A New Judge for the 360th District Court

Does it matter who the Judge is?

As of January 1, 2017, the Judge of the 360th District Court in Tarrant County, Texas is the Honorable Patricia Bennett. Judge Bennett replaces Judge Michael Sinha, who had been the Judge of the 360th and, the prior to that, the Associate Judge of the 360th for years.

Judge Bennett has chosen Matt Riek to be her Associate Judge, and Judge Riek will take the bench on or about January 16, 2017. Judge Riek replaces Judge Cynthia Mendoza.

Both Judge Bennett and Judge Riek are Board Certified in Family Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and each has years of experience in divorce, custody, and family law. Additionally, Judge Riek was one of the most sought after and well-respected family law mediators in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex prior to agreeing to accept the position of Associate Judge.

So, with these changes, one might ask: Does it matter who the Judge is?

The short answer, particularly in Family Law is Yes!!!

Family law – meaning divorce, custody, grandparent rights, child support, spousal support, alimony, etc. – is an area of the law that, unlike most areas, is governed by the “discretion of the court.” Under Texas law, the trial court judge has wide discretion in determining a number of items in family law. What that means in simple terms is that you are not entitled to have a jury make the decision, it has to be the judge, and your chances of getting an appellate court to overturn the trial court’s decision are extremely small.

Some of the things that a family court judge gets to decide with little chance of being overturned are:

  1. How the property will be divided in a divorce – Will the property be divided 50/50 or 60/40 or 80/20 or in some other ratio?
  2. What happens to the property in a divorce – Do you get to keep the house? Or does your soon-to-be Ex? Or is there a Court Order to sell it?
  3. Who gets to live in the house while the case is pending?
  4. Who has to pay which bills while the case is pending?
  5. Who gets custody of the children while the case is pending?
  6. How much child support will be paid and by whom to whom?
  7. How much temporary spousal support will be paid, if any, while the case is pending – even if it’s for years – and by whom, to whom?
  8. Does anyone deserve Spousal Maintenance – the Texas version of court-ordered alimony – and if so how much and for how long, within some limits?
  9. What will the rights and duties be with respect to the children? Do you have a say in who the children’s doctor is? Dentist is? Surgeon is? Will there be surgery? Will the children go to a psychiatrist?
  10. On what days and at what times will you be allowed to see your children?
  11. Will you be able to Facetime with your children? Call them? Email them?

These are just a few of the things that family court judges get to decide, and as long as that Judge stays on the bench and as long as the children stay in the county, the same judge will keep deciding these issues regarding your children until they age out of the system.

So what do you think? Does it matter who the judge of your court is?

Six Ways to Save Money in Your Divorce or Custody Case

Hiring a competent attorney for any type of case is expensive. This article is written assuming that you are going to hire an attorney for your divorce, custody or other family law case — whether you should is a topic for another day.

Now that you’ve gotten an attorney, here are some ways to save money:

1. Hire a good attorney, then listen to your attorney not your spouse or ex

It is amazing and unfortunate how many people will be in a huge battle with their ex or soon to be ex, yet believe everything the ex tells them, rather than listening to what their attorney says. If you don’t trust your attorney, get a new attorney. If you have an attorney that you trust, listen to him or her. It is highly unlikely that you can rely on what your ex says, if you’re at war.

2. Do what your attorney asks

During the case, your attorney will have a great many tasks for you to do — complete a timeline, answer various questionnaires, fill out an inventory, gather documents, etc. You don’t have to do anything, but if you don’t you are going to cost yourself a great deal of money, and maybe more. At a minimum, your attorney will have to spend time trying to solve the problem another way — without the information that he or she has asked you for. If you’ve been asked for something critical, and you don’t provide it, you could lose your entire case.

3. Send documents, photos, etc. in one email, rather than a bunch of emails

Your attorney will undoubtedly ask you to send him or her documents, photos, videos, etc. If you are providing hard-copies, when you deliver them, have them organized, but not to a crazy degree. If you organize them to the point that they cannot be easily copied, worked with, etc., you are actually costing yourself money. If you are sending the items by email, it will help if you send them in reasonably sized groups. That is, don’t send 1,000 documents in one email, but even more importantly don’t send one each in 1,000 different emails.

4. Don’t have your attorney draft an agreement until an agreement is reached

If you think that you have reached an agreement with your ex, that’s great. But, having your attorney draft a 70 page divorce decree, that then gets substantially changed a number of times, can cost you an unbelievable amount of money. Often, it’s best to bullet point tentative agreements and make sure that there is really a meeting of the minds before incurring the cost of a major drafting project.

5. Don’t fight any more than necessary and don’t fight over things that don’t matter

Fighting is expensive. It takes attorney time, and that’s what attorneys sell — so time is truly money. If something is worth fighting over, the cost may be worth it, but fighting needlessly or over things that really don’t matter is a way to waste an incredible amount of money. Spending $7,500.00 of attorneys’ fees to get a couch that you could replace for $750.00 is probably a really bad expenditure of money.

6. Do not use your attorney as a counselor

Most people know this, but it’s hard to remember it. Attorneys generally cost more than mental health professionals, and no matter how much you like your attorney, if the discussion you are having does not further the cause of your case, you will be far happier at invoice time if you have spent your time counseling with a friend or mental health professional, rather than your attorney.

Finally, remember: there’s saving money on the front end, and saving money on the back end. Any competent attorney can settle your case in a few days, if you are willing to give the other side everything that he or she wants. That may save you some attorneys’ on the front end, but cost you a fortune on the back end. So the bottom line is, look for realistic ways to save money, but be smart.

If you would like to talk to one of the Beal Law Firm attorneys about representation, you can reach us at lawyers@dfwdivorce.com or call us at 817.261.4333 or 214.414.0418. You can always find us at www.dfwdivorce.com.