311th Family Court

Within the Harris County court system there are several courts that oversee family law matters, however, if you or a loved one must appear before the 311th Family Court, it is best to familiarize yourself with that court specifically. Work with your lawyer to understand the court’s location, its docket structure, and its key policies and procedures. Knowing what to expect ahead of time can hopefully ease some tension often associated with going to court.

The 311TH Family Court at a Glance

The 311th Family Court is located on the eighth floor of the Harris County Civil Courthouse at 201 Caroline, Houston, Texas, 77002. The court phone number is listed as 713-274-4580. The Honorable Germaine Tanner presides over the court and The Honorable Frank Pierce is the associate judge for the court.

Brief History of Judge Tanner’s Role in the 311TH Family Court

The Honorable Germaine Tanner has been practicing law since 2003 and is estimated to have handled more than five hundred family law cases during that time. Judge Tanner was elected to the 311th Family Court in 2018.

According to the 311th court’s website, its mission is, “to interpret and apply the law consistently and impartially; where appropriate, use direction wisely; and earn the respect and confidence of the public by treating individuals with fairness, equality and respect.”

Docket Structure of the 311TH Family District Court

Each court within the Harris County court system that hears family law cases usually has their own docket schedule that may be different than and yet similar to their counterparts’. For the 311th Family Court as of 2019, the docket schedule is as follows:

Monday

  • Uncontested docket 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. (and as court availability allows)
  • Trial docket 9 a.m.

Tuesday

  • Uncontested docket 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. (and as court availability allows)
  • Temporary orders hearings 9 a.m.

Wednesday

  • Uncontested docket 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. (and as court availability allows)
  • CPS docket 8 a.m. (and other days/times as needed for emergencies)

Thursday

  • Uncontested docket 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. (and as court availability allows)
  • Temporary orders hearings 9 a.m.
  • Contempt 9 a.m.
  • Enforcement actions

Friday

  • Uncontested docket 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m. (and as court availability allows)
  • Entry and Submission docket 9 a.m.

Key Policies and Procedures of the 311TH Family District Court of Harris Co., TX

In addition to having their own docket schedules, many of these family law courts also abide by their own set of policies and procedures. Inside the 311th Family Court as of 2019, the following partial summary of policies and procedures is observed:

  • If a party wishes to prove up an uncontested matter at a time other than weekdays from 8 a.m. to 8:45 a.m., they should reach out to the coordinator to check on a judge’s availability. Uncontested matters are only heard if all documents listed in the court’s Required Orders and Forms for Entry of Final Decree/Order have been filed.
  • Temporary orders in this court may be limited to one and half hours per party. Requests for temporary orders in modification cases must be supported by an affidavit and approved by a judge.
  • Some motions can be heard via written submission. Motions should state Fridays at 9 a.m. as the date for written submission. The date is typically set ten days from filing. Responses are to be filed a minimum of two working days before the date of a submission. Parties can file a request for an oral hearing and get the date from the clerk. Motions heard by submission can include: Motion to Substitute Counsel, Motion to Withdraw, Motion to Substitute Service, Motion for Amicus Attorney, Motion for Service by Publication, and Motion to Transfer.
  • Child support enforcement cases require an official payment history from the Texas Office of the Attorney General. If requesting incarceration, the moving party must bring a proposed commitment order to the hearing. That order must be entered by 2 p.m. on the date of the incarceration.
  • Entries of orders require the proper documents be filed from the court’s list, Required Orders and Forms for Entry of Final Decree/Order. Without these filed forms, the case could be dismissed.
  • Discovery disputes and trial exhibits must follow the policies on the 311th court’s webpage.
  • Mediation is necessary prior to final trials, with some exceptions. Parties wanting an exception must file a motion and set a hearing on the issue a minimum of ten days before trial. No mediation could result in the dismissal of the case.
  • Mediation is also required before temporary orders involving conservatorship disputes or complex property issues, with some exceptions. If a party is denied possession of the party’s child, the court could waive mediation.
  • Sworn inventory should be on file prior to prove up of a default divorce.
  • Pretrial conferences are required for jury trials on Fridays about seventeen days before trial. Consult the court’s Pretrial Conference Checklist for more details.
  • Pretrial conferences are also required for adoption cases.
  • Ex parte temporary restraining orders are expected to be joint and mutual in most cases.
  • The court may appoint attorney ad litem or an amicus attorney as they see fit.
  • Requests for attorney’s fees in private cases should result in detailed invoices.
  • Parties involved in a custody dispute are required to complete a four hour parenting class prior to trial.

What To Know Before You Go

The 311th Family Court has some basic courtroom rules that should be adhered to. Those appearing before the 311th court should abide by the following:

  • Be on time. It is a show of respect.
  • Dress professionally and tastefully.
  • Electronic devices must be silenced or turned off.
  • Photography and videos are prohibited.
  • Chewing gum, food, and beverages are also banned from the courtroom, with the exception of water or beverages at the counsel table.
  • Children may not be present in the courtroom unless specified by the court. If the court does not request the presence of your child, make arrangements for proper childcare.