Thanks, I think I understand what's going on. In a family court case in Texas, the initial hearing is conducted by an associate judge. That judge, however, can't make a final determination of the case. Instead, the associate judge recommends
an order to the district court, which issues the final order. If a party is dissatisfied with the associate judge's recommendation, they can ask the district court to conduct a de novo review
This type of "second trial" is uncommon in the US. It exists because the associate judge isn't, strictly speaking, a "full" judge
, and the hearing isn't, strictly speaking, a trial. Instead, the AJ is more like a court-appointed arbitrator who is intended to do a lot of grunt work that would otherwise clog up the court system. But since the AJ can't conduct a real trial, and since everyone is entitled to at least one real trial, the district court will hold a real trial in case one of the parties objects to the AJ's recommendation. And because the AJ's decision isn't binding, the district court conducts the trial de novo
(i.e. as if the previous hearing never happened).
I will re-emphasize that this is not
the typical procedure in the US. It may be common in family court, but it's not standard in most other areas of the law.