Amended Petitions in Family Law Cases
This article about amending petitions in family law matters was written by Texas Legal Services Center.
After filing your original petition, you might find that there is information you want to add to (or remove from) the documents you filed with the court. You can do this. File an “amended petition” to add something to, or withdraw something from, the original petition. Have an attorney look over your amended petition.
Note that TexasLawHelp's forms are not designed for amending. You may want to hire a lawyer to draft them for you (see limited scope representation). Or, you can review this Harris County Law Library presentation on finding and formatting legal forms.
An amended petition should be “entire and complete in itself,” meaning that it replaces, or takes the place of, the original document. If an amended petition is successfully filed, the original document is no longer a part of the record before the court.
Reasons you might file an amended petition include:
- Correcting something that was incorrectly stated in the original petition;
- Adding something that was accidentally left out of the original petition;
- Removing something that should not have been included in the original petition; or
- Including more detailed allegations after discovering new facts or evidence.
An amended petition should specifically mention the document that is being amended. And it should have a descriptive title such as “Petitioner’s Amended Original Petition for Divorce,” or “Petitioner’s Amended Original Petition in Suit Affecting the Parent-Child Relationship.” Also, the amended petition should be “entire and complete in itself,” meaning it takes the place of the original document. An original petition and an amended petition will not be considered together before the court.
As a general rule, only the initial paperwork needs to be served by a constable, sheriff, or private process server.
However, it is necessary to serve an amended petition by a constable, sheriff, or private process server if the respondent has not filed an answer. If this situation applies to your case, read How to Serve the Initial Court Papers (Family Law) and follow these steps:
- Ask the clerk to reissue the citation and attach a copy of your amended petition, and
- Arrange for the respondent to be served by a constable sheriff, or private process server (with the new citation and amended petition).
If the respondent has filed an answer, it is generally not necessary to have a new citation issued and served. But you do need to give the respondent notice that you filed an amended petition. In this case, you must notify the respondent by sending them a copy of the amended petition by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested.
Determining whether your amended petition needs to be served by a constable, sheriff, or private process server can be complicated, especially if you are trying to finish your case by default. If you have questions, use Ask a Question to chat online with a lawyer or law student, or use the Legal Help Finder.
Filing an amended petition can start the clock over on any waiting periods.
If you file your amended petition before the deadline to file an answer has passed, the following waiting periods apply:
- 20+ day waiting period: From the day the respondent is served with the amended petition, the respondent has until 10 a.m. on the first Monday 20 days after service.
- Find the day the respondent was served on a calendar; count out 20 more days; then go to the next Monday. This is the last day of the respondent’s answer period. However, if the respondent files an answer any time before you finish your case it will still count.
- 10+ day waiting period: The constable, sheriff, or private process server should have completed a return of service form stating when the respondent was served. The return of service form must be on file with the court for at least 10 days before you can finish your case.
- Important: When counting the 10-day waiting period, do not count the day the return of service is filed with the court, and do not count the day you go to court to finish your case.
These basic instructions are not a substitute for the legal advice and of a lawyer. A lawyer is trained to protect your legal rights. Even if you decide to represent yourself, try to talk to a lawyer about your before filing anything. Use the TexasLawHelp Legal Help Finder tool for assistance in locating a lawyer.