Types of Cases

Small Claims Case

A small claims case is a lawsuit brought for the recovery of money damages, civil penalties, or personal property. The claim can be for no more than $10,000 excluding statutory interest and court costs but including attorney fees, if any. Small claims cases are governed by Rules 500-507 of Part V of the Rules of Civil Procedure.

Debt Claim

A debt claim case is a lawsuit brought to recover a debt by an assignee of a claim, a debt collector or collection agency, a financial institution, or a person or entity primarily engaged in the business of lending money at interest. The claim can be for no more than $10,000 in damages, excluding statutory interest and court costs but including attorney fees, if any. Debt claim cases in justice court are governed by Rules 500-507 and 508 of Part V of the Rules of Civil Procedure. To the extent of any conflict between Rule 508 and the rest of Part V, Rule 508 applies.

Steps for Filing a Lawsuit

Filing a Lawsuit in Justice Court

To institute a lawsuit within the above-described limitations, complete the document entitled "Plaintiff’s Original Petition".

  • Provide a daytime phone number and notify the Court immediately of changes in your address or phone number.
  • Be as specific as you can about the named Defendant and the capacity in which the Defendant is being sued. Your failure to properly name the Defendant could result in your losing your lawsuit or being unable to collect on a judgment. The three most common legal entities are:
    1. Individual (example: John Doe)
    2. Sole Proprietor or Partnership (example: John Jones dba Sparkle Cleaners)
    3. Corporation (example: Superior Builders, Inc.)
    4. Verification of Military Status
  • For Assumed Names or DBAs (“Doing Business As”) information, contact the County Clerk’s Office at (512) 854-9188. Ask for the name, phone number, and address of the owner or partners
  • For Corporation Names and Agents for Service information, contact the Secretary of State Charter Division at (512) 463-5555. Ask for the name and address of the registered agent.

ALL documents that are filed including the petition will need to be duplicated before coming in to file. You will need a copy for the court and a copy for the citation(s).
File the Plaintiff’s Original Petition and pay the court costs/filing fees.

When you have completed the Petition, a Constable/Sheriff will serve a Citation attached to a copy of your Petition. The Citation will notify the Defendant of the time in which to answer the lawsuit. You should receive a postcard informing you when the Defendant has been served. Defendant's Answer Time is computed as follows: count fourteen (14) full days after the day of service.


Defendant served on Thursday, May 16

12 13 14 15 16 17 18
19 20 21 22 23 24 25
26 27 28 29 30 31  

Count fourteen (14) full days after the 16th, i.e., May 30th. 

Defendant’s Answer Time in the example is up on May 30th.

**If the 14th day is a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday, the answer is due on the next day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday and if the 14th day falls on a day during which the court is closed before 5:00 PM, the answer is due on the court’s next business day.

Default Judgments

If the Defendant does not enter an Answer within the allotted time, you are entitled to receive a default judgment, which may be granted after a short hearing before the judge. You should contact the Court to schedule a time for your Default Judgment Hearing Please prepare your documents or testimony in advance of the hearing to show the judge exactly how you arrived at the amount of damages in your petition. Be aware that the Defendant can file an Answer with the Court at any time before the Judgment is entered, which will entitle him/her to a Contested Hearing.

  • It is your responsibility to call the Court and schedule a time for your Default Hearing.
  • Prepare your documents and testimony in advance to show the judge exactly how you arrived at the amount of damages that you are claiming.

Contested Hearings

The Defendant can file an answer with the Court at any time before the judgment is entered. If an answer is filed, the parties will be scheduled for a "Contested Hearing." The Plaintiff has the burden of proving his or her claims to the court by a preponderance of the evidence.

  • The Court will consider only testimony and other evidence presented during the trial.
  • Have copies of all the documents you intend to use at the hearing available for the Court and Defendant.
  • Be aware that notarized statements from individuals are considered hearsay and are not a substitute for live testimony.
  • Witnesses may need to be subpoenaed (ordered to appear in court) if they will not appear voluntarily or need proof for an employer.

Collection of Judgment

If a judgment is entered in your favor, the court does not collect the judgment for you, nor can it force the party to pay the judgment. It is very difficult to collect a money judgment in Texas. Only non-exempt property of the judgment debtor may be seized to satisfy the judgment. Most judgment debtors do not have non-exempt property; in other words, most people have only exempt property. It is likely that it will be difficult to recover any money. Please consider this before you take the time and expense of filing a lawsuit. Prior to filing a lawsuit, you may want to consider alternate dispute resolution services available through such organizations as:

Post Judgment Legal Process

  • Abstract of Judgment, when recorded with the County Clerk, creates a lien on any real property the Awarded against owns in the County where the Abstract is recorded. This includes property acquired after recording. An Abstract of Judgment may be obtained once the Judgment Debtor’s appeal period has expired.
  • Writ of Execution may be obtained thirty (30) days after the Judgment has been signed. This document authorizes the Sheriff or Constable to seize any assets belonging to the party which is subjected to the Writ. Those assets are then auctioned at a public sale and those proceeds are applied to the Judgment. (Certain personal property is not subject to seizure under the Writ.)

Court Costs

Court Costs for Justice Court

Filing Fee  $51.00 
Service Fee for each party served in Travis County  $75.00 
Issuance of an Abstract of Judgment  $5.00 
Issuance of Writ of Execution  $5.00 
Executing the Writ of Execution in Travis County $220.00

Note: This information is provided as a general guide and is not legal advice and is no substitute for the advice of an attorney. Please do not ask the clerks or judges for legal advice. The judge and the court staff are not allowed to give you legal advice or act as your attorney. When you choose to represent yourself in court, it is your responsibility to protect your rights by informing yourself of law and procedures that affect your case.

oak hill

Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace

8656-B West Hwy 71
Austin, Texas 78735 (Map)

Hours: Monday-Friday 8-5

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JP3 reserves the right to adjust filing fees. Fees may be adjusted contingent on the accuracy of "Filing Codes" or "Optional Services" elected by the filer