Monthly Archives: February 2015

February 12, 2015

You’ve Been Served, Now What?

Notice of LawsuitThere are many pop culture references to the phrase “you’ve been served,” which generally is associated with a phrase allegedly said by process servers when notifying a person they have been sued.  Even the Urban dictionary defines the phrase “you got served” as “you got skooled or beating very badly.”  That’s not very comforting, but somewhat appropriate.

The process of being served in itself is intimidating and overwhelming, let alone the reality you have been sued.  The reality you have been sued is a beating.  But at the point you receive proper notice of being sued, a countdown begins.  That countdown is the time frame in which you should respond because if you fail to do so, a default judgment may be ordered against you.  Essentially, a failure to respond within the alloted time is seen as a waiver of any denials or defenses you may have.

Rule 99(b) of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure requires that a person being sued file with the Court of jurisdiction a written answer, asserting denials and defenses, to the petition initiating the lawsuit by or before 10:00 am on the Monday following twenty days after the date of service.  For example, if you are served on Wednesday, February 11, 2015, then twenty days after is Tuesday, March 3, 2015.  Therefore, your answer would be due by or before 10:00 am on Monday, March 9, 2015.

Being sued is no laughing matter.  However, the inconvenience of a lawsuit can be minimized by acting wisely, which begins with answering the lawsuit within the requisite time.  As always, if you have been sued and are unsure of how to proceed, seek legal counsel.  It will likely cost you less to respond properly the first time versus having to hire someone to correct a situation in which mistakes were made because you did not fully understand your rights.

February 4, 2015

Did You or Did You Not Say “I Do”?

The recent tragedy surrounding Bobbi Kristina Brown, daughter of the late Whitney Houston and infamous Bobbi Brown, is nothing short of heart-breaking.  However, the rumored conflicting opinions between family members over Ms. Brown’s medical care has led to an important discovery – Bobbi Kristina Brown and Nick Gordon were never actually married.  Why does this matter?  Because as a spouse, you generally have certain rights, including the right to make medical decisions for your husband or wife when they are incapacitated.  The question now becomes were Ms. Brown and Mr. Gordon informally married, or in laymen’s terms, did they have a common law marriage?

I cannot speak to the laws in Georgia, where the couple resides.  But in Texas and pursuant to Title 1 of the Texas Family Code, a heterosexual couple has a common law marriage if they (1) have an agreement to be married, (2) live together in Texas as husband and wife, and (3) hold each other out to the public as husband and wife.  The agreement does not need to be formally written and can be a verbal agreement, but there must be proof that the parties intent was to be in a marital relationship.  Additionally, there is no minimum requirement of how long a couple must cohabitate, but there must be evidence that the couple resided as a married couple, which typically involves an intimate relationship.  The last requirement means that the couple should consistently and openly present themselves as husband and wife to others.  There can be no “secret” common law marriage, and presenting yourself as husband and wife to a selective few likely will not be enough to meet this requirement.

Marriage, whether formal or informal, carries certain rights and duties.  If you think you are in a common law marriage, make sure you meet the requirements above.  Otherwise, you may find yourself in a difficult situation in which you thought you had certain legal rights and in all actuality, you do not.  

***Family Legal Source is an informational blog on family law matters.  It is not intended as legal advice or as a substitute for legal counsel.  If you have a family law matter, please seek the advice of a licensed attorney.***