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So you’ve been served with a family lawsuit in Texas- what should you do now?

Routine is not a bad thing. I think that we as human beings do better when have a fairly set routine for ourselves. A certain bedtime, a certain time to wake up, a work schedule to follow, etc. Our bodies adjust to a routine and eventually rely upon that routine to provide us with signals to drink, eat, sleep and take breaks. Along the way we become so used to our routines that variances in that rhythm can really throw us for a loop. “I’m a creature of habit!” is something that you may have heard from friends or family members in your life.

One of the things that can seriously throw you for a loop when it comes to our daily lives would be to walk to your front door or to the reception area of your office and be handed paperwork by a stranger. When you open up the envelope or look down at the papers you see that you have been handed what look to be legal documents. Your name is there and your spouse’s name is on the paperwork too. Or it could be an ex-spouse’s name in the event that you previously got a divorce. What’s the meaning of all this, you may be wondering.

When you finally get a chance to catch your breath and read through what you’ve been handed you come to find out that your spouse has filed for divorce from you. This could catch you by surprise or maybe you were expecting it. The question that you will inevitably run into no matter what is- how do you proceed from here and what should you do next? Today’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC will seek to answer that question for you.

What responsibilities do you have after you’ve been served?

To begin, you should know exactly what needs to be provided to you for proper service to be effectuated. The first document is called a citation. A citation is nothing more than a notice from the court where your case has been filed that tells you in (somewhat) plain English that you are being sued. The other document that you will be served with is called a Petition. Your spouse will not coincidentally be called the Petitioner since she filed the lawsuit and you will be called the Respondent since you will be responding to her Petition.

The Petition is a very basic document but it contains important information nonetheless. For starters it will name you and your spouse. If you have children their initials and ages will be included as well. Next, whatever grounds for divorce your spouse is citing will be noted in the Petition. For most parties it is irreconcilable differences, i.e., that you and your spouse have grown apart and there is no chance at reconciliation. Insupportability is the other term that might be used in reference to this situation.

If you and your spouse have children there is a child custody component to your divorce and the Petition will specify your spouse’s contentions with how conservatorship and possession issues should break down as well.

Finally, there may be a notice of hearing included with these documents informing you of the pendency of a hearing in your case. You will be provided with a date, time and location for the hearing. In divorce cases a Temporary Restraining Order will typically accompany a notice of hearing. These are temporary orders that basically seek to keep everyone’s property and person safe until a court date can be had and formal temporary orders can be laid out. Basically you will be asked to not harm your spouse, their property, their vehicle or to withdraw your children from school or otherwise hide your children during the time period before your hearing.

These are the documents that you can expect to receive from a process server or constable in the event that you are sued with a family law case. Now that we know what you will receive in your hand it is time to discuss what your actual responsibilities are moving forward as far as responding to a Petition.

Getting an Answer filed

If you are sued for divorce you will need to file and serve an Answer to the Petition. The Answer needs to be filed in the court records for your case and will need to be served upon your spouse. If your spouse has an attorney you can fax, email or a PDF version of mail a certified copy of your Answer to that attorney’s office. Many times you can simply select their email address when you file the Answer online and he or she will be served using that method. Technology is nice sometimes, isn’t it?

Please keep in mind that it is important that you file your Answer within a certain period of time for that to be a validly and timely filed Answer. These are not suggested time frames or anything of that nature. Don’t think of it as something that you can get away with if you happen to wait an extra week or something “major” comes up in your life. Texas law requires that you file an Answer to your spouse’s Petition by 10:00 a.m. on the first Monday after the expiration of twenty days from the date you were served.

This sounds more confusing than it ought to be- and it is in my opinion. What you need to know is that you should count twenty days after your date or service and then jump to the next possible Monday. That is your deadline. In many cases it works out that you have closer to 25 or more days rather than twenty days to get your Answer filed in a timely manner.

This “problem” will not go away if you ignore it

It’s human nature to want to push to the side those things that we find to be unenjoyable, annoying or frustrating. This divorce lawsuit that you are facing may be all three of those things but I can tell you that it will not go away just because you bury it under other paperwork in your home. There is the potential for your spouse to be able to go to court and have her own final orders established without your knowledge or consent if you fail to file a timely Answer. The Answer, once filed in a timely fashion, means that you must be notified of court dates or other filings by your spouse. Without the Answer you may be left in the dark. Issues regarding your children and property can be decided without your say.

Most people at this stage in their case will look to hire an experienced family law attorney to represent them. I don’t have the space today to go over this specific sub-topic in greater detail but I can tell you that our website has many articles regarding tips on how to interview and hire the right attorney for your family law case. Simply go up to the top of our website and use the search mechanism to read through our advice on this subject from other blog posts we have written.

Hiring an attorney does not take away your responsibilities to respond to the divorce petition in a timely fashion but it does give you some help in responding properly and in a fashion that protects you and your rights. In tomorrow’s blog post we will continue to discuss this topic in an effort to prepare you for the steps and processes to come in your own family law case.

Questions about divorce, child custody or other family law case? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC

The attorneys and staff with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC take a great deal of pride in representing people in our community just like you. If you have any questions about the information contained in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact us today. We offer free of charge consultations six days a week with our licensed family law attorneys.

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Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Spring Divorce Lawyer

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

divorce lawyer in Spring TX is skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact 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, TexasCypressSpringKleinHumble, KingwoodTomballThe Woodlands, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris CountyMontgomery CountyLiberty County, Chambers CountyGalveston CountyBrazoria CountyFort Bend County and Waller County.

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