Not every party in a family law case has been down this road before. Often, this is their first time standing in a courtroom and making decisions on matters such as divorce, child custody, and asset division. It’s also likely that this is the first time they’ll hear various legal terms, many of which only add more confusion as they try to make sense of their situation. The terms – Petitioner and Respondent – are a perfect example.
What does it mean to be a petitioner or respondent, and which one are you in your divorce case?
Petitioner — Defined
The Petitioner in a family law case is the person who starts the formal process of bringing a case before the court. They are the ones who sought out legal advice from a qualified attorney and filed the petition, initiating the case. Someone has to file first, and this is what they are called.
Respondent — Defined
Conversely, the Respondent in a family law case is the person who has been served and is responding to the suit. They are referred to as a respondent because they are required to respond to the initial petition by either agreeing to it or contesting it. A common mistake respondents make is putting the documents aside or ignoring them entirely — putting them at risk of missing the deadline to file a response.
In Texas, the deadline to answer a petition is 10 a.m. on the Monday after 20 days have gone by since you were served with papers. This includes weekends and holidays. Therefore, it is important to read the served documents and seek legal advice fairly quickly as the court could grant the Petitioner a default judgment if you fail to respond.
The fact of the matter is that no two family law cases are the same. One case could involve a couple with limited assets and no kids, and both are willing to work together to find a peaceful resolution. Another could start amicably only to break down over custody decisions and who gets to keep the house. There are also cases where there’s seemingly no end in sight; millions of dollars in marital assets need to be divided, kids are stuck in the middle, and the parties involved aren’t on speaking terms.
Where you fall in that spectrum may not be clearly defined until we sit down, dive into your unique situation, and determine the best course of action after you have been served.
Please call Christman | Daniell Attorneys for your legal needs today!
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