I Just Got Served with a Lawsuit – When Do I Have to File an Answer?

On or before 10 a.m. the Monday next following the expiration of 20 days… 

Say again?

If you have been served with a lawsuit in either a county court or a district court in Texas (J.P. courts are different – see below), the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure provide that your answer is due on or before 10 a.m. the Monday next following the expiration of 20 days.  (Caveat: This applies to civil lawsuits only – not criminal cases.)

How to Calculate the Time:  Not counting the day you were actually served, count out 20 days.  When you get to the 20th day, look ahead to the very next Monday.  Your answer is due on that Monday no later than 10:00 a.m.  And if the 20th day actually lands on a Monday, then look ahead to the very next Monday (a week later).  Confused?  See examples below:

Example 1:  You were served on Tuesday, October 1.  Count ahead 20 days (not counting the day you were served) and you will land on Monday, the 21st.  Then look ahead to the next Monday, and your answer is due by 10:00 a.m. on Monday, October 28.   Example 2: If you were served on Wednesday, October 2, the answer due date would be exactly the same. 

See the two examples illustrated in the diagrams below:

For Justice of the Peace courts, the answer due date is on or before 10:00 a.m. the Monday next following the expiration of 10 days.  (Use the same method of calculating as explained above, except stop counting on the 10th day and look ahead to the following Monday.)

(Caveat:  In some types of lawsuits, the answer date will vary from this (in expedited foreclosure proceedings, for example), so it is important to read the documents that were served upon you and it is advisable to consult legal counsel.) 

What happens if the Monday the answer is due turns out to be a holiday?  Stay tuned – I’ll answer that one in the next blog.

– Bonnie Sudderth, Judge of the 352nd District Court of Tarrant County, Texas

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