Read the custody papers right away. Is there a standing order? Has the judge signed a temporary restraining order? Are there any hearing dates? If so, read these articles to learn more: Standing Orders, Temporary Orders & Temporary Restraining Orders (TROs)
Calculate the deadline to file an answer. Find the day you were served on a calendar, count out 20 more days (including weekends and holidays), then go to the next Monday. You must file an answer with the court on or before this date at 10:00 a.m. If you don’t, the petitioner may finish the custody without you. Note: If the 20th day is a Monday go to the next Monday. If the courts are closed on the day your answer is due, then your answer is due the next day the courts are open.
Try to talk to a lawyer. A family law lawyer can explain your options and give you advice about your particular situation. You can hire a family law lawyer just to give you advice. Or, you may be able to talk with a lawyer for free at a legal clinic.
If you need help finding a lawyer, you can:
Decide how you want to respond.
- Option 1: File an answer. If you have been served with the initial custody papers (citation and petition) and want to have a say in the case, you must file a Respondent’s Original Answer form with the court. If you don’t, the petitioner may finish the custody without you. Get answer forms here: Instructions & Forms for Filing an Answer in a SAPCR (Custody) Case.
Warning! It’s important to talk with a lawyer before filing an answer (or any other form) with the court, if you don’t live in Texas or think the custody should be transferred to another court in Texas.
- Option 2: File an answer AND a counter-petition. A counter-petition tells the judge what orders you want the judge to make in the custody case. Counter-petition forms are not currently available on TexasLawHelp.org.
- Option 3: Do nothing. If you have been served with custody papers and do nothing, the petitioner can finish the custody without you. This is called a “default judgment.” You will not have a say in any of the issues involved in the custody case.
If you have questions about your options, it’s important to talk with a lawyer.