Think of a contested divorce in Texas as a road that looks easy enough to maneuver until you get on it. But once you are there, you can see the twists and turns, potholes and obstacles on the path. If your spouse filed for a Texas divorce and you don't want a divorce or can't hammer out the basic terms, the divorce is contested. You need to file a response, and your choices are basically a Texas divorce answer form or a counter petition for divorce form.
TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
File a counter petition in a contested Texas divorce when you wish to raise issues that your spouse did not raise in the initial filing. The petition also prevents your spouse from withdrawing the petition unilaterally.
Filing an Answer to a Divorce Petition in Texas
A divorce may feel like a tornado passing through your life, but in fact it is a legal proceeding like any other, just one that stirs up lots of emotions. All legal cases open with an initial court filing called a complaint or a petition, depending on the jurisdiction. In Texas, the document is termed an Original Petition for Divorce.
Your spouse must have this document served on you, which means, most of the time, hand delivered to you. From the date you receive it, you have 20 days to respond. This is not a deadline you want to miss, since your spouse may be awarded a divorce without any input from you. Most people respond by filing an answer to the divorce petition. By filing an answer to a divorce petition in Texas, you can deny any charges you disagree with and put them in play in the lawsuit. But that's not the only option. You can also file a counter petition.
Counter Petition for Divorce in Texas
Filing a counter petition for divorce in Texas essentially opens up another divorce lawsuit, this one against your spouse. You must have the counter petition served on your spouse and wait for your spouse's answer. If you are wondering why you would want to complicate the divorce action with a counter petition, there are several advantages.
First, if you simply file an answer to the lawsuit, your spouse has the right to dismiss the petition at any time. Filing a counter petition for divorce prevents one spouse from dropping the case without the consent of the other spouse.
Secondly, remember that the only way to make claims against your spouse is to file a counter petition. Texas offers no-fault divorce, but it retains the old fault divorce grounds as well. And, if a divorce is a fault divorce, for abandonment, adultery or cruelty for example, the person found to be at fault may get a smaller share of the assets or even less parenting time.
Because of that, filing a counter petition for divorce in Texas may put you in a better negotiating position in getting a divorce settlement with your spouse. Your spouse may be more willing to drop fault claims if you have claims to drop as well.