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Civil Litigation in Texas: The Basics

Court How-Tos (Civil Procedure)

This article explains the basics of civil lawsuits in Texas.

Civil litigation in Texas has three basic phases:

  1. Pre-trial,
  2. Trial, and
  3. Post-trial. 

This article provides a broad overview of basic concepts and includes links to additional articles that teach you more. Get help with civil litigation. If you feel overwhelmed by the civil litigation process, see TexasLawHelp's Ask a Question page, and we will do our best to help you find the right kind of assistance for your situation. You can also try the Legal Help Directory tool or contact a lawyer referral service.

Three Phases of Civil Litigation

Civil litigation can be broken into three 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. 

The three phrases of civil litigation, illustrated

Civil Litigation Phases


Essential steps in the pre-trial phase of litigation include research, filing, and notice and response. Read Civil Litigation in Texas: The Pretrial Phase for an explanation of what must happen before trial.


Discovery is how you get information that is relevant to your case that the other side has. Read Discovery in Texas: Investigate and Prepare for Trial.

Motions and Requests

Sometimes, parties need to ask the court for things before or during the trial.  To ask the court for something during litigation, you will usually need to file either a motion or request. Some of the most common motions and requests are:

  • Request for Jury
  • Motion for Continuance
  • Motion to Amend Petition
  • Temporary Orders

Read Motions and Requests.

Ending a Case Before Trial

Ending a case before trial can also be accomplished by submitting a motion to the court. Generally, the motions that might be used to end a case before trial include:

  • Nonsuit 
  • Dismissal
  • Settlement
  • Summary Judgment
  • Default Judgment

Read Ending a Case Before Trial.


A trial is a process where a judge or jury listens to and makes a decision about a case. Both sides will try to convince the judge or jury to agree with them by presenting their side of the story and any evidence. The purpose of a trial is to find a solution or get a decision, like awarding money in a civil case. Trials can be complicated and have special rules, so it is usually a good idea to have a lawyer help you. Read Civil Trial Preparation to learn about getting ready for a trial.


The judge may have ruled in the case, but the matter might not be over. There are actions that can be filed in Texas civil court after a trial—such as setting aside a default judgment, modifying an order, enforcing an order, or appealing an order. But deadlines are crucial. Read Civil Litigation in Texas: After the Trial.

How Do I Find a Lawyer?

Representing Yourself In Court

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