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There are two different types of trials that can occur in Texas Family Law

  • A Bench Trial
  • A Jury Trial
What is a Bench Trial?
A Bench Trial is a court proceeding...
What is a Jury Trial?
A jury trial is a court proceeding...

A Bench Trial is a court proceeding where we appear in front a Judge and present your case.  This is the most common type of trial in Family Law.  The Judge can hear all issues pertaining to your case including conservatorship, possession and access, division of property, and child support.  The Judge will listen the evidence presented by both sides and make a final ruling concerning all issues presented to the Court.

A jury trial is a court proceeding where 12 citizens are empaneled to hear your case and make a determination on certain issues.  Despite what people see on movies, television, or in video games, a jury trial is rare in family law cases.  This is because there are limited issues a jury can decide, the expense associated with jury trial, and because a jury trial means handing your case to 12 people that you do not know and are not familiar with.   Many lawyers can go their entire career without having a jury trial.  However, our team has a tremendous amount of jury trial experience and has the skills necessary to excel in trial.


Issues a Jury Can Decide in Family Law

There are 5 main issues a jury can decide in a Family Law case:

  • Are you married?
  • Who gets custody?
  • Where will your children live?
  • Is my property community or separate property?
  • How much is our property worth?

Issues a Jury Cannot Decide in Family Law

All other issues must be decided by a Judge.  These decisions can include:

  • Division of Property
  • Enforcing Terms of a Prior Order
  • Specific terms or conditions of Possession and Access to a child
  • Child Support
  • Rights and Duties of a Conservator (apart from which joint managing conservator has the exclusive right to designate the primary residence of a child)
  • Enforcement issues (aside from a case where more than 6 months confinement is requested)
  • Adoption Cases
  • Any case concerning Parentage

Pre-Trial Matters

There are many factors that go into the preparation for a jury trial.  There is always paperwork and discovery that occurs.  We also will develop a theme and theory of the case.  Before a trial can proceed, both sides have to exchange certain information, prepare pleadings and motions, hear any pre-trial matters, and prepare proposed jury charges.  Most courts will conduct a pretrial hearing a week or so out before a jury trial.  Some courts will also do this hearing the morning the trial is set to begin.  In this hearing, the court hears all potential issues that might arise during trial including hearing any motions in limine which may limit testimony or other evidence that may be presented to a jury.

Jury Selection

Jury selection can be the most important part of a jury trial.  This is where both sides are granted to opportunity to speak with and ask questions of the jury panel.  The purpose of jury selection is to uncover any potential biases or prejudices that may exist so that the final 12 jurors that are selected will be fair and impartial for both sides.  This is the first change that we have to speak to the jury and start discussing the potential issues that may be brought up during a case.  However, you cannot discuss any specific facts of a case during jury selection.  Once both sides have finished the Judge will call the attorneys up and they will each make strikes and then the final jury will be selected.


Once the jury is seated, the trial can begin.  Both sides will have the opportunity to present opening statements to the jury where they will outline their case and tell the jury what they believe the evidence will show.  The Respondent will have the opportunity to give an opening statement at this time but they can also reserve for after the petitioner has rested.  After opening statements, the Petitioner presents his or her case in chief.  This is done by calling witnesses and introducing evidence.  During this the Respondent will have a chance to cross examine any of the witnesses the petitioner calls.  After the Petitioner rests, the Respondent will have a chance to conduct an opening statement (if it was not done at the beginning of the case) and will then have the opportunity to present their case in chief.  After the Respondent rests, the petitioner will get one more opportunity to call any rebuttal witnesses to anything that was brought up during the Respondent’s case in chief.  Next, the attorneys meet with the Court to conduct a charging conference where both sides submit their jury charge to the Court and the Court has the opportunity to make any changes and decide on a final charge for the jury.  The Jury charge outlines all rules and issues for the jury and is a guideline to help them understand the law and apply it to the questions they must answer.  Next, the Court will read the charge to the jury and then each side will present closing arguments.  Once this is done, the jury will return to the jury room and deliberate until a verdict is reached.

Should my case by a bench trial or jury trial?

This is a very fact specific question.  The most common reason to decide on a jury trial is because an issue has been previously litigated in front of a Court in a temporary hearing and the Court ruled against you.  If that is the case you might be concerned that the Judge will rule a similar way at the final hearing.  There are many factors that go into deciding what is best for your individual case.  We encourage you to review the information on this page and contact our team to set up a consultation to explore the options best suitable for your case.