In a recent family law case coming out of a Texas court, the mother involved in a custody suit appealed the court’s decision to modify a custody arrangement regarding her son. On appeal, the mother argued that the court had denied her of her right to be heard in court by imposing time limits on how long she could present her case to the judge. The court of appeals considered the mother’s argument but ultimately denied it, affirming the lower court’s decision.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the mother and father in this case divorced in 2011 and agreed to share custody of their son. The divorce decree stated that the father would have the exclusive right to establish the primary residence of the child.
In 2019, the father learned of verbal and physical altercations between the mother and her new husband. He also learned that the mother was using drugs and drinking at home, as well as that she had obtained a British passport and was considering kidnapping the couple’s child and taking him to England. The father filed an emergency motion for a restraining order against the mother and asked the court to deny the mother access to their son.
At the beginning of the hearing on this order, the judge explained that each side would have thirty minutes to present their motions, and that the mother would have an additional ten minutes to question witnesses regarding the father’s request for a temporary restraining order. The mother ran out of time during her examination of a third witness.
After the hearing, the court scheduled a trial on the modification of the custody order issue. When it came time for this trial, the mother again continued to run out of time as she questioned witnesses and gave closing arguments. Once the court published its final orders, the mother asked for a new trial, arguing the trial court abused its discretion by imposing time limits on the parties at the various hearings.
According to the mother, when the court put time limits on her ability to question witnesses and argue her main points, she was denied the right to due process that any party in a hearing must receive. The court briefly considered this argument but ultimately disagreed. It is important, said the court, for judges to be able to control the presentation of evidence in their courtroom to “avoid needless consumption of time.” The inherent power that courts have, along with applicable rules of evidence and procedure, gives broad discretion to judges as they impose limitations on how long each party can present evidence during a hearing.
Because each courtroom needs to keep hearings moving along for purposes of efficiency, said the court of appeals, this power is valid and justified. Thus, the court denied the mother’s request for a new trial, concluding that her rights were not denied and that the trial court had exercised an appropriate amount of discretion in her case.
Are You Facing a Family Law Issue in Texas?
At Guest and Gray, we skillfully handle family law cases, including cases that revolve around Texas divorce, child custody, and child support. If you are in Texas and have a case that falls under one of these categories, give our office a call today – we offer personalized solutions and aggressive representation that helps you achieve the results you want. For a free and confidential consultation, call us at 972-564-4644.