To qualify for our services, the Harris County Family Courts must have authority to decide your case.
You must have the correct address of the other parent.
An interview is required to determine whether a case can be accepted.
The Judge has ordered the evaluation to obtain an assessment of you and your family from a professional who understands family dynamics, as well as the impact of family separation and litigation on children. The judge uses this information along with information obtained during the litigation process to determine what is in the best interest of your child(ren).
Family Mediation is a process in which a neutral professional assists in identifying issues and resolving disputes between parties. Issues of child custody, parenting time, and child support are frequently in dispute. The mediator helps the parties to communicate, assists the parties to identify their options (choices) and aids in the writing of the agreement.
If you have been found in contempt for violating an order, the court gave you a second chance by placing you on community supervision in lieu of incarceration. The Court hopes that you will take advantage of this second chance and get the assistance you need to comply with the court's order for child support or possession/parenting time.
When a divorce or parentage case is finalized in Court, the Order is entered into the Texas Child Support Enforcement System (TXCSES). Critical FOCAS Program and child support information, including the opt out form, is mailed immediately to both parties. DRO begins monitoring and enforcing support immediately, utilizing TXCSES. When a delinquency occurs, the noncustodial parent is notified and enforcement efforts begin.
All lawsuits have to comply with procedures set out by the Texas Family Code. Since each court has different docket schedules, it is not possible to give the date your lawsuit will be completed. If you are having a problem in one of the areas of family law handled by this Office, you should make an appointment now. More specific time frames can be given once we know the facts of your case, what type of legal action my be required, and what Court will be hearing your case.
Adoption Evaluations are completed within 60 days of payment. Child Custody Evaluations and Contested Adoption Evaluations are completed within 90 days assignment to the evaluator. Common factors that may delay completion beyond that time frame include:
- missing appointments
- unusually complex issues
- criminal proceedings or CPS involvement during the social study
- other issues which prevent either party from participating in a timely manner
The policy of the State of Texas, and requirements of our Harris County Family District Court local rules, require that pending contested matters be referred to mediation. The Domestic Relations Office, in cooperation with the Family District Courts, provides mediation services to assist families involved in litigation.
Your order will have the length of community supervision in the attached terms and conditions. If you pay off all child support arrears, the Court may approve early termination.
DRO attorneys will review and clarify any necessary child support provisions prior to the Court Order being entered into the Program.
The Domestic Relations Office is a fee for service agency.
The application fee is $25.00 and is not refundable. Since there are many types of lawsuits, all fees for services are discussed with the applicant during the interview.
An Attorney Consultation is available for a fee of $50.00. This fee is not refundable, but may be credited to the fees for other services.
Once your case is referred to the Domestic Relations Office, which can be by either court order or a written agreement, you visit our Intake Office on the 17th Floor of the Civil Courthouse at 201 Caroline, Suite 1709. The Intake Coordinator will review your case to determine if it is appropriate for mediation. After your case has been evaluated, you will be given directions to our main office a few blocks away, where the mediation will be conducted.
Mediation is offered Monday through Friday, and, if agreeable to all parties, may take place on the same day as your Court referral. Before mediation begins, an orientation is given that consists of:
- a detailed description of the process, and
- a presentation of nationally recognized video "For Our Children"
Mediation usually last four to six hours. If an agreement is reached, the mediator will put it in writing. Once the parties and their attorneys have reviewed and signed the agreement, it is filed with the Court.
You must report at a minimum each month to your officer. The officer will thoroughly review your case, assess your needs and refer you for life skills in the areas where you need assistance. You can expect swift court intervention if you fail to remain in compliance.
No, the DRO represents the State of Texas.
Interviews with the adult parties in the case can take up to 2 hours. Interviews with a child take less than a half an hour, depending on the child's age. Interviews with other adults in the home are fact dependent.
To make an appointment, please call (713) 274-7300.
All children living full-time or part-time in each household are a component of the family unit and are expected to participate. Each family unit will impact the children in question and it is important to see how each member contributes.
Qualified, trained professionals with basic and advanced family mediation training, resolve cases involving custody, child support and marital property division.
You will be assigned an officer who will encourage compliance and provide ongoing counseling. Ongoing assessment by the officer will ensure that appropriate life skill referrals are made to improve your life.
Those referrals include:
- education assistance;
- employment counseling;
- alcohol and substance abuse intervention;
- financial planning; and
- parenting classes.
It is your decision whether to hire an attorney or represent yourself. We do not represent you or the other party. We represent the State of Texas.
Stepparents will be included in the evaluation, as will live-in partners. They must complete the same Personal History Questionairre as the parties. All persons living in the home with the children will be interviewed.
If an attorney represents you, the attorney must be present for the mediation to start.
The officer will recommend a motion to revoke and it is highly likely the judge will sign a warrant for your arrest. Once apprehended by law enforcement authorities, a hearing will then be held to determine if your community supervision should be revoked; which would make you subject to incarceration.
Ongoing, medical, retroactive and/or arrearage child support. Review the child support section(s) of your order for the amounts due. For questions, contact the DRO at (713) 274-7300.
Yes. The DRO will review and adjust child support orders pursuant to the Texas Family Code.
Not all cases can reach resolution through mediation. Sometimes, the parties are not able to reach an agreement and must go before the Court for a hearing. Mediation is not a substitute for a hearing before a Judge. It is an option to settling a dispute.
Your order directs where child support must be paid. Most orders direct that child support is paid to the:
Texas Child Support Disbursement Unit
P. O. Box 659791
San Antonio, Texas 78265-9791
If your case is in the FOCAS Program, contact the office and request an application.
Do not bring your children to the Domestic Relations Office, unless specifically requested by a Family Court Services Evaluator.
1) Pay directly to the State Disbursement Unit (SDU) by mail- State Disbursement Unit, P.O. Box 659791, San Antonio, TX 78265-9791. Please ensure you include your name, 10 digit case number, and your cause number on your form of payment:
- personal check
- money order
- cashiers check
2) Pay by credit card online at www.tx.smartchildsupport.com or by phone 1-855-853-8286
3) Pay in person with cash:
- Money Gram locations including Walmart, CVS, and ACE Cash Express. Use receive code: 14681. Website to find locations: www.MoneyGram.com/locations);
- Fidelity XPressPay locations (to find nearest location call 1-800-621-8030, option 7020 or view www.fidelityexpress.com )
4) Pay by electronic bank draft. Website to set up account and register: www.tx.smartchildsupport.com
5) Pay by cash, credit card, or checking account using kiosks located within the Harris County Civil Courthouse (205 Caroline, Houston, TX 77002) and Harris County Juvenile Justice Center (1001 Preston, Houston, TX 77002)
6) Pay by income withholding. You, the court, the payee or the FOCAS Program may notify your employer to withhold support from your wages. If you pay by income withholding, you must pay your support yourself until your employer begins to withhold. If your employer is unable to withhold the full amount, you must pay the difference yourself to the SDU.
Yes. The custodial parent has discretion to hire private counsel, who will notice the DRO of the pending litigation.
Evaluations do not begin until all fees are paid. You have the option of paying the other party's fees so the evaluation can begin and then seeking reimbursement at a later date. Consult with your attorney.
No - children may not be present at the mediation.
No. However, all noncustodial parents who reside in Harris County may apply to the DRO for possession enforcement services. Possession enforcement services are detailed in a different page on this website.
Yes, Reporting is a condition of your community supervision. If you fail to report it is a violation of your community supervision.
You may qualify for services is you meet certain qualifications. Contact us at 713-274-7300 for a determination on whether your case qualifies.
If both parties have paid, the evaluator will move forward with an evaluation based on the information received.
Only the parties and their attorneys are allowed to participate in the mediation session. Do not bring anyone else to the mediation session or they will be required to wait on another floor.
The written report is filed with the Court and provided to attorneys of record and to parties who have represented to the Court that they are acting as their own attorney.
Contact your assigned Officer to discuss how to pay attorney's fees.
Contact the Harris County District Clerk's Office at 713-755-5758.
Evaluations are assigned in the order in which they are received after all required information has been provided to Family Court Services. Typical reasons for delay of the study:
- The signed court order has not been received, and
- All of the assessed fees have not been paid.
Report the changes to your assigned officer immediately. You also need to report the changes to the Office of the Attorney General at 800-252-8014 and to the other parent.
Only the Court can modify the child support or medical support order. It cannot be done by agreement of the parties. Grounds for a modification include a material and substantial change in the circumstances of a child or a person affected by the order. A parent subject to child support or medical support whose case is in the FOCAS Program may request a review of the ordered child support amounts by contacting the Domestic Relations Office.
Notify your Family Court Services Evaluator as soon as possible. The Evaluation will be stopped and the Court notified.
Contact the Harris County District Clerk's Office at 713-755-5758.
In order to comply with the Texas Family code, Section 162.0085, adoption petitioners must obtain their own criminal history record information (CHRI) from the Texas Department of Public Safety (TDPS) and submit same to the Court for review. The process is on the TDPS website at https://www.dps.texas.gov/internetforms/Forms/CR-62.pdf. TDPS has entered into an exclusive contract with MorphoTrust USA for this service. Below are methods to obtain the information.
Contact Fingerprint Applicant Services of Texas (FAST) at 1-888-467-2080 to setup an appointment to be fingerprinted. Callers must inform the technician that they are being fingerprinted for “Domestic or International Adoption.” A technician will assist with the completion of forms and fingerprint card for a CHRI search.
The individual or authorized representative must download forms and fingerprint cards from the DPS website https://www.dps.texas.gov/internetforms/Forms/CR-62.pdf. These forms and cards must be completed pursuant to TDPS and FAST fingerprint instructions. Applicants must register the information with www.indentogo.com and mail completed forms to Morpho Trust USA.
Should you have any questions, please contact TDPS at (512) 424-5079.
No. You will not be seen if you bring your children.