How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Arizona (2020 Guide)

George Simons

June 03, 2020

Summary: Use this guide to learn how to answer an Arizona debt collection Summons on your own or complete the process in minutes using SoloSuit.

Not sure how to Answer a Summons for debt collection in Arizona or if you should even Answer at all? Once a debt hits the point where a creditor is filing papers with the courts, it's essential to formally follow up, or you risk having a default judgment made against you. When following-up on the debt matter, it's important to know and follow Arizona debt collection laws to give yourself the best footing possible with the courts.

On this page, you'll find FAQs and details on:

What are a Summons and Complaint?

When a creditor brings a lawsuit against you, you'll generally receive two documents—a Summons and a Complaint. These are typically given to you by a process server, though sometimes a sheriff may deliver the documents or they may come via certified mail. This is referred to as “service of process” or “being served”. Without this step, the person suing you does not have a valid lawsuit. However, dodging the process server doesn't generally help either, as servers are often allowed some leniency as to how you're served and, failing that, the court may accept notice in a publication in lieu of personally serving you.

The Summons is an official document that explains you're being sued in civil claims court. The Complaint outlines what the other party says you've done and what they want in return. It does not necessarily mean you have done these things, only that they're alleging you have.

What's an Answer?

Just as the creditor who is suing you, or the plaintiff, must provide you with written information about the lawsuit, you, the defendant, are expected to provide a written response. This is referred to as an Answer. Think of it as a brief summary of whether or not you agree with the plaintiff on each item they mentioned, rather than as a detailed narrative of events.

Do You Have to Answer a Complaint and Summons?

Technically speaking, you aren't required to Answer a Summons or a Complaint. However, ignoring one means a judgement can be made against you without the judge receiving your input or hearing your response. Oftentimes, the plaintiff receives everything they ask for when the defendant doesn't respond. The big debt collection agencies count on you taking no action because it lets them collect with minimal effort on their part. The allegations don't even need to be true.

Can You Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Arizona without an Attorney?

You aren't forced to to hire a lawyer to respond to a debt collection Summons. While you may prefer to work with an attorney if you have a more complicated case or believe the creditor behaved unethically, you can also complete the Answer on your own or use a tool like SoloSuit to walk you through the paperwork and submission process quickly. See the SoloSuit FAQ for details.

What if My Summons and Complaint List a Jane Doe?

The inclusion of “John Doe” or “Jane Doe” as a defendant on court paperwork generally means the plaintiff believes the defendant is married and is suing the spouse as well. In these cases, the spouse should file alongside the named defendant and sign the paperwork too.

What's the Arizona Deadline for Answering a Debt Collection Summons?

In most cases, you have 20 days from the date of service to respond. That means 20 days from the time you received the documents, not 20 days from the date stamped on the papers or the date they were filed with the court. However, the deadline for Answering a debt collection Summons in Arizona depends on how you were served.

For example, if you were served an Arizona Summons while you were in another state, the deadline is 30 days, not 20 days. If the creditor published a notice of your Summons in a publication rather than serving you personally, you have a 50-day window in state or a 60-day window out-of-state.

What's the Statute of Limitations on Debt in Arizona?

Per the Arizona the statute of limitations, debt typically cannot be collected after six years. For example, A.R.S. § 12-548 addresses contracts in writing and credit cards. it allows the plaintiff to sue for up to six years “after the cause of action accrues.” On the other hand, the statute of limitations on debt in Arizona is reduced to three years if there was only an oral agreement, per A.R.S. § 12-543.

Arizona Statute of Limitations
on Debt

Debt Type

Deadline in Years

Oral

3

Written

6

Mortgage

6

Open

3

Credit Card

6

Judgment

4


Source: Findlaw



See SoloSuit's Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection by State for additional limitations and a state-by-state comparison.

Where Can I Get Arizona Answer to Summons Forms?

Generic Arizona Answer to Summons forms are available through county court websites as well as through the official Arizona Judicial Branch website.

What are the Steps to Respond to a Debt Collection Case in Arizona?

There are four primary steps involved in Answering or responding to a debt collection case in Arizona.

Step 1: Create the Answer Document

Use an Answer form as provided above and include the unique details of your case including:

  • Your personal information such as name, address, and phone number
  • The plaintiff's personal information
  • The court's information
  • Case details such as the case number

Step 2: Answer Each Item in the Complaint

As you'll see in the premade forms, you'll have the opportunity to give a response for each allegation/ paragraph in the Complaint. Your choices are to:

  • Admit as true
  • Deny
  • State you have insufficient information to determine whether true or false

It's important to note that it's up to the plaintiff to prove that something is true if you don't admit it's true at the onset. Because of this, attorneys generally recommend not admitting anything is true that you're not wholly certain of. For example, if you don't know your account number, don't admit that you owe a certain amount of money on that account. If you're not sure that the plaintiff has jurisdiction or the right to sue, don't admit it's true. Sometimes attorneys recommend that defendants not admit to anything in their Answer, instead requiring the plaintiff to prove each allegation is true.

Step 3: List Affirmative Defenses if Applicable

The standardized Arizona Answer form contains roughly 20 potential affirmative defenses in the “Defenses and Denials” section as well as the opportunity to write in your own Answer. These assert that the plaintiff does not have a case because they've done something wrong. Some of the most commonly used affirmative defenses include:

  • Statute of Limitations- It's been more than six years since you broke your written agreement or three years since you broke a verbal agreement to pay the debt.
  • Insufficient Service of Process- You weren't given the Summons and/or Complaint or some part of the process was not handled properly.
  • Estoppel- The plaintiff led you to believe they would not enforce the contract.
  • Payment- You've paid some or all the debt.
  • Statute of Frauds (SOF)- The agreement between plaintiff and defendant was not in writing but it needed to be in writing for it to be legally enforceable. This only applies in certain situations, such as when the value of goods being sold exceeds a certain amount or when the agreement cannot be fulfilled within a year.

In most cases, the only time you can bring certain defenses forth is when you provide your written Answer. In other words, if you fail to mention an affirmative defense at the onset, the court may not recognize it later. For this reason, it's important to consider every avenue you might take before submitting your Answer and check every box that's applicable. Also bear in mind that this is not the time to tell your version of events. Keep your Answers as brief as possible to avoid potentially damaging your case.

Step 4: File with the Court and Serve the Plaintiff

Once your paperwork is completed and signed, you'll need to make two additional copies of it. The first needs to be sent to the plaintiff or, if they have a lawyer, to their attorney. Despite being referred to as “service,” you do not need to hire a process server. It can be sent via regular mail to the address included in the paperwork you received. The second copy is for yourself.

You'll also need to note how you informed the plaintiff on the original copy of your written Answer and also how you're notifying the court. Once complete, you'll need to give the original copy to the court. Provided you've allowed enough time for processing, you can send the documents to the court through the U.S. mail. However, you can also deliver the papers to the court clerk or SoloSuit will file for you if using the service and can even handle overnight delivery.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.

How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.

Respond with SoloSuit

"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James


Start My Answer


>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit: A Student Solution To Give Utah Debtors A Fighting Chance

Do the Arizona Fair Debt Collection Practices Act Guidelines Apply When Filing?

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) creates guidelines at the federal level rather than the state level. The FDCPA outlines several things creditors must do as well as things they may not do in an effort to protect consumers from companies that harass or behave unethically. A few examples are outlined below.

A Creditor May Not

  • Call you before 8am or after 9pm
  • Make threats of any kind (including threats of wage garnishment, property seizure, or arrest)
  • Contact you if you've said the debt is not yours
  • Make false statements

A Creditor Must

  • Send you a written Validation Notice within five days of their first contact to you
  • Include in the Validation Notice who you owe money to, the total amount owed, and what to do if you think the debt isn't yours
  • Send all communication to your lawyer rather than you if you're represented by an attorney

You still need to respond to a Complaint even if the creditor violated the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. However, the FDCPA offers recourse if a debt collector is behaving unethically or harassing you. The Arizona Attorney General's website offers a consumer reporting portal that may result in criminal charges being pressed against the creditor. In a separate case, you may be entitled to statutory and actual damages which cover everything from emotional distress through lost wages.

View How to File an FDCPA Complaint Against Your Debt Collector for additional information on the process, see some of the shady practices debt collection companies use, or explore how debt collectors use the FDCPA to their benefit on the SoloSuit blog.

There are several organizations in the state of Arizona that offer low-cost or free legal services to those who can demonstrate financial need. If you need legal assistance and cannot afford to hire a lawyer at their standard rates, you may wish to contact one of the organizations listed below.

Community Legal Services, Inc.
http://www.clsaz.org/
(800) 852-9075
305 South 2nd Avenue, P.O. Box 21538, Phoenix, AZ 85036-1538
Counties Served: La Paz, Maricopa, Mojave, Yavapai, Yuma

DNA-Peoples Legal Services, Inc. https://dnalegalservices.org/
(800) 789-7287
Route 12, Highway 264, P.O. Box 306, Window Rock, AZ 86515
Counties Served: Coconino and reservation areas in Apache and Navajo

Southern Arizona Legal Aid, Inc.
https://www.sazlegalaid.org/
(520) 623-9461
2343 E Broadway Blvd #200, Tucson AZ
Counties Served: Pima, Santa Cruz, Pinal, Navajo, Apache, Gila, Cochise, Graham, Greenlee

It's also worth noting that personal finance courses are available online for those who want to get their finances back on track after a debt lawsuit and there are alternatives for people facing issues like zombie debt too.

Recap: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Arizona

Complete the Arizona Answer form and file it within 20 days of receipt of your Summons and Complaint. Ensure that you:

  • Answer each issue/ paragraph on your Complaint
  • Assert your affirmative defenses
  • File your Answer with the court and send a copy to the plaintiff

You can use SoloSuit to streamline the process and submit your paperwork to the court.

How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection Guides for Other States

Guides for other states

All 50 states.