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How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Illinois (2021 Guide)

George Simons | July 21, 2022

Summary: This article will cover the fundamentals of how to respond if you have been served with a debt collection lawsuit in the State of Illinois. We will explain how you can take advantage of SoloSuit's easy-to-use automated service so you can fight back against legal actions brought by aggressive debt collectors.

What do you call a smiling, courteous person at a debt collector convention? — The caterer.

Debt collectors can be very aggressive, and there are few things worse than having to deal with a lawsuit from an overzealous debt collector when you are simply struggling to stay afloat. So, if you are a resident of Illinois and you have just been served with a debt collection lawsuit, then you need to know how to respond.

Significantly, if you do respond, you will greatly increase your chances of not having to pay the debt at all. That is because debt collectors love to initiate lawsuits, but they rarely have the evidence or resources to follow through with the case.

Indeed, a lot of debt collectors file lawsuits with the expectation that a debtor will simply not show up to court — because that is typically what happens. When a debtor fails to respond to a lawsuit, the debtor automatically loses the case, and the debt collector wins. Don't fall victim to that strategy.

With the help of SoloSuit, we can give you the tools, consistent with Illinois debt collection laws, to effectively push back against a debt collector's lawsuit. By doing so, you might just be able to show the court that the debt collector is wrong, and that you do not owe anything on the alleged debt.

Accordingly, in this blog, we are going to cover the basics of responding to a debt collection lawsuit in the State of Illinois. We will cover how, when, and where to respond to a lawsuit so that you can feel confident to stand up for your rights.

Table of Contents

Illinois Deadline for Answering a Debt Collection Summons

The first order of business when you receive a debt collection lawsuit, usually in the form of a “Summons and Complaint,” is to find out when you need to respond before it is too late.

In Illinois, the process differs a bit depending upon the amount of money that is in dispute. If the debt collection lawsuit is seeking less than $10,000 in debt (which is most often the case), then you simply need to come to court on the date that is listed on the Summons you receive. Once you appear in court, then the judge will tell you when you need to file an answer. Usually, the judge will tell you to file 10 days from your court date.

If the lawsuit is for more than $50,000, then you will need to file an “Appearance” (discussed below) within 30 days after the day you received the Summons and Complaint. After you file an Appearance, then you will need to file an Answer.

In short, if you receive a Summons and Complaint from a debt collector who is seeking payment for a debt that is $10,000 or less, then you need to appear in court on the day listed on the Summons, and your Answer is then due generally 10 days after the date you appear in court.

Illinois Answer to Summons Forms

There are a number of ways to create an “Answer,” or response, to a debt collection lawsuit. The first, and easiest, way is to use this Answer Form.

At SoloSuit, we can help you in Illinois (or any State in the United States). Our method of walking you through the process of responding to a debt collection suit in Illinois is second to none. Check out our easy-to-use automated service.

The other way to respond in Illinois is to use the forms provided by the State of Illinois court system, if you would like to do it on your own. The form is found here: AR-A 1403.4.

In addition to an Answer, you will most likely need to also file a “Appearance” at the same time you file an Answer. While an “Answer” essentially responds to a Complaint, the “Appearance” is the way you tell the court that you wish to be heard in the lawsuit. As with the Answer, SoloSuit can help you create your Appearance document. That said, if you want to do it on your own, you can also find the Appearance form here: AP-P 503.5.

Given that you need to respond in a format that an Illinois court will accept, it is important to take advantage of either SoloSuit's automated service, or the forms provided by the Illinois courts.

Answer Filing Fees for Illinois

The State of Illinois is a little tricky with regard to filing fees. Many Illinois courts will require you pay a filing fee when you file your Appearance, some may not. The key is to check with the court in which the lawsuit was filed to understand whether you need to pay a filing fee.

Fortunately, if you cannot afford to pay the filing fee, you can ask the court to allow you to file for free. Of course, as with all bureaucracies, you will need to fill out yet another form. That form is an Application for Waiver of Court Fees, which is basically you asking the court to allow you to file your responsive documents for free.

Steps to Respond to a Debt Collection Case in Illinois

Now that we have talked a little about filing deadlines, and filing fees, let's quickly review the basics of a debt collection case in Illinois, so you understand the process, and the necessary documents that are part of that process.

Any debt collection lawsuit will begin with the debt collector (or his lawyer) filing a lawsuit in court. The way you learn about that lawsuit is because you are served with two specific documents: (1) a Summons, and (2) a Complaint.

The titles of those documents really help explain what they are. The “Summons” literally summons, or calls, you into court. It is the debt collector saying he is suing you for an alleged debt that he thinks you owe.

The “Complaint,” on the other hand, is what the debt collector is literally complaining about. Of course, in a debt collection lawsuit, the complaint essentially states the following: “You owe me money, and you have not paid.”

Once you get the Summons and Complaint in hand, it is your turn to respond. Just like in any dispute in regular life, when someone complains about something, you respond to the complaint, and you defend yourself.

So, not surprisingly, you need to provide an “Answer” document in which you respond by confirming or denying what the complaining person says. In addition, you are able to defend yourself by providing what the court calls “Affirmative Defenses.”

Below we will go through each step of answering a complaint, including creating the Answer document that incorporates your affirmative defenses. Specifically, we will talk you through:

  1. Creating an Answer;
  2. Confirming or denying everything said in the Complaint;
  3. Asserting your affirmative defenses; and finally,
  4. Making sure the court and the debt collector get your responsive papers.

With the help of SoloSuit, we can make each step easy for you.

1. Create an Answer Document.

When you initially create your Answer document in response to a Summons and Complaint, you need to first be sure to include some important identifying information about your side of the case. That means that you must provide the court with information about yourself, about how to contact you, about how to contact your adversary, and reiterate the court in which you were sued.

A lot of the basic information, particularly the information about the court and your adversary will be provided for you in the Summons and Complaint you receive. That said, here is a list of some of the important information you want to make sure is included in your Answer:

  • Your Contact Info: In the Answer document, you need to make sure that the court knows how to reach you. So, you must include your name, address, email address, and your attorney's contact information if you are represented by counsel.
  • Your Adversary's Info: Even though it is your Answer, you still need to acknowledge the party that is suing you. So, you will want to include the name, address, and phone number of the debt collector, or debt collection company, as well as the contact information for the debt collector's attorney.
  • Court Info: The court always wants to make sure that you ‘dot your i's and cross your t's,' which means that you will need to include in your Answer document the information about the name and address of the court that is handling the lawsuit filed against you. Illinois has Circuit Courts for every county. So, you will need to make sure the correct county is included in your Answer.
  • Case Info: Every court case has a Case Number. That number helps the court keep your case file together with all of the other filings in your case. Do not forget to put the case number in your Answer. Either the Summons or Complaint, or both will have the Case Number that you can use.

SoloSuit helps you gather the right information.

At first blush, you may think that this is a lot of detailed information to include for a simple response. And it is still important, however, that you include the above information in your Answer so that your response will not be rejected by the court.

2. Answer each issue of the Complaint.

The next thing to worry about with creating your Answer is responding to every single numbered paragraph in the Complaint you received. As you look at the Complaint you received, you might find some numbered paragraphs that say something that you have no problem with, but other paragraphs contain statements that may make your blood boil because you know they are false.

Don't fret. You have the opportunity to tell the court precisely how you feel about each numbered paragraph in the Complaint. You do that in the Answer by simply stating that you “Admit” or “Deny” each numbered paragraph in the Complaint.

Remember, if the Complaint has information that you both agree and disagree with, then you would be wise to choose “Deny” for those paragraphs. You will have time later to clarify what exactly you are denying in those paragraphs that mix up truths and falsehoods.

SoloSuit helps you respond appropriately.

Finally, you may see information in certain numbered paragraphs where you really do not have enough information to “Admit” or “Deny” the statements. In that case, you can simply choose “Do Not Know” for those numbered paragraphs.

3. Assert affirmative defenses.

Now that you have addressed every single numbered paragraph in the Complaint, you are all done, right? Not quite. As we said before, when you get in a dispute, you not only disagree with the other person's comments, but you give reasons for why you took the actions you took. In short, you provide defenses for why you are not guilty of what you are being accused of. The same logic holds true in a lawsuit dispute.

In your Answer, you have the option of adding what are called “affirmative defenses.” These affirmative defenses are ways in which you explain why you do not owe the debt the debt collector says you owe. Some of the most common affirmative defenses that people use in responding to a debt collection lawsuit include the following:

  • You already paid the debt, or you started paying part of the debt.
  • The agreement underlying the debt has been terminated.
  • The creditor has already said that you do not owe the debt.
  • You co-signed a contract, and no one told you that you would be liable under the contract.
  • The lawsuit can't move forward because the debt collector did not attach the actual agreement that supposedly created the debt.
  • The debt collector lacks “standing,” meaning that the debt collector has not shown in the Complaint that he owns the debt.
  • The debt collector has run out of time because he filed the lawsuit beyond the Illinois debt collection statute of limitations. As discussed further below, debt collection lawsuits must be filed within a certain amount of time.

SoloSuit makes it easy to make the right defense.

The Answer form may not provide space for affirmative defenses, but the form does allow you to attach additional statements to the form. You should be sure to include your affirmatives defenses (as many listed above as apply to you) on that separate sheet of paper.

Unfortunately, an inability to pay a debt does not count as a valid affirmative defense.

4. File the answer with the court and serve the plaintiff.

Once you have taken the time to create the Answer form, all you have left to do is (1) file the Answer with the court, and (2) make sure that the collector gets a copy. Let's talk about those two steps.

To file your Answer with the court, Illinois requires that you file online. The way to do that is to follow the instructions for e-filing. If you do not have access to a computer, then you can go to the Circuit Court Clerk's office for help e-filing your Answer; in some areas, you may be required to use a public terminal to e-file. The Answer can either be on paper or saved on a flash drive. E-filing can be surprisingly complicated; here is more information.

To send a copy to your adversary, you can send your Answer by hand delivery, by regular mail, by FedEx or UPS, or email (if the adversary provided an email address). Remember the debt collector should get a copy of your Answer. But if the debt collector has an attorney, then the Answer should go to that attorney's address instead.

Important reminder, when you make copies of your Answer, make sure that you keep a copy for your records.

SoloSuit files for you.

Finally, the State of Illinois asks that you include a “Proof of Delivery” section in your Answer. Room on the Answer form is provided for this Proof of Delivery information. Simply put, the Proof of Delivery is the way that you tell the court how you sent a copy of your Answer to the debt collector, or his lawyer.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in Illinois, or in any State in the country.

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

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>>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

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Illinois

Debt collectors cannot hold a debt over your head forever. There is an Illinois debt collection statute of limitations, which means that creditors only have a limited amount of time to bring a lawsuit to collect on a debt. The limitations period depends upon the kind of debt it is.

When does the statute of limitations clock begin to run? Typically, the time period provided in the statute of limitations begins upon “default” of the debt, which is normally the date of your last payment.

What are the statute of limitations periods, see the chart below:

Illinois Statute of Limitations
on Debt

Debt Type

Deadline in Years









Credit Card


Auto Loan


Medical Debt




Source: Findlaw

Prairie State Legal Services, Inc. (for Northern Illinois)
303 North Main Street, Suite 600
Rockford, IL 61101
(815) 965-2134

Land of Lincoln Legal Assistance Foundation, Inc. (for Southern Illinois)
8787 State Street, Suite 201
East St. Louis, IL 62203
(887) 342-7891

Online Legal Aid

Illinois Court Locations

For your reference, here is a handy website that provides a guide to all the Illinois courthouse locations. Use the guide for the correct address of the Circuit Court associated with your case.

What If I Haven't Been Sued Yet?

If you've only received a collections notice, but not a lawsuit, the best way to respond is with a Debt Validation Letter. When a debt collector contacts you in any way, whether it's by phone or mail, you can respond with a Debt Validaiton Letter. This letter notifies the collector that you dispute the debt and requires they provide proof you owe the debt. They can't call you or continue collecting until they provide validation of the debt. This flowchart shows how you can use a Debt Validation Letter to win.

Learn more about the Debt Validation Letter here.

How to win a debt collection lawsuit flowchart. Litigation Flowchart.

Get started with a Debt Validation Letter here.

Key Takeaways

There you are: the basic tools to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in the State of Illinois. Remember, you do not need to give away your power when being sued by a debt collector. If you take just a little time to respond to the lawsuit, you may find that the debt collector will fold. Then, you no longer have to worry about the debt. Yet, even if the debt collector follows through, you are in a better position by responding to the lawsuit than if you automatically lost the suit by not responding.

So, the five key takeaways for responding to a debt collection suit in Illinois are:

  1. Follow the instructions on the Summons you receive, so you can make an appearance in court to tell the court that you will be fighting back against the debt collector.
  2. Let SoloSuit help you make the Answer process easy.
  3. In your Answer document, be sure to respond to each numbered paragraph, and don't be afraid to add an extra sheet of paper to include all of the affirmative defenses listed above that apply to your case.
  4. You need to electronically file your Answer with the court in Illinois, mailing it will not be sufficient.
  5. Don't forget to include your Proof of Delivery with your Answer, so the court knows how you sent a copy of your Answer to your adversary.

Good luck!

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