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 send messages to a lawyer Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.


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.