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All papers filed with a court regarding a lawsuit are called court papers. Court papers typically consist of pleadings (complaint or petition and answer), motions (written requests to the court to take some specific action) and court orders (written orders resulting from a trial or hearing).

The term responsive pleading is used to describe any court paper filed by a defendant in direct response to the complaint or petition filed by the plaintiff. An answer is the typical responsive pleading. Others include various motions, such as a motion to quash service of process or a motion to dismiss the complaint, which is intended to get the complaint or petition dismissed at the outset of the case.

A number of states have developed pre-printed court forms for use in court proceedings involving such matters as divorces, guardianships and temporary restraining orders. These forms are especially helpful to people handling their own cases without lawyers; checking boxes and filling in blanks is usually much easier than figuring out what needs to go into a document that must be typed from scratch. On the other hand, some forms are so confusing that they intimidate all but the most knowledgeable lawyers or paralegals.