What Recourse Do I Have When I Receive Late Notice of a Judgment and Miss the Normal Deadline to Respond?

When a final judgment is entered, a party may agree with the outcome or no; regardless of this reaction, the party must be prepared to respond to the judgment within thirty days if additional action needs to be taken.  The substance of a response to judgment is straightforward—hopefully, with the aid of an attorney, the party can decide to accept the order, to appeal it, or to request to amend some portion.  But what happens if, for whatever reason, neither the party nor the party’s attorney receives notice of the judgment having been entered, and a response to the ruling is not filed by the party within the allotted thirty-day period?

The provisions of Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 306a may provide an avenue of relief for clients and their attorneys that find themselves in this position. It comes as little surprise that many family law practitioners are not aware of the relief afforded by Rule 306a, as the circumstances this rule was crafted to address rarely arise.  However, in the case of a client who does not receive a judgment—someone moved, someone threw it away, it got lost in a shuffle—rule 306a provides the client an opportunity to extend the normal deadlines if that client and their attorney does not receive notice of a judgment at least twenty days (but no longer than ninety) after it was entered by the court.  If a client finds him or herself in this situation, you as the attorney may file a motion to extend post-judgment deadlines under Rule 306a.  This provides a chance for the client to present evidence to the court and explain why they were precluded from meeting the normal deadlines and why the new timeline under Rule 306a should apply.

CAVEAT: Texas courts require strict compliance with the specific provisions of Rule 306a—the party must clarify why he or she did not receive the document, the specific set of circumstances that led to this occurrence, and why the original judgment was not responded to within the normal thirty-day deadline.  There is no room for vague explanations.  Specificity is paramount if a party seeks to successfully trigger the alternate post-judgment deadlines afforded by Rule 306a.

Within the law, it is well-settled that the finality of judgments which are entered by the courts must be strictly upheld, otherwise, the entire system of justice loses footing and can break down quickly.  At the same time, outside incidents beyond one’s control can at times exist in which an individual is not made aware of a judgment from the court and thus does not respond; therefore, a way must exist for such a person to have recourse to right the situation.  Rule 306a seeks to strike a balance between these two principles by bolstering confidence in the finality of judgments while simultaneously providing an equitable recourse when variables outside a litigant’s control would lead to an unjust result.