In Texas civil lawsuits, you must exchange information with your opponent not long after the case is filed. Here, learn how to comply with the rules about getting that information to your opponent.
Sending Initial Disclosures
Texas court rules require every party in a lawsuit to send certain information about their claims or defenses to the other parties at the beginning of the case. These are called initial disclosures. The complete list of initial disclosures is contained in Texas Civil Procedure Rule 194.2.
You can read the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure at www.txcourts.gov.
Any family law cases filed after September 1, 2023, are not required to send this information.
Start gathering the information early.
Start gathering the information early. The initial disclosures ask you to provide documents, descriptions of your case, and contact information for people who may become involved in the lawsuit. It is a lot to think about, so start gathering this information way before the disclosures are due.
Respond with items that you have or have access to.
You only need to provide the information or documents you possess, have custody over, or have control over.
Possession means you physically have the item.
Custody or control means that you have a right to have the item that is equal or superior to the person who has physical possession of the item. For instance, even if you do not physically possess your bank statement, you still have custody or control of your bank statement if you can get it from your bank.
You do not have to disclose evidence that is only used to discredit another witness or piece of evidence.
Send items with the disclosures or make them available for inspection.
Usually, copies of documents or electronically stored information can be sent to the other parties with the disclosures. However, if you have a piece of evidence that cannot be sent, you must describe the evidence instead. The evidence that you describe must be made available to the other parties for inspection. For example, if a car in your driveway is evidence. You must allow the other parties to come look at the car.
Send copies, not originals.
If you are sending paper documents, make sure you send copies of the originals. It is very important that you keep the original documents.
Send the disclosures to all parties, but not the court.
Deliver your initial disclosures and responsive documents to every other plaintiff and defendant (or petitioner and respondent) in the lawsuit. This is called serving the documents. Don’t file initial disclosure documents with the court.
Send the disclosures by email, e-file, or certified mail.
A document not filed electronically may be served in person, by mail, by commercial delivery service, by fax, or by email. It is usually easiest to send digital documents to the other parties’ email addresses. You can get documents scanned and saved digitally at any print shop, Office Depot, or FedEx. These documents can be attached to the email. If the document files are too big to attach to an email you can use a sharing website, like Dropbox or Google Drive to store the documents and then share a link to the page where they are stored. You can also serve the documents through the court’s e-filing system if that is how you filed any of your other court documents. If email or e-file is not an option, you can send paper documents by mail. You should mail paper documents by certified mail with a return receipt requested. Certified mail means you get a mailing receipt and verification that the documents were mailed. The return receipt means that you get the signature of the person who accepts the documents.
Keep proof of service.
It is important to keep a record of the date, time, and method you used to serve the documents. This proof of service might be necessary if another party claims they never received your disclosures. Proof of email service would be a copy of the email. Proof of certified mail service would be the return receipt and delivery verification. Proof of e-file service would be the email you receive that confirms service.
Frequently update your disclosures.
The Texas Rules of Civil Procedure provide that all discovery responses must be amended and updated periodically as the information changes. You should send the other parties any new information you get during the discovery process that responds to the disclosure requests. Make sure you give them this new information at least 30 days before trial.
This article explains the work that happens before a trial in a Texas civil case.
This article offers information about the rules governing discovery in Texas.
This article explains required initial disclosures in Texas civil cases.
This article explains pretrial disclosures in Texas.
This article explains Texas’ Rule 11 Agreements.
This article tells you what evidence is and provides information on the evidence rules that are followed in Texas courts.
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