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Civil Litigation in Texas: The Basics in Three Phases

Authored By: Texas Partnership for Legal Access
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Introduction

Civil litigation is the legal process for dealing with non-criminal matters in court. Civil lawsuits usually do not result in jail time or "punishment." Instead, the outcome of civil litigation is usually a court order that requires one person to pay another person money, stop interfering with another person’s rights, or do what they are legally obligated to do. In some cases, a civil court order may be used to give certain rights such as parental rights or rights to property.

The legal research, analysis, deadlines, formal presentations, important objections and strategies that are all part of civil litigation can make it overwhelmingly complex for non-attorneys. This guide is only intended to give a general overview of civil litigation.  Attorneys spend many years practicing litigation strategies, and a good litigator may be an essential element of winning a difficult case.

For attorneys and self-represented litigants alike, “Going to court” is a long process, not a one-day trip to the courthouse.

 

If you feel overwhelmed by the civil litigation process, Contact us at TexasLawHelp.org and we will do our best to help you find the right kind of assistance for your situation.

 

Uncontested and Contested Cases: An Important Difference

 

Before you begin reading about the three main phases of civil litigation, you should know that the civil litigation process can, generally, take two main different forms.

Uncontested means that both sides agree on a desired outcome but are using the court system to make their agreement legally binding. These people may be required to have their agreement approved by a judge or they may decide to do so as a way to help protect their interests. Uncontested cases can be successfully completed through careful research, attention to detail and organization.

Contestedmeans that the people involved in the case do not agree on what the outcome of the case should be.  Contested cases require that both sides argue their position to explain why the law says that a judge should rule in his/her favor. Contested cases will generally require much more work than an uncontested case- even if the other side is not represented by an attorney.  This is because you will need to learn trial strategy and prepare to clearly explain the way that the law applies to the facts of your case. Furthermore, you will need to give this explanation while addressing the other side, who will be presenting an explanation of the law that, challenges your explanation, arguing that it is only fair for the judge to rule in their favor instead of yours.

If your case is contested and the other side is represented by an attorney, you should not try to represent your own interests during a trial unless absolutely necessary. Instead, contact us through TexasLawHelp.org for more information about other options for solving your legal problem.

Three Phases of Civil Litigation

Civil litigation is broken into 3 main phases: pre-trial, trial, and post-trial. Each of these phases has certain tasks that must be completed in order to protect the rights of everyone involved in the lawsuit.

 

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Last Review and Update: May 14, 2015