Facing Divorce? Tips from the Trenches Divorce and Family Court: Role of a Family Court Judge

By: Manjula Shaw, CFP®, CDFA®

“Tips from the Trenches” is a series of articles based on conversations with professionals who work with individuals facing or considering the prospect of divorce. Watch this space for conversations with professionals in Family and collaborative law, Forensic-Certified Public Accountants, Mediators, Marriage Counselors, Family Court Judges, and Valuation Specialists.

Manjula Shaw is a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) and an Asst. Vice President at Tanglewood Legacy Advisors. As a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst (CDFA®), Manjula works with individuals facing late-stage divorce.

Manjula’s conversation is with Judge Gloria López, elected to the 308th District Court of Harris County, Texas, in 2018. Before taking the bench, Judge López was a family law practitioner. Judge López is bilingual in Spanish and English, a tremendous advantage to her Spanish-speaking constituents; she is also the first Latina to be elected to the 308th District Court.

When first elected to the court, Judge López initiated online scheduling, a novel concept at the time. She notes that, initially, the adoption was slow; however, the public quickly accepted an unintended consequence of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic-related shutdown.

What is the Role of a Family Court Judge?

Judge López maintains that trial judges bear the burden of weighing the witness’ and parties’ credibility on both sides of the argument. Judge López prides herself on being impartial and rules “as a matter of law.”

Contesting spouses should pay attention to the advice of their divorce lawyer and the court. Specifically, do not hide assets or accounts during discovery; the truth eventually comes out, and the result could be to the dishonest party’s detriment. A judge may sanction a dishonest spouse, and the attorney fees granted against them.

Judge López presided over a case where, during the initial trial, bonus compensation earned was withheld by one party. When the facts became known, a post-divorce judgment was granted to the opposing spouse after demonstrating that the bonus was acquired during marriage. Judge López says, “In today’s prolific social media environment and the penchant for keeping up with the Joneses, hidden assets may reveal itself.”

A party concerned about safety should consult their attorney to apply for a Protective Order. A protective order directs that the abuser not threaten or hurt the victim and her children directly or indirectly and not carry a gun even with a license. The victim should notify the Houston Police

Department or Constable if they believe they or their property are in danger. A police report “ensures you create a paper trail.”

The final chapter of my conversation with Judge Lopez is about child custody laws and will be released in January 2024.






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