In Dallas County,   most of the cases that we initiate in family law involve a Temporary Orders hearing with the associate judge presiding over the hearing.  In cases where one of the parties does not believe to have gotten a fair ruling,  the party has the right to appeal the ruling or recommendation of the associate judge and request a De Novo Hearing.

A De Novo Hearing is heard by the District Court judge of the court of jurisdiction as a new hearing.

The associate judge’s report may contain the associate judge’s findings, conclusions, or recommendations and may be in the form of a proposed order. The associate judge’s report must be in writing and in the form directed by the referring court.  After a hearing, the associate judge shall provide the parties participating in the hearing notice of the substance of the associate judge’s report, including any proposed order.

Notice may be given to the parties: (1) in open court, by an oral statement or by providing a copy of the associate judge’s written report, including any proposed order; (2) by certified mail, return receipt requested; or (3) by facsimile.   A rebuttable presumption exists that notice is received on the date stated on: (1) the signed return receipt, if notice was provided by certified mail; or (2) the confirmation page produced by the facsimile machine, if notice was provided by facsimile.  

After a hearing conducted by an associate judge, the associate judge shall send the associate judge’s signed and dated report, including any proposed order, and all other papers relating to the case to the referring district court.

Does the associate Judge inform parties of their right to appeal via a De Novo Hearing?

An associate judge shall give all parties notice of the right to a de novo hearing to the judge of the referring court.  The notice may be given (1) by oral statement in open court; (2) by posting inside or outside the courtroom of the referring court; or (3) as otherwise directed by the referring court.   

Can a party waive the right to a De Novo Hearing?

Yes, before the start of a hearing by an associate judge, a party may waive the right of a de novo hearing before the referring court in writing or on the record.

What is a party files for a De Novo Hearing?

Pending a de novo hearing before the referring court, a proposed order or judgment of the associate judge is in full force and effect and is enforceable as an order or judgment of the referring court, except for an order providing for the appointment of a receiver.

Is there a deadline to file for a De Novo Hearing?

Yes, if a request for a de novo hearing before the referring court is not timely filed or the right to a de novo hearing before the referring court is waived, the proposed order or judgment of the associate judge becomes the order or judgment of the referring court only on the referring court’s signing the proposed order or judgment.

How much time does a party have to file for a De Novo Hearing?

A party may request a de novo hearing before the referring court by filing with the clerk of the referring court a written request not later than the third working day after the date the party receives notice of the substance of the associate judge’s report as provided by Section 201.313 of the Texas Family Code.

A request for a de novo hearing under this section must specify the issues that will be presented to the referring court. The de novo hearing is limited to the specified issues. Notice of a request for a de novo hearing before the referring court shall be given to the opposing attorney in the manner provided by Rule 21a, Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.

If a request for a de novo hearing before the referring court is filed by a party, any other party may file a request for a de novo hearing before the referring court not later than the third working day after the date the initial request was filed.  The referring court, after notice to the parties, shall hold a de novo hearing not later than the 30th day after the date the initial request for a de novo hearing was filed with the clerk of the referring court.

In the de novo hearing before the referring court, the parties may present witnesses on the issues specified in the request for hearing. The referring court may also consider the record from the hearing before the associate judge, including the charge to and verdict returned by a jury, if the record was taken by a court reporter.  The denial of relief to a party after a de novo hearing under this section or a party’s waiver of the right to a de novo hearing before the referring court does not affect the right of a party to file a motion for new trial, a motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, or other posttrial motions.  A party may not demand a second jury in a de novo hearing before the referring court if the associate judge’s proposed order or judgment resulted from a jury trial.

If you as a party to a case in front of the associate judge decides to appeal and request a De Novo Hearing,  it is important to discuss the matter with your legal counsel because strict deadlines apply in this type of circumstances.