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How to Draft Your Own Court Documents

Virtual Court

This article provides strategies and references for drafting pleadings and other court documents when you cannot find the right form.

Court documents, such as pleadings, motions, and orders, can be a complex aspect of litigation that involves technological and legal know-how. Legal professionals create templates of some court documents. For times when you cannot find the documents through TexasLawHelpor hire a lawyer in private practice to draw them up for youthis article includes information about drafting your own court documents.

TexasLawHelp is working to provide you with accurate information on virtual court procedures and platforms. To help improve upon the information that is available, please leave any comments or recommendations in this Virtual Court Content Survey

What are pleadings?

Pleadings are statements, made in plain and concise language, of the plaintiff's cause of action or the defendant's grounds of defense. Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 45(b). Pleadings are supported by evidence or legal conclusions, and all pleadings require that notice be given to the other party.

What are motions?

Motions are a request for a court to issue an order on a certain matter within the case. All motions must:

  • Be in writing, unless made during a hearing or trial;
  • State with particularity the grounds for seeking the order; and
  • State the relief that you are seeking.

What are court orders?

Court orders are decisions or directives that a court issues as part of a civil case. A court order can require a party to act or refrain from acting in a certain matter. Failure to obey a court order can result in penalties, sanctions, or contempt.

Do I have to write up my own court documents?

Not always, but TexasLawHelp does not offer court documents for every situation. When that happens, and you must represent yourself, other sources of forms are out there. You might have to create your own court document. Many common pleadings are available through pre-drafted or template forms.

Many law libraries have a collection of these forms. See the State Law Library Locator Tool to determine which law library is closest to you. 

Where should I go to find templates of court documents?

Go to your local law library. Most Texas public law libraries provide access to commercial electronic legal databases. Westlaw and Lexis-Nexis are two of the more common databases provided by these libraries. In each of these databases, there is a "forms" database that supplies templated forms for common pleadings.

Law libraries also provide print copies of legal texts that have features like commentaries on the law and pre-drafted templates for certain pleadings. For example, the Texas Family Law Practice Manual carries over 700 legal forms to assist you in drafting legal documents.

See the State Law Library Locator Tool to find the library closest to you and the resources they provide. 

Note: When looking through commercial databases, make sure that Texas law is applied to your search. You can do this by narrowing your search by state and topic. Law libraries can help you find trainings about how to use commercial legal research services.

Texas Bar CLE is also an important legal education tool. "CLE" stands for "continuing legal education." Texas Bar CLE, though intended for Texas attorneys, offers legal education, including pre-templated forms. 

What goes into a pleading?

Under Rule 47 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, all pleadings (original petitions, counterclaims, crossclaims, or third-party claims) require the following:

  • A short statement of the cause of action to give fair notice of the claim involved.
  • A statement that the damages sought are within the jurisdiction of the court;
  • A statement that the party requests either:
    • monetary relief of $250,000 or less and attorney fees and costs;
    • monetary relief of $250,000 or less and non-monetary relief;
    • monetary relief over $250,000 but not more than $1,000,000;
    • monetary relief over $1,000,000; or
    • only non-monetary relief (i.e., injunction, protective order)
  • A demand for judgment on the relief requested; and
  • For self-represented litigants: your signature, address, telephone number, email address, and (if available) your fax number.

What goes into a motion?

A motion should be formatted as follows: 

  • Caption:  The nature of the motion (for example, Defendant, John Doe, moves for sanctions against plaintiff, Jane Doe, for filing groundless pleadings in violation of Texas Civil Practice & Remedies Code section 9.011). 
  • Introduction: A brief introduction of the parties, the basis of the suit, and the relief sought. 

  • Background: A brief statement of the facts that are relevant to the motion. 
  • Argument & Authorities: A statement of the law that supports the request, and an application of the law to the facts of your case. 
  • Conclusion: A brief summary of the motion 
  • Prayer: A statement of the ruling that you are requesting the court makes. 

What goes into a court order?

A court order should be formatted as follows:

[Heading]

  • ORDER ON [Party]'s MOTION FOR [NAME OF MOTION]

After considering [party name]'s [name of motion]

  • [Include from below the applicable statements]:
  • and the response
  • the response, and the evidence on file
  • the response, the evidence on file, and arguments of counsel
  • the response, and arguments of counsel
  • the response, and arguments of counsel, and after receiving evidence in open court.

The Court

  • DENIES the motion; or
  • GRANTS the motion and [identify the relief requested in the motion]

Signature

  • Signed on ____, 20__.
  • _________________.
    PRESIDING JUDGE

How do I keep the information in my court documents safe?

Texas courts have strict rules regarding the redaction and protection of private data. Redaction is the removal of sensitive items of text in publicly filed documents. Read Sensitive Data to learn how to redact and protect sensitive information. 

“Redacting” is modifying a document to have all confidential and sensitive information taken out of it. You can redact information by blacking it out with a redacting tool in your PDF software, blacking it out with the letter x, or removing the sensitive information and writing "REDACTED" in parentheses or brackets where the sensitive information was. See our article on sensitive data to learn more about redaction. 

Where do I file my pleadings?

You can file documents electronically or in person at the clerk's office. Talk to a lawyer if you need help figuring out which court to file in. Learn more from our article How to E-File.

Where can I find examples of the court documents I am looking for?

Most court records are public record. This means that you can contact your local clerk to request a completed copy of the pleading you are looking for.

One way to find court documents that have been filed is Re:Search Texas, which is a service created to give you access to public court records online. Use Re:Search Texas to find similar pleadings and document structures.

Harris County Robert W. Hainsworth Law Library: Finding and Formatting Legal Forms

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