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Demystifying the Bill of Review: Its Significance in Texas Family Law Cases

If you find yourself dissatisfied with the outcome of a civil case in Texas, you have recourse to seek a new trial. The most widely known option is to file a motion for a new trial. This becomes particularly favorable if a default judgment has been rendered against you.

In cases where a default judgment is at play, this option is often considered the preferred and most common approach to rectify the situation. A motion for a new trial allows you to challenge the verdict. It also allows you to present additional evidence or correct any errors that may have occurred during the initial proceedings.

Note that Texas courts consistently express disapproval of judgments rendered against individuals who were absent from the initial proceedings. Furthermore, submitting this motion within thirty days of the judgment being signed substantially increases your likelihood of securing a fresh opportunity to present your case.

Bill of Review in Texas Family Law

Another viable option involves pursuing an equitable bill of review as a post-trial method to secure a new trial. In this situation, you have the flexibility to file this review petition at any point between four months and four years after the judgment is officially signed.

Accordingly, an exception exists if you can effectively demonstrate that fraud played a substantial role in the prior judgment, providing you with the avenue to win a bill of review even after four years have elapsed. For instance, if the opposing party deceived you, leading you to forgo the trial due to their deception, you can still pursue a bill of review to rectify the situation.

How to Win a Bill of Review Motion

To succeed in a Bill of Review motion, you must meet a set standard defined by Texas law. While the exact criteria are comparable to those required for a Motion for New Trial, they include:

First, having a meritorious defense or a valid basis for a new trial or appeal.
Secondly, being hindered from asserting this defense or claim due to fraud, accident, or the opposing party’s wrongful acts or an official mistake.
Third, demonstrating that your situation was not influenced by your own fault or negligence.

Note that your failure to present your case in the initial trial must be entirely attributable to external factors. Indeed, your own actions must not cause it.

Winning a Bill of Review petition is certainly a complex endeavor. Moreover, Texas adheres to a policy favoring final judgments to maintain judicial stability. Thus, allowing every decision to be easily appealed or overturned would disrupt the legal system and society.

What “Official Mistake” Means

Regarding the concept of an “official mistake,” it typically pertains to errors made by court officers, often the court clerk. A clerk is responsible for notifying parties of any court orders related to a case. However, they may not provide updates on case status. Relying solely on a clerk to keep you informed about your case’s status is not advisable.

In Texas, county and district clerks automatically send updates on cases before trial. Specifically, they inform parties of recently filed documents and signed orders. They do this to meet the essential requirement of keeping parties informed about orders eligible for appeal. However, clerical mistakes can occur. Naturally, a bill of review may be the only remedy available if a court clerk’s error harms a party.

Fraud by the opposing party and official mistakes are the most common grounds for filing a bill of review in Texas family law cases. In our next article, we will explore a Houston-area family law case. The case especially involves a statement of thought filed in response to a judgment in that case.

Questions on Bill of Reviews? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan

If you require guidance on filing a bill of review in your Texas family law case, you may contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC. Our experienced team can provide comprehensive assistance tailored to your specific situation. Moreover, we offer free consultations six days a week and are here to support you throughout the process.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Spring Divorce Lawyers

The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it’s essential to speak with one of our Spring, TX Divorce Lawyers right away to protect your rights.

Our divorce lawyers in Spring, TX, are skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC, handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, 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.

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