Supreme Court of Texas’s Proposed Changes Take Effect January 1

If you are considering divorce or some other legal action but planning to wait until the New Year to file, you may want to rethink that decision. The Supreme Court of Texas recently proposed changes to our evidentiary rules that will affect deadlines, expert witness procedures, and more.

While the Supreme Court of Texas has not confirmed the changes and still has an opportunity to alter them, it has stated that the new rules will go into effect on January 1, 2021. If you are a client or potential client, it’s important to understand how these new rules might affect your case. If you are a legal professional or an expert who may be expected to testify in a legal matter, you definitely need to understand how these proposed changes will affect your practice.

We have compiled some questions and answers based on what we consider to be the most relevant parts of the proposed changes as they impact family law. All areas of Texas civil law are impacted by these proposed changes. Please note, this information is for informational purposes only and based on our opinions and interpretations. This should not be considered legal advice. We encourage you to read the order containing the proposed changes, and then speak with an attorney about how these might affect you. A copy of the order on which this information is based may be found here: https://www.txcourts.gov/media/1449614/209101.pdf and be sure to follow the Texas Supreme Court’s website to get the latest up to date information: TJB (txcourts.gov)

Will this impact my case if I’ve already filed? No, these changes will apply only to cases filed on or after January 1, 2021. If you have not yet filed, then your case may be impacted by these changes if you file on or after January 1, 2021.

If I haven’t filed yet, should I file before the end of the year? Maybe. If you have not filed for divorce or other family law legal matter but you are considering waiting until January, please contact our office immediately to discuss your options. Keep in mind that just filing for divorce does not mean that you have to serve your spouse right away. You may also be able to dismiss your case later. 

What are the proposed changes? One of the main changes is a new mandatory disclosure requirement of certain information within a specific time period. Under the proposed changes, we also expect more cases will fall within Level 1 discovery, which includes expedited case timelines and sets narrower restrictions on some discovery. See the summary below for what we consider to be the most important proposed updates.

What about testifying experts and attorney’s fees? If your case involves testifying experts or you are a testifying expert, the proposed changes include new specific procedures. If these procedures are not followed, the testifying expert’s evidence may be excluded. If the expert is an attorney testifying about attorney’s fees, it is possible a client may not be awarded fees if the procedure is not correctly applied. We recommend that testifying experts consult legal counsel about potential necessary changes to their practice due to the proposed amendments.

How can Alexandra Geczi PLLC help me in light of these proposed changes? Our firm is ahead of the curve and already implements many of the changes in the proposed amendments into our practice. In fact, we think the new rules will benefit many of our clients. Here’s why:

  • First, the proposed rules will grant our clients access to information faster and more affordably. Because of our niche, many of our clients are financially abused and do not have access to information about their marital estate. Gathering information in these cases can be challenging. With the new mandatory disclosures, spouses will have to produce certain basic information by set deadlines.  
  • Second, these new rules support what we’ve already been doing, pre-filing divorce planning. We’ve been proponents of divorce planning for a long time. In fact, before we file a case, we hold strategy sessions with our clients, go through checklists with them, gather information, and set out a plan of action to minimize the damage a litigious divorce can cause. As a result, we already have technology and systems in place that automate many of the requirements of the proposed amendments.
  • Third, these proposed changes make the concept of a collaborative law divorce more appealing. The goal of a collaborative law divorce is to resolve your conflicts and complete a divorce without having to go to court. I was trained and certified in collaborative law in 2007. Collaborative law has become a more popular divorce alternative during the pandemic, and as such our legal team was also certified in collaborative law this November. Our practice now offers collaborative law in addition to traditional litigation options. We’re happy to discuss how collaborative law can be a great fit for you, particularly in light of the Supreme Court of Texas’s proposed amendments.

If you’d like more information on the Supreme Court of Texas’s proposed changes and to find out how they might impact your divorce or other family law matter, we can help. If you are a colleague or referral partner who would like to discuss how these rules might impact your practice, we can assist you as well. Contact us today at 214-974-4449 to set up a call.

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