In Dallas County, we have associate judges in family courts that hear and rule on most family law cases involving temporary support, temporary custody, and other family law matters. The answer is “yes”. A party can appeal an associate judge’s ruling on a case. However, the appeal must be filed within 3 business days of the ruling in order for the appeal to be valid.
On the motion of any party or of the associate judge, an associate judge may also refer a complex case back to the judge for final disposition after the associate judge has made a recommendation on a case involving temporary support. An associate judge may also render and sign any order that is not a final order on the merits of the case. An associate judge may also recommend to the referring court, or the district court, any order after a trial on the merits.
However, only the referring court may hear and render an order on a motion for postjudgment relief, including a motion for a new trial or to vacate, correct, or reform a judgment.
Most appeals from the associate judge involve cases in suits to modify or clarify an exiting child support order. They can also hear and render an order on a motion to enforce a child support order or revoke a respondent’s community supervision and suspension of commitment.
If the request for appeal or as it is formally referred as 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 rendered by the associate judge shall become the order or judgment of the referring court by operation of law without ratification by the referring court in most circumstances.
It is important to remember that during the time a party is waiting for the de novo hearing to be had in the referring court, the 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 pending a de novo hearing before the referring court.
Again, the party requesting a de novo hearing before the referring court must file a notice with the clerk of the referring court not later than the third working day after the date the associate judge signs the proposed order or judgment.