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How to Retain or Reinstate a Case Dismissed by the Court

Court Basics

The court may dismiss your case if it is inactive. This article tells you how to ask the court to keep your case open or reopen it when this happens.

If nothing happens in your case for a while, it can be “dismissed for want of prosecution” (called a DWOP). This article tells you how to ask the judge to (1) retain your case¾that is, keep your case open, or (2) reinstate your case¾that is, reopen your case if it has already been dismissed.

What does “dismissed for want of prosecution” or DWOP mean?

“Dismissed for want of prosecution” or DWOP means your case is dismissed by the judge because nothing has happened in your case for a while or you missed a hearing or trial (of which you had notice).

Before dismissing a case for want of prosecution, the clerk will send you a letter or email that tells you that your case has been placed on the dismissal docket (list of cases to be dismissed on a certain date).

See Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 165a.

What does it mean to retain a case?

If a case is “retained” it is kept open. If your case was placed on the dismissal docket (but not yet dismissed), you can ask the judge to keep your case open by filing a Motion to Retain Case on Docket and Notice of Hearing. 

What does it mean to reinstate a case?

If a case is “reinstated” it is reopened after being dismissed. If your case was dismissed for want of prosecution, you can ask the judge to reopen your case by filing a Motion to Reinstate Case on Docket and Notice of Hearing (if you file by the deadline discussed below.)

See Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, Rules 165(a)(4).

What is the deadline to ask the judge to reinstate my case?

You must file (turn in) a completed Motion to Reinstate Case on Docket and Notice of Hearing form within 30 days of the date the judge signed the dismissal order.

Exception: If you first learned about the dismissal order more than 20 days after it was signed by the judge, your 30-day deadline to file the Motion to Reinstate Case on Docket began on the day you received notice of the dismissal from the clerk or the day you actually found out about the dismissal (whichever happened first). However, even if this exception applies, your 30-day deadline cannot begin more than 90 days after the dismissal order was signed by the judge. So, the latest you could file a Motion to Reinstate Case on Docket is 120 days after the dismissal order was signed by the judge.

See Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 306(a)(4).

Why would I want to retain or reinstate my case?

Getting your case retained or reinstated can preserve:

  • statute of limitations (legal deadlines) that may apply to your case, and
  • orders (such as temporary orders) already made in your case.

What if the judge does not reinstate my case?

If your case is dismissed (and not reinstated), it goes away completely.

You must file your case again, pay the filing fee again and have the other side served again (if needed).

If there was a legal deadline to file your case and it has passed, you may be out of luck. Talk to a lawyer if there was a legal deadline to file your case. 

Where can I read the law about retaining or reinistating a case?

How do I ask the judge to retain my case?

The steps for asking the Court to retain your case can be found in this guide: I want to retain or reinstate a case that got dismissed. Click on the "Instructions and Forms" tab, then on the box that says "Motion to Retain."

How do I ask the judge to reinstate my case?

The steps for asking the Court to retain your case can be found in this guide: I want to retain or reinstate a case that got dismissed. Click on the "Instructions and Forms" tab, then on the box that says "Motion to Reinstate."

Texas Forms for Retaining or Reinstating a Case

Click the link below for a program you can use to fill out the forms online. The program contains information to help you fill out the forms at each step.

Guided Forms - Click  HERE

Retaining a Case on the Docket

Related Guides

  • I want to retain or reinstate a case that got dismissed.

    Court How-Tos (Civil Procedure)

    The court may dismiss your case if it is inactive. This guide explains how to ask the court to keep your case open or reopen it when this happens. ...
  • Related Articles

    Related Forms

  • Motion to Retain Case on Docket and Notice of Hearing

    PR-Ret-104

    Use to reply to a motion/notice that your case may be dismissed for not advancing it. Set hearing; notify other party.
  • Order on Motion to Retain Case on Docket

    PR-Ret-200

    Submit this form with your Motion to Retain Case. If the judge agrees with your motion, the judge will sign the form.
  • Motion to Reinstate Case on Docket and Notice of Hearing

    PR-Rei-104

    Use to ask a judge to reinstate your case after it has been dismissed. Set a hearing; notify the other party.
  • Order on Motion to Reinstate Case on Docket

    PR-Rei-200

    Submit this form with your Motion to Reinstate Case. If the judge agrees with your motion, the judge will sign the form.