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I want to electronically file (e-file) my documents.

Virtual Court: Technology

Find out how to easily use the Texas electronic filing system and learn helpful tips for fixing common mistakes when submitting court documents online.
Overview

Guide Overview

Electronic filing, or e-filing, is a way of filing court documents electronically instead of filing court documents in-office with paper copies. This guide will teach you the basics of e-filing your case with E-File Texas, the state’s free-to-use e-filing software.  

Warning: The information in this guide is not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer. It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your situation. 

Research Tips

Common questions about Virtual Court: Technology

Generally, electronic filing is not mandatory for pro se (self-represented) litigants. See Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 21(f)(1). However, some courts’ local rules have created provisions requiring the electronic filing of certain court documents.

Confirm with your court whether e-filing is required in your situation. 

Also, read Local Rules for help analyzing your court’s rules. 

No. There are several Electronic Filing Service Providers (EFSPs) available that file with Texas’s central Electronic Filing Manager (EFM). eFileTexas has published a list of available service providers to help filers weigh their options. 

Some of these EFSPs can be costly and difficult to navigate. eFileTexas is free. 

These instructions and TexasLawHelp’s article on How to E-File will help you understand the e-filing process. If you are stuck with a particular question, use Ask a Question or contact a private attorney for more assistance. 

In certain situations, eFileTexas offers a guided interview system for common filings, such as divorces, adult name changes, and small claims. This self-help program works in a guided, question-and-answer format, similar to programs that help users file their taxes.

Use eFileTexas’s self-help filing interview system to see if your case qualifies for guided filing.  

There are options for you if you need help e-filing but do not have access to a computer or stable internet: 

  • Texas Legal Services Center has established virtual court kiosks throughout Texas to help pro se litigants access the tools necessary to complete their cases. Go to Find a Kiosk Near You to reserve a time to begin your e-filing process. 

  • The Texas State Law Library offers access to public computers for library card holders. See the Law Libraries of Texas to find the law library nearest you. 

  • The Texas State Library and Archives Commission publishes a library search tool to help you find a local public library. 

Instructions & Forms

Checklist Steps

You will need an account with an E-Filing Service Provider to keep track of your e-filing processes. The E-Filing Service Provider will be the platform that hosts all of your e-filing needs. E-File Texas, the state’s central E-Filing Manager (EFM), offers free access to basic EFSP services and functions.  

If problems occur trying to access E-File Texas from your current internet browser, try switching browsers. 

Register for an Individual Account if you are filing without the assistance of a lawyer (or if you are pro se). Account registration with E-File Texas will require you to provide your name, email, address, and phone number

Confirm account registration through your email. E-File Texas will require you to confirm your account via email. After registration, navigate to the email you entered, and press “Click to Activate Account”. This will bring you to a page to confirm your activation.

Sign into your new (or pre-existing) E-File Texas account. This will bring you to the E-File Texas dashboard. From the E-File Texas dashboard, you will be able to access the following: 

  • Start Filing 

  • Filing History 

  • Filing Drafts 

  • Case Search 

  • Bookmarks 

  • Templates 

  • Payment accounts, service contacts, profile information, and filing reports 

Note: E-File Texas also has a chat support function as well as other technical support options like a feedback option, keyboard shortcuts, and a support guide. 

Now that you have opened your case for filing, you will need to prepare the case information required for a successful filing. When e-filing, you will need to complete the following prompts:  

  • Case information: the court’s location, category, case type, and any procedures/remedies specifically requested (such as an injunction or protective order); 

  • Party information: details on the parties in your case including names, addresses, emails, and social security numbers. Most counties do not require you to have this data on the opposing party, but you should verify this requirement with your local clerk;  

  • Filing details: filing type, code, and description. The code and descriptions of your filing can be found in the Judicial Committee on Information Technology’s Technology Standards

  • Service: information and arrangement for service contacts; and 

  • Fees: calculation and arrangement of costs related to the filing and service of your case.  

Note: The client reference number prompt is for billing purposes and will not be necessary if you are self-represented. 

Having the right filing information is critical if you want to file your case without issue and avoid any unnecessary fees. Review the How to E-File article or talk with a lawyer if you are having difficulties accessing your filing details or other case information. 

The lead document is the central filing to your case. In most situations, this is the petition for your claim. Your lead document must be signed and in a text-searchable PDF format.  

On top of your lead document, your filing may include an attachment. Attachments are unique supporting documents that usually include exhibits and proposed orders not defined in Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 21(a). Generally, the attachment will be a standing order required in your county. 

All sensitive data must be removed or redacted from your documents. Redaction is the process of concealing confidential and sensitive information in your document. You can redact by blacking or crossing the data out, using a redacting tool, or removing the data and writing “REDACTED” in parentheses where the data was. E-File Texas offers an “auto-redact” tool that will help you redact sensitive data. Visit the article Sensitive Data to learn how to successfully protect and redact the data in your filing before submission. 

You must keep an unredacted version of your documents in your records while the case is pending. 

This is a critical step in filing where many filers run into issues. The additional services and fees prompt is created for the filer to get the court’s assistance in certifying, issuing, and serving the necessary parties.  

Additional fees are also included for things like postage and copying. 

You must include and cover costs for all the necessary fees to avoid a return of your filing for correction. 

Each locality provides different configurations for its services. Some of the services and related fees provided may include: 

  • Issuance of writs, summons, warrants, and orders; 

  • Service of process;  

  • Certifications; and 

  • Photocopies of necessary forms. 

One of the most common errors in e-filing occurs when the filer requests an inappropriate number of copies for service when the filing requests service. Under the “additional services” screen, you should select both “issue citation/subpoena/write” (whichever applies to your case) as well as “copies.” The copies service is not the service of producing copies of your petition. Instead, the copies service requires you to number the pages that must be copied for issuance.  

For example: if a local court requires you to file a standing order that is four pages, and you file a three-page petition for divorce, then the “quantity” of copies you should request will be seven pages for each party that must be served. Failure to meet this requirement will result in a return for correction due to insufficient fees.      

The options for “additional services” are different for every court. Please contact the clerk where your case is being filed to ensure that you comply with local requirements. For a detailed list of “additional services,” see the Technology Standards of the Judicial System

If your income is currently low, you may qualify to get your filing fees waived. Rule 145 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure explains how people can get their filing fees waived if they meet specific requirements and ask for a fee waiver. It tells you the steps to follow and what you need to do to get approved for the waiver. See Court Fees and Fee Waivers for an explanation of the fee waiver process. 

Once you have finalized the necessary forms and fees associated with your case, you will be taken to the summary screen. This is your last chance to review the information in your filing before submission. Make sure to confirm each detail of your filing before submission.  

If your filing is improper or fails to follow one of the statewide rules for e-filing, you may receive the filing back with a notice causing a “return for correction.” 

Even if your filing is returned for correction, you will still have an opportunity to correct and resubmit the original filing. If corrected in time, this filing will still be posted under the original filing date. 

This means that any deadlines will not be missed in the event of a “return for correction.” Generally, filers have a maximum of 72 hours to correct and return their original file within the deadline. 

The clerk must give you a reason and reference for the correction necessary. The clerk is limited to nine reasons to issue a return. These reasons are: 

  • Insufficient fees; 

  • Insufficient funds; 

  • Document addressed to wrong clerk/location; 

  • Duplicate new case filing; 

  • Incorrect/incomplete information; 

  • Incorrect formatting; 

  • PDF documents combined; 

  • Illegible/unreadable; or 

  • Contains sensitive data 

If your filing is returned for correction, be sure to talk with a lawyer or review this information as quickly as possible to ensure timely correction. 

The Technology Standards of the Judicial System spell out the categories and reasoning for returns of filing. Review this information to understand better why your filing was returned.   

If you are having issues with your filing or return, you can: 

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