You’ve Just Been Served a Family Lawsuit. Now What?
Texas family lawsuits are almost always difficult on spouses and children alike, especially if the lawsuit involves a divorce, child support, and child custody. Aside from the awkwardness of breaking the news to your family and friends, there’s the more urgent question of what comes next after being served with a lawsuit. Your immediate reaction might be to call a Austin family law attorney, but it also helps to understand how the litigation process works.What Exactly Gets “Served”?
In a Texas family lawsuit, there are two types of documents that will be served to you: Citations and Petitions.
- Citation – A citation is basically a document from the Court notifying you that you are being sued. The person who receives the citation is referred to as a Respondent, who must respond to the lawsuit by filing an answer.
- Petition – A petition is a document filed by the Petitioner, or the party filing the lawsuit. In the case of a petition for divorce, the petitioner will indicate their grounds for wanting the divorce to be granted. In Texas, the most common reason for a divorce is insupportability, which simply means both spouses can no longer get along with one another. Other states refer to this as “irreconcilable differences.” Other common grounds for a Texas divorce include infidelity or adultery and abandonment.
As the respondent, you are obliged to provide an answer to the lawsuit.Preparing Your Answer to the Lawsuit
Whenever someone in Texas is served with a family lawsuit, the Court requires that individual to provide a written answer, which is crucial if you want your side to be heard in Court. Your answer is essentially a brief document that may deny or admit the items alleged in the petition. You may serve your answer directly to the petitioner or their attorney.
Time is of the essence when filing an answer to a Texas family lawsuit. You cannot afford to ignore deadlines, otherwise, your rights may not be protected in the suit. In Texas, respondents must file an answer on or before 10:00 a.m. on the Monday after the expiration of 20 days after the petition was served. Anything beyond this period of time is considered an untimely answer. Failure to file and serve an answer to the petitioner in time means a default judgment may be made against you.Do You Need an Austin Divorce Attorney?
The answer to this question ultimately depends on your circumstances. The Court, however, will allow you to enter the divorce proceedings without legal representation. But given the often-complicated issues that come up in most Texas divorces, having an attorney at your side is in your best interest.
It’s a good idea to schedule a consultation with Austin family law attorney Daniella Lyttle if you are facing any of the following situations in your Texas divorce:
- There are children involved in the lawsuit and issues such as child support, custody, and/or visitation are contentious; In an amicable situation, the attorney can help you draft a binding Order;
- The divorce involves high-value community or separate property;
- You believe your spouse is committing fraud against your estate;
- There are complicated property division issues at hand, such as retirement accounts and Social Security benefits;
- Your spouse is being represented by an attorney;
- You want comprehensive and personalized pleadings to be filed in court;
- You believe you deserve spousal maintenance;
- You want to dispute your spouse’s demands for spousal maintenance;
- You do not know how the legal process works.
If you have more questions about Texas family law, get in touch with Austin family law attorney Daniella Lyttle of the Lyttle Law Firm. Call our offices today at (512) 215-5225, or use our contact form to schedule a consultation.