Texas Court Records
Where to Find Texas Civil Court Records
Civil court records in Texas are the documents generated by government agencies resulting from a civil court proceeding in the state. All civil disputes, claims, suits, motions, transcripts, and dockets are included within them. The courthouse where the case was heard is responsible for managing these records and granting access to those who request it. It may also be possible to access these records using third-party websites such as CourtRecords.us.
Are Texas Civil Court Records Public?
The Texas Public Information Act, or Texas Government Code Chapter 552, states that all documents and records created by government entities should be available upon request of the public. However, some files may be sealed or considered confidential and not allowed to be viewed by the public. Due to civil cases' personal nature, this may make it challenging to access civil court records. Records that include information regarding minors, juveniles, personal financial information, mental health evaluations, and property details may be made confidential or sealed by court order.
Specific civil court records may be sealed from public access but obtainable to the parties listed in the document or the attorneys involved in the case.
Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:
- The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
- The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.
Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.
Types of Cases in Texas Civil Courts
Texas civil courts handle cases that involve non-criminal disputes. Non-criminal disputes include contention between individuals along with disputes involving companies and institutions, both private and publicly owned. Most often, these cases are concluded when there is an agreed-upon settlement. Settlements can consist of financial payments or other resolutions. Cases heard in civil court include, but are not limited to:
- Non-criminal traffic violations
- Tort claims
- Equitable claims
- Breach of contract
- Discrimination cases
- Contract and Property Disputes
- Small Claims
- Disputes between landlord and tenant
- Workplace accidents and injuries
- Marriage, civil unions, divorce, and separation
- Adoption, guardianship and emancipation, and child support and child custody custody
What is the Difference Between Criminal Cases and Civil Cases in Texas?
In Texas, criminal cases are considered to be offenses against the state. Criminal cases are often violent or result in harm to another person or property. Civil cases are typically cases that involve non-violent and, therefore, non-criminal disputes. Criminal cases are launched by the state or county, while civil cases are opened and pushed forward by individuals or organizations.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records In Texas?
In Texas, civil court cases are handled by local trial courts or county courts, such as justice courts, probate courts, district courts, and even supreme courts. Civil court records are held and maintained by the court where the case was heard. Requests for civil court records in Texas can be made in-person, by mail, online, or by phone, depending on the courthouse. As such, it is essential first to identify the specific court where the case was finalized. If the requesting party knows the jurisdiction but not the particular court, it is possible to get this information from the local Superior Court. After gathering location information, the requesting party must also figure out the division within the courthouse, or type of court, where the case was heard. This information is integral to a records request.
The next step is obtaining all of the pertinent information to the case to facilitate the records search. This information includes the date of filing, personal information such as names and dates of birth of those involved, the names of the attorneys on the case, and the case number.
After gathering all information related to the case, it is time to visit the courthouse or mail in a written request. Many courts that hear civil cases require scheduled visits, but some allow for walk-in requests. In-person requests are often fulfilled much faster than requests made online or by mail. In-person requests accept record search fees in the form of credit or debit cards, cash, or checks made payable to the specific court. To mail in the request, requesting parties must know beforehand how much the record search fees are and include payment in the form of check or money order, along with a photocopy of government-issued identification. Processing time for mail-in requests is six to eight weeks.
How Do I Find Civil Court Records Online?
Depending on the courthouse where the sought-after civil court records are being held, it may be possible to access these records through online portals provided by the courthouse. To find a courthouse, either contact the local superior court or use the Texas Court website to search for a courthouse and see what options are available for accessing records online. When it comes to civil court cases, full records may be difficult or impossible to access due to the personal details held within them, increasing the likelihood of the document to be sealed.
Third-party websites are an option for accessing civil court records online. However, the information disseminated by third-party sites is not guaranteed to be up-to-date or accurate because the programs are not government-funded.
What Is Included In a Texas Civil Court Record?
Texas civil court records contain all public and relevant information to the case. The type of case may lead to the information being different from case to case, but civil court records typically include the following:
- Personal information of the parties involved, including names and dates of birth of individuals, or details about establishments involved in the case
- Summons, notices, claims, complaints, suits, and other documentation related to the case
- All pleas made
- All filings, evidence, and affidavits
- Court transcripts, which include appearances, arguments, and motions, as well as court dockets
- Final decisions made by the judge
- Definitive agreements made between the parties, such as settlements or rights granted to one or more of the parties
How to Access Texas Civil Court Records For Free
Electronic and online requests of Texas civil court records can be sent for free, although the inclusion of all information in the file is not a guarantee. Most courthouses charge a search fee that covers the amount of time it takes to find the record, which is why search fees differ depending on case type and jurisdiction. It is recommended that civil court records requests be made in person at the court to the records clerk.
How to Seal Civil Court Records in Texas
In Texas, there are ways to file for sealing of one's civil court record under specific circumstances, and if the judge agrees. Beginning the legal process to the sealing of a record necessitates that the party is eligible and qualified. It is frequently recommended to speak with an attorney before starting the process. Many civil court records may already be sealed, as the files contain personal information regarding the involved parties. If the record is not sealed, there are ways to have them sealed directly following the finalization of a case. If the record is still open to the public after the finalization of the case, parties can make a request by filing for nondisclosure.
The party should write a motion for nondisclosure, and there are attorneys to help with this process. This motion must include valid reasons for the record to be sealed and details about the case, including the case number. To file this motion, turn the motion into the courthouse clerk, and the clerk will schedule a hearing. As per Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 76a(3), a motion for nondisclosure, or a motion to seal records, must be followed by a hearing in open court. An attorney must comply and appear before a judge for the judge to grant the sealing of records.
How to Access Sealed Civil Court Records in Texas
If a record is sealed but is requested for viewing by a member of the public, the member of the public will be denied access. If the requesting party does not agree with the court's decision to seal the record, it is necessary to take legal action to challenge this decision. The requesting party must give valid reasoning as to why the record should be open to the public or be made viewable for the party themself. Occasionally, the requesting party does not wish to make the records public but to view them. In this case, the party must meet specific eligibility requirements that vary depending on the type of civil case. If eligible, the party will be given legal authority through court order or subpoena to view this specific record.