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I want to file an answer in a non-family law case.

Court How-Tos (Civil Procedure)

This guide tells you how to respond or file an answer in a civil case in Texas not involving family law (divorce, child support, custody, visitation, or modification).
Overview

Guide Overview

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer

This guide tells you how to respond or file an answer in a civil case in Texas not involving family law. 

Note: This guide does not apply to family law cases, such as divorce, child support, custody, visitation, or modification. To learn how to respond to a family law case, read How to File an Answer in a Family Law Case.

Research Tips

The legal system can be very complex. This guide can’t answer every question. If you have more questions about the law, use TexasLawHelp's I need to do legal research guide. For an overview of the civil court process, start with Civil Litigation: The Basics.

You can go to a law library to conduct legal research. There is a directory of public local law libraries at Law Libraries in Texas. Examples of books and guides to look for at a law library:

  • O'Connor's Texas Civil Practice
  • O'Connors Texas Civil Forms (if needed)
  • Texas Jurisprudence

A law library may also have a subscription to an electronic legal research service such as Westlaw or LexisNexis. A Texas resident who's not near a law library may access more information by registering for a free Texas State Law Library Account. With this account, you can access many online sources. 

Common questions about Court How-Tos (Civil Procedure)

The information and forms in this guide are not legal advice and are not a substitute for the help of a lawyer. It’s a good idea to talk with a lawyer about your particular situation before filing the answer form. 

Affirmative defenses are reasons given by the defendant for why a plaintiff in a case should not win. An affirmative defense can help you win the lawsuit, even if what the plaintiff says is true. In Texas, most affirmative defenses must be asserted by the defendant or they might be given up for good. 

To see some affirmative defense examples, click here.

To do more research, look up: Texas Beef Cattle Co. vs. Green, 921 S.W. 2d 203 and Phillips vs. Phillips, 820 S.W.2d 785.

Talk with a lawyer before filing an answer if you

1) do not live in Texas, and

2) do not want a Texas court to have the power to make orders that would impose a personal obligation on you. 

Such orders could include orders requiring you to pay court costs and lawyer’s fees. If you file an answer (or any other pleading) before filing a special appearance, you will give up your right to argue that Texas can’t make such orders because you live out of state. Ask a Texas lawyer to help you determine if Texas has “personal jurisdiction” over you. 

It does not cost anything to file an answer. Filing an answer is FREE.

Instructions & Forms

Warning: The information and forms in this guide are not a substitute for the advice and help of a lawyer

This guide tells you how to respond or file an answer in a civil case in Texas not involving family law. 

Note: This guide does not apply to family law cases, such as divorce, child support, custody, visitation, or modification.To learn how to respond to a family law case, read How to File an Answer in a Family Law Case.

Checklist Steps

If you have been officially served with a Citation and Petition, there is a deadline to file your answer.  

  • To determine the deadline, find the day you were served on a calendar, count out 20 more days (including weekends and holidays) then go to the next Monday. You must file your answer with the court on or before this date at 10 a.m. If the 20th day falls on a Monday, go to the next Monday. If the courts are closed on the day your answer is due, then your answer is due the next day the courts are open. 
  • You can also try TexasLawHelp's deadline calculator, but you should double-check using a calendar, following the instructions above. 
  • If you are served and do not file an answer on or before the deadline, the plaintiff can finish the case without any further notice to you. This is called a “default judgment.”
  • You may be able to file your answer late. If the plaintiff has not finished the case, you can file your answer after the deadline.
  • To learn if the plaintiff has finished the case, call the district clerk’s office (where the case was filed). Ask the clerk if the judge has signed a final order in the case. If the judge has not signed a final order the case is still pending and you can file your answer late. If the judge has signed a final order the case is finished. 
  • If the plaintiff has finished the case, talk to a lawyer right away. Depending on how much time has passed, you may be able to file a Motion to Set Aside the Default Judgment.

If you have NOT been officially served, there is no deadline to file your answer. You can file your answer at any time after the plaintiff files its Petition (the form that starts lawsuit) with the court. If you file your answer now, the plaintiff will not need to have you served. 

Important: The 20-day deadline applies to cases filed in the district courts and county courts at law. A shorter deadline may apply to your case, and will appear on your “citation.” Some exceptions to the 20-day deadline are below:

  • To determine the deadline for filing an answer in a justice court (that is not an eviction case), find the day you were served on a calendar, and count out 14 more days (including weekends and holidays). You must file your answer with the court on or before this day. If the court is closed on the day your answer is due (or if the court closes before 5:00 p.m. on the day your answer is due), then your answer is due the next day the court is open. You can use TexasLawHelp's deadline calculator, but you should double-check using a calendar.
  • The answer deadline for an eviction case is often between 7 to 10 days from the day you were served and will be written for you in your “citation” (court paper that gives you notice of the lawsuit that you get when you are served with the petition). Read your “citation” and court papers carefully to determine your answer deadline. In some courts, however, filing a written answer for an eviction is not required. Instead, you must go to court on the specific date and time noted in your “citation.” 

Note for out-of-state respondents: Talk with a lawyer before filing an Answer if you

  1. Do not live in Texas and
  2. Do not want a Texas court to have the power to make orders that would impose a personal obligation on you.

Such orders could include orders requiring you to pay court costs and lawyer’s fees.

If you file an answer (or any other pleading) before filing a special appearance, you will give up your right to argue that Texas can’t make such orders because you live out-of-state. Ask a Texas lawyer to help you determine if Texas has “personal jurisdiction” over you. TexasLawHelp does not have a special appearance form right now. 

Answer every question and fill out every blank on the form. 

Click here for the Answer Form (PDF)

Click here for the Guided Answer Form. With a guided form, you can answer a series of questions to complete the form automatically.

When completing the form:

  • You are the “defendant.” The other side is the “plaintiff.”
  • Case information. Find the cause number, court number, county and court type on the Petition filed by the plaintiff. Write the same cause number, court number, county and court type in the corresponding places on the form.
  • Affirmative defenses. Affirmative defenses are a way to tell the judge new information about the case that can help a defendant win even if what the plaintiff is saying is true. Learn more by reading Affirmative Defenses. If you have questions on which affirmative defenses (if any) apply to your case, it is important to talk with a lawyer.
  • Verified pleas. This section of the form asks you to identify certain matters that apply to your case that the law says must be “verified.”
    • To verify something means that you sign under penalty of perjury that this information is true and correct.
    • It is really important that you complete this section with the help of a lawyer. 
    • The answer form has an Unsworn Declaration for you to sign to verify your pleas, if any, that apply to your case. 
  • Certificate of service. Fill out the Certificate of Service to show how you will give the plaintiff’s lawyer (or the plaintiff if the plaintiff does not have a lawyer) a file-stamped copy of your answer.
  • Print and sign the answer form.
    • Sign your name and write the date in paragraph 5. 
    • Sign the unsworn declaration under penalty of perjury in paragraph 6. 
    • Note: It is important that everything in your answer form is true and correct. You can be disciplined for lying on this form.
    • Sign your name and write the date in the Certificate of Service in paragraph 7.

Talk to a lawyer if you have questions or need help.

Make a copy of your completed answer form for yourself and for the plaintiff. 

File (turn in) your completed answer form with the court. 

  • To file online, go to E-File Texas and follow the instructions. And you can read TexasLawHelp's How to E-File.
  • To file in person, take your answer (and copies) to the district clerk’s office in the county where the plaintiff filed the case.

At the clerk’s office:

  • Turn in your answer form (and copies).
  • Ask the clerk if there are local rules or procedures you need to know about for your case.
  • The clerk will “file stamp” your forms with the date and time. The clerk will keep the original and return your copies. One copy is for you, and the other copy is for the plaintiff.

Note: It does not cost anything to file an answer. Filing an answer is free.

Send a file-stamped copy of your answer to the plaintiff. If the plaintiff has a lawyer, send it to the lawyer instead of directly to the plaintiff. You can send it by:

  • Hand delivery
  • Email
  • Mail
  • Commercial delivery service (for example FedEx)
  • Fax
  • Electronic service through the electronic filing manager.
    • (Note: The method is required if you electronically file (E-File) this document and the email address of the party or the party’s lawyer is on file with the electronic file manager.)

Filing an answer protects your right to have a say in the issues involved in your case. Once you file an answer, the plaintiff cannot finish the case unless:

  1. you agree to and sign a final Order, or
  2. the plaintiff gives you notice of a contested hearing date.

Filing an answer does not mean your case is over.

Talk with a lawyer if you have questions or need advice.

You may be required to make initial disclosures to the other parties of this suit. These disclosures generally must be made no later than 30 days after an answer is filed with the clerk. 

To figure out when this information is due: you do not count the day you file the answer. Start the counting on the day after the answer is filed. 

Important: You do not wait until the other party in the lawsuit asks for this information. There are some types of cases that are exceptions. Otherwise, you will have to give a copy—or a description by category and location—of all documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things that the responding party has in its possession, custody, or control.

If you need help understanding this new requirement or completing the Required Initial Disclosures, talk to a lawyer. To find one, use these TexasLawHelp tools:

Forms Required

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