Can a lawyer be appointed for me?
Normally, you are not entitled to have a court-appointed lawyer in a family law case. There are two exceptions: (1) if you are facing jail time in connection with a contempt enforcement case or (2) if you are a parent opposing a child protection case filed by the government. In those two cases, if you are indigent, fill out the affidavit of indigence and present it to the office of Indigent Defense on the 2nd floor of the Collin County Courthouse.
Application for Court-Appointed Counsel (English): https://www.collincountytx.gov/indigent_defense/Documents/Application%20for%20Court%20Appointed%20Counsel-English%20Version.pdf
Acuerdo de Indigencia (Español): https://www.collincountytx.gov/indigent_defense/Documents/Application%20for%20Court%20Appointed%20Counsel-Spanish%20version.pdf
Court Staff Cannot Give you Legal Advice
Does it seem like you can’t get helpful answers to your questions from court staff? That’s because we can’t give recommendations or legal advice that would help one side of the case over the other.
Here is a resource that explains the difference between legal information and legal advice:
What Do I Do When I Come to Court on My Court Date?
Come to court on the date and time listed in the notice. Come into the courtroom—don’t wait in the hallway. It is okay to come into the courtroom even if there are things already going on. Look for the uniformed court officer and check in for your hearing. Have a seat and wait for the judge to call your case. If it seems like you’re waiting a long time, you can always ask the bailiff for an update.
Service of Citation
Personal Service. If you have filed a case, you will need to serve the other party. Typically, this is done by personal service. You can request service of citation at the district clerk’s office, and there will be a cost to have the constable serve the papers. You may also use your own private process server. Once the other party has been personally served, the process server will file a return of service, which lets the court know service is complete.
Waivers. If the other party wants to agree that you do not have to serve them with papers, they can sign and file a waiver of service or answer. The waiver CANNOT be signed before the suit is filed – the waiver must be signed after the suit has been filed with the court.
Waivers or Answers in Family Law Cases: https://texaslawhelp.org/article/how-file-answer-family-law-case
Alternative Service. If you cannot get someone served after several attempts, you can ask the court to order alternative service, such as:
by giving the papers to an adult at an address where you know the person lives or works,
by attaching the papers to the person’s door, or
by sending an email or text message.
You must file a motion for alternative service that has an affidavit describing all the efforts that have been made to serve the other party.
Publication. If you have done a thorough search but you have no ability to find the other party, you can fill out an affidavit listing your efforts and request that the person be served by publishing a notice in a newspaper. This is generally not good service and you should avoid doing this if possible. There may also be additional costs if an attorney has to be appointed at your expense to represent the missing party.
Notice and Copies of all Filings
If you file anything with the court, you must send a copy to the other side’s lawyer or to the other party directly if they do not have a lawyer. You can do this by email or any other method listed in TRCP 21a.
If you set a hearing, you must give the other side notice. You can email a copy of the notice of hearing to the other side’s lawyer or to the other party directly if they do not have a lawyer. TRCP 21a lists other ways you can give notice. When you come to court, be sure to bring a printout of the proof that you gave notice to the other side.
How will my case be finished?
Agreed order. If all parties have signed a final order, please contact the court to schedule an appointment to finalize your case. It’s best if all parties can come to court to finalize the case — if something is missing from the order, and the other party isn’t present, the court can’t make changes to a signed order.
Trial. If you and the other party are unable to agree on all the issues in your case, you must set the case for trial. Contact the court to schedule a trial date. You must send notice of the trial date to the other side, which you may do by email or any other method listed in TRCP 21a. Make sure you always bring a printout of the proof showing how you gave the other side notice.
Default judgment. If the other side has been served but has not responded, contact the court to set an appointment to finalize the case by default judgment. If you have been served, you should file a response to avoid having a default judgment taken against you.
Dismissal. If it has been more than 6 months since you filed your case and you have not set a date for it to be finalized, you will receive a notice that your case may be dismissed for want of prosecution. To avoid having your case dismissed, please contact the court to set your case for trial or to schedule an appointment to bring in an agreed order.
If you receive discovery requests, such as a Request for Production, Request for Admission, Interrogatories, Request for Disclosure, or others, it is critical that you respond by the deadline, which may be 30 days.
Texas discovery rules are complicated, and if you don’t properly respond according to the rules, bad things can happen—your evidence or witnesses may be kept out at trial, facts may be found against you, or your pleadings may be thrown out. If you receive discovery requests, or if you want to send discovery requests to obtain information related to your case, you should contact a lawyer to help you.
Translators / Interpreters
The court does not have translators or interpreters available for you. You are supposed to bring your own licensed interpreter if you need one. If it is overly burdensome for you to get a licensed interpreter for your agreed case, sometimes we can allow friends or family members to help translate.
Collin County interpreters as of 7/25/2018: http://www.emilymiskel.com/court/InterpreterList.pdf
If you are too poor to afford an interpreter, please fill out the affidavit of indigence and submit it to the Office of Indigent Defense on the 2nd floor of the courthouse. If you are approved, contact the court to schedule a court-appointed interpreter.
Resources to Help You Find a Lawyer
Legal Aid – https://internet.lanwt.org/locations/mckinney
State Bar of Texas Lawyer Referral Service – https://www.texasbar.com/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Lawyer_Referral_Service_LRIS_
Collin County Bar Association Referral Directory – http://www.collincountybar.org/council/services-directory
Dallas Community Legal Resources – https://www.dallasbar.org/content/community-legal-resources
SMU Family Law Clinic – https://www.smu.edu/Law/Clinics/Vansickle-Family-Law
Texas Law Help – https://texaslawhelp.org/
E-File Texas Self-Help Guide & File Service – https://selfhelp.efiletexas.gov/SRL
Protective Order Kit – https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/files/cvs/protectivekit_dv.pdf
Texas Supreme Court Approved Divorce Forms – http://www.txcourts.gov/media/515764/divorceset1forms.pdf
Collin County Law Library – https://www.collincountytx.gov/law_library/Pages/default.aspx
What Rules Apply to My Case?
Texas Rules of Civil Procedure – http://www.txcourts.gov/media/1435952/trcp-all-updated-with-amendments-effective-january-1-2018.pdf
Texas Rules of Evidence – http://www.txcourts.gov/media/921665/tx-rules-of-evidence.pdf
Texas Family Code and other Texas Statutes – https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/
Child Support Calculator: https://www.texasattorneygeneral.gov/cs/calculator/
Divorce Handbook – Representing Yourself in Family Court: http://www.tyla.org/tyla/assets/File/ProSeDivorceHandBookENG14RevisedP1WEB.pdf
Short video guides on Texas courts: http://www.texascourthelp.org/civil/#.W1jbNtVKiUk
A guide from Dallas County: https://www.dallascounty.org/Assets/uploads/docs/legal-info/represent-self.pdf