How do I get started?

This page contains information about how to get started with a civil case.

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  1. What laws apply? If you want to start a civil case and have decided to represent yourself, the first thing you will need to do is figure out what laws apply to your case.
    • Research the law in a law library or public library, or in the State Law Library, (512) 463-1722.
    • Talk to a lawyer to find out if the law supports filing your case or if there is another legal reason why you should or should not start a case.
    • Use TexasLawHelp.org to get information about different laws. Their free LiveHelp chat service allows you to chat with a lawyer or law student Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Qualifying users can get free legal advice.  The service can also provide useful information and referrals to anyone.
  2. Start with a Petition.
    • A Petition tells the court what happened and what you want the court to do about it.
    • The person who files the Petition is called “Petitioner” in family law cases and  “Plaintiff” in other types of civil cases.
    • The person who is being sued is called “Respondent” in family law cases or “Defendant” in other types of cases.
  3. Court staff cannot tell you the law; lawyers and TexasLawHelp can help you with the law.  If you need help understanding the law that applies to your case, talk to a lawyer or use the TexasLawHelp LiveHelp chat service.