational background questions to her client. And when she ran out of time, judge was like that’s it. Ms.Draper, it’s your turn. And needless to say, we got absolutely everything we wanted in that hearing because the other side never got to the point. So you do not want to be that lawyer.

You do not want that to happen to you. Know what’s gonna happen with time limits in that particular court. Something else to be prepared for. Are there unique legal issues that you know are going to come up in your case? I mean I deal with the fit presumption all the time. And if I know that there’s a fit parent presumption issue, in this case, I’m gonna have, I might have briefing, I’m gonna have relevant cases ready to go

I’m going to be ready to fight whatever that legal issue is. If you think the other side might be raising some type of legal issue that you can prepare for in advance, have your cases, have the codebook, have the things that you need to be ready, as prepared as you can be to make those arguments. Kind of the last little bit that Carrie is going to talk about, kind of what to take to court with you when you finally get to that hearing date. You’re all prepared. What do you do?

Carrie: Well, obviously, make sure you take all those exhibits that you worked so hard on, make sure that you take your testimony outlines that you’ve worked on. I’m old school, I print them out, I like to have them printed, I know some people will just have their laptop open and more power to you. But make sure that you have them one way or another available to you. Always have a copy. I think you should have a paper copy of your relevant pleadings.

Again, I know some people can just do it on the laptop, but there’s been too many times where I’m there and the judge, there’s their computer isn’t working. So the judge isn’t able to pull up your petition, or the judge isn’t able to pull up the decree that you’re trying to modify. And so having that paper copy, that way you can move forward with your case. And clients like it when you look like you’re prepared and little things like that matter.

Again, like Holly said, case law. If you know that there’s a specific issue that again, isn’t your run of the mill case, make sure you have case law highlighted relevant portions and make sure you take enough copies for you, opposing counsel, and the judge. Have your predicates, your family law toolkit. It’s just kind of like a safety blanket, you might not even need it.

But just having, always have it there open to the objections, just in case I forget an objection. It’s always right there. I mentioned earlier, make sure you have a notepad. One for you, one for your client. Maybe some sticky notes if you need to write notes or tab certain pages, and then codebook and relevant sections that are applicable to what the hearing is about.

Holly: So that pretty much covers everything that we do to prepare for hearings, and hopefully, you’re able to take some nuggets of wisdom from that and implement them into your own practice. So thanks for joining us today on the Texas Family Law Insiders podcast. And I would love it if you could go and subscribe to enjoy future episodes and take a minute and leave us a review so that more family lawyers can find us and follow us. Thanks.

Voiceover: The Texas Family Law Insiders podcast is sponsored by the Draper Law firm. We help people navigate divorce and child custody cases and handle family law appellate matters. For more information, visit our website at

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