Once the initial shock and panic of being sued by your spouse for divorce wears off you probably have thought to yourself, “now what in the world do I do!?” Well, as I have mentioned in prior articles, you must act. Doing nothing will result in your ex being able to default you for divorce. Your first step is to put together a response to their Original Petition for Divorce.
As a Spring, Texas divorce lawyer I have had the opportunity to help many people through the Texas divorce process. One common scenario is I see is where someone sets up a consult with my office because they have just been served with divorce paperwork.
In a previous blog article “I have been served with Divorce Papers - What do I do now in Texas?” I discuss some of the things to be aware of in this situation.
This article however is going to focus on helping you take care of Step 1 of that article “Filing an Answer” so that you can get to Step 2 – finding an attorney to help you through the rest of the divorce process.
What do the Divorce Documents that I have been Served with Mean?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of how you actually draft your answer it is helpful to go over what various documents contain and what they are called. At this stage you likely have at least two documents:
- the Original Petition for Divorce and
- the Citation:
The Citation is the document that should have been served on you by the process server when they originally dropped off the Original Petition for Divorce.
This document is important because it will tell you exactly how many days you have to submit your response to the court. Once you get the Citation make sure you write down on your calendar when the deadline is to respond. You don’t want to miss this deadline!
Under Texas Rules of Civil Procedure 99 The citation states that was served with in the divorce will provide the following notice:
"You have been sued. You may employ a Texas divorce attorney. If you or your attorney do not file a written answer with the clerk who issued this citation by 10:00 a.m. on the Monday next following the expiration of twenty days after you were served this citation and petition, a default judgment may be taken against you."
The Original Petition for Divorce
The Original Petition for Divorce is what most people consider “divorce papers” it is the lawsuit that your spouse has started to obtain a divorce. A good way to look at the Original Petition for Divorce is as a list of requests your spouse is making of the Court against the respondent (you). At this point, nothing has been proven, it is just a list of allegations and requests.
The formal document you draft in response to the Original Petition for Divorce is called an “Answer.” This is the document we are going to learn how to draft and file in this article.
At its most basic an Answer is a response you file with the court letting the court know that you are planning to participate in the divorce process and do not want the court grant a default judgment.
The other thing the Answer does is require that if any additional actions are taken in the case like a hearing or if an order is presented to the court you will be entitled to notice of that hearing date or that document that has been filed with the Court.
In Texas your answer should include a “general denial.” Many people I meet get confused about what a “general denial” means. All a general denial means is that you want your spouse to put on evidence of the things they are saying in their divorce petition. You are not saying the things in the divorce petition are untrue.
Why you need to file an Answer in a Divorce?
Something that you may not realize is that a Divorce is a lawsuit. There are basically 2-3 things that the divorce lawsuit deal with. 1st once the divorce is granted you will be divorced. Second it will divided up property and debts. Finally it will make provisions regarding any children of the marriage.
Once you are served with the lawsuit (the divorce papers) you will have very little time to respond. In Texas divorce papers there will be a long paper saying you have been sued and you have until the Monday next following 20 days after service of the lawsuit to respond.
It is very important to respond by filing an answer this prevents your spouse from being able to obtain a default judgment.
A default Judgment would be judgment in favor of your spouse based on your failure to take action. It basically amounts to a one sided argument made in front of a judge. Which means the judge will only hear your spouse’s side of the divorce case and rules based on the evidence your spouse provides to the Judge.
Another possible scenario is that your spouse may ask you to sign a waiver of service. I discuss why you should not do this in another blog article, “Waivers - To sign or not to sign? The answer is don't do it!”
One of the first things your divorce lawyer will want to do for you to protect you against a default judgment is file an answer.
What does an Answer Look Like?
By clicking the below links you can download some suggested answers that the Texas Supreme Court has approved for Pro Se parties (people who represent themselves:
- Answer for a divorce with no children
- Answer for a divorce with children
Answer to a Divorce No Children
The following are the different sections of this form:
- Section 1 - a General Denial as explained above it just means you are asking that your spouse put on evidence of the things they are saying in the original petition for divorce.
- Section 2 – Is your contact information. You need to fill this section out so you can receive notices from the court of any hearing dates.
- Section 3 – Separate property – If you owned anything prior to marriage, inherited, or received gifts you should fill this section out.
- Section 4 – If you want to change your name back to a name you used prior to marriage you should fill this section out. It is a lot simpler and cheaper to restore your name during a divorce then it would be after a divorce.
- Section 5 – Request for Judgment – This is just your request to the Court to give you the things you asked for above.
- Section 6 – Certificate of Service – This is just you promising to give a copy of the Answer to either your spouse or their attorney.
Answer to a Divorce with Children
This answer is the same as above except the style of the case is different and has a place to fill out your children’s names.
The Answer is Drafted, Now What?
Now that you have drafted the Answer it is time to get it filed with the district clerk where the divorce case has been filed. Print out the original, sign it, and then make two copies.
Go down to the courthouse, file the document with the clerk. Ask the clerk to stamp the other two copies you brought with you.
Keep one copy for your records and mail a copy of your Answer to your ex or their attorney if they are represented. Most courts will not send your spouse a copy of your Answer so it is important you do this so they know not to proceed with the paperwork for a default judgment.
- Harris County, Texas - If your divorce was filed in Harris County, Texas then you will need to file it at 201 Caroline, 2nd Floor, Room 210. Houston, TX 77002. Monday - Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
- Montgomery County, Texas - If your divorce was filed in Montgomery County, Texas then you will need to file it at 301 N Main St, Conroe, TX 77301. Monday – Friday, 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Contact a Divorce Attorney
In my blog article “8 Steps in the Divorce Process” I have contacting divorce or family law lawyer as being the first step in the divorce process. However, if you are on a time crunch and fill comfortable doing the above steps then in your case you should make it is the second step.
If you would like me to review your answer prior to filing my office would be happy to meet with you to discuss your case and what you should do next. We offer a Free First consultation for family law and divorce cases.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
If you want to know more about how to prepare, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “13 Dirty Tricks to Watch Out For in Your Texas Divorce, and How to Counter Them" Today!”
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Other Articles you may be interested in:
- 6 things You Need to Know Before You File for Divorce in Texas
- I Want a Texas Divorce but My Husband Doesn't: What can I do?
- Am I Married? - Marital Status in Texas
- Can I sue my spouse's mistress in Texas?
- 6 Tips - On How to prepare for a Texas Divorce
- Roadmap of Basic Divorce Procedure in Texas
- Child Custody Basics in Texas
- 6 Mistakes that can Destroy Your Texas Divorce Case
- 10 Quick Tips About Parental Visitation
- Does it Matter who Files First in a Texas Divorce?
Law Office of Bryan Fagan | Spring, Texas Divorce Lawyer
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with one of our Spring, TX Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.
Our divorce lawyer in Spring TX are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.