I have 20 days from the date I was served (January 31, 2013. I cannot afford an attorney, how do I answer the divorce?
You can file a document called an "Answer". It's free. It lets the court know that you want to be notified about all future hearings & not to go forward without you.
You are in Houston. Go to the Harris County Law Library which is downtown across the street from the Family Law Center. Bring money for their copier (10 cents a copy) and make at least 3 copies. Send your wife or her attorney a copy once you filed it with the clerk at the Civil Courthouse.
Ask your spouse to see a copy of the Final Decree of Divorce and make sure it says what you want - including that you are not paying the divorce. Then go down to the courthouse with her when she goes down to prove up the divorce after the 60 day waiting period. Then sign the Final Decree in the courtroom.
I'm tried to explain this really short & quick. I hope I have not totally confused you. Perhaps some other attorneys will answer more thoroughly. I'm off to do a mediation.
I recommend that you take your Decree to an attorney to review it before you sign it. Some attorneys will do this for you on a hourly basis. If you have minor children, I highly recommend this since the Decree will be long and complex.
3 lawyers agree
Child Custody Lawyer
Just google Respondent's Original Answer and file it with the court. You must provide a copy to your spouse. Most petitions include a request for attorney's fees. You won't have to pay this unless it is in the Final Decree of Divorce.
2 lawyers agree
Divorce / Separation Lawyer
You must file an Answer with the Court to avoid a default judgment. You can likely find a sample Answer online, especially if you perform an advanced Google search and limit the document type to .PDF.
As far as you paying for the divorce, that is very common language that every attorney includes in the petition because the general rule is that you cannot get something unless you asked for it. If you and your spouse agree to all of the terms, and you will represent yourself, then you should contact your spouse's attorney and discuss entering into an Agreed Final Decree of Divorce that does not require you to pay the attorney's fees.
Family Law Attorney
I agree with the above attorneys. You can find free forms on the texaslawhelp.org website. You could do a google search for a respondents answer to petition for divorce. Make three copies (one for the court, you and your spouse). Also, I recommend, like above, that you have an attorney at least look over the final decree of divorce before you sign it and go to court. You need to make sure your rights are protected. Newer attorneys like myself are willing to offer reasonable hourly rates for these kinds of services to get our names out and get more experience.
This is not legal advice and is only intended to provide a minimum amount of information for the purpose of helping you determine whether you should obtain assistance from a lawyer. I can not offer legal advice without knowing the full facts of your case. If you would like to speak with me further, please give me a call.