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Answer and counter petition for divorce [TX]

Being unexpectedly served with divorce papers can set off a flood of emotions –  anger, sadness, confusion. Most people have no idea what to do next. Do you just accept it –  or should you file paperwork of your own? In this article, we are going to discuss your options, including filing an answer and counter petition for divorce.

My spouse served me divorce papers. Now what?

If you have been served with divorce papers, you essentially have three choices:
  • Do nothing. If you do nothing, the divorce will go on without your input and you will not have a say in matters regarding marital property, debts or even child custody. If you want to weigh in, you must file an answer, a counter petition, or both. 
  • File an answer. An “answer” is a legal form that you, the respondent, files with the court indicating that you want to participate in the divorce process. If you file an answer – referred to in Texas as the “respondents original answer” – it serves as a general denial of your spouse’s allegations and entitles you to notice of future proceedings. This is how to ensure you have a voice in the matter. When a respondents original answer is filed by an attorney, it serves as notice that you have counsel and that communication should be directed to your lawyer. 
  • File an answer and counter petition for divorce.  A counter petition for divorce is basically a countersuit against your spouse. It indicates that you, too, want a divorce and have your own specific requests. It allows you to state your own allegations against your spouse and to tell the judge what you would like to see happen. In other words, it allows you to strike back and present your side to the judge.

Is there a deadline to file an answer after being served divorce papers?

Yes. In Texas, an answer is due by 10 a.m. on the Monday after 20 days from the date of service. To determine the deadline, find the day you received the petition, count 20 days, including weekends and holidays, and go to the next Monday. That is the day a response is due.

What if you miss the deadline to file an answer in a divorce?

If you are served with divorce papers and you do not respond on or before the deadline, your spouse can receive a default judgment, also called a default divorce decree, which doesn’t take into account any of your wants or needs. The court can make determinations about child custody, support, debt and property division without your input.

Can the petitioner dismiss the case if the respondent has filed a counter petition for divorce?

No, if a counter petition has been filed in a divorce case, the spouse who initiated the proceedings can’t dismiss the divorce case – not unless the other party also agrees. This is a benefit to filing a counter petition in a divorce; the case can’t be dismissed unless both parties agree.

Is mediation a possibility if a counterclaim is filed?

Absolutely  –  and there is a high likelihood that it will be ordered by the judge. Even if both parties have essentially sued each other, mediation could help both sides come to an amicable resolution, therefore avoiding a costly and highly-emotional trial.

Do I need an attorney to file an answer or counter petition for divorce?

You don’t have to have an attorney to file an answer or counter petition for divorce. However, it is highly advisable. Divorce proceedings can be complicated and are deadline-driven. It’s best to have an experienced attorney handle your case, especially if your spouse has an attorney and you have children, property or significant assets. 

Want to file an answer or counter petition in divorce? Contact us.

If you were served with divorce papers and want to file an answer and a counter petition for divorce, it’s important to act fast so you don’t miss deadlines. We can help. At Varghese Summersett Family Law Group, we understand this is an overwhelming and nerve-wracking time. We can guide you through this process and make sure your rights and interested are represented and protected every step of the way. Call 817-903-3220 to schedule a consultation with an experienced family law attorney.

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