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

George Simons

July 09, 2020

Summary: Live in Wisconsin and need help responding to a debt collection lawsuit? You can use SoloSuit to guide you through the process in Wisconsin

Life these days is pretty stressful. Chances are you're already doing everything that you can to make ends meet and keep your family safe. Getting sued for debt collection on top of everything else may feel like too much to take. You might be tempted to just ignore it and hope it goes away. Unfortunately it will not go away on its own, and all you get by ignoring is a guarantee that you are going to lose and end up in worse a financial state than before.

Avoiding that outcome is easier than you might assume. In this article we will teach you how to respond to a debt collection lawsuit on your own when you can't afford to hire an attorney, and hopefully make this process a little easier for you. This will include information specific to Wisconsin including Wisconsin deadlines and court forms.

Table of Contents

Wisconsin Deadline for Answering a Debt Collection Summons

A Wisconsin debt collection lawsuit begins when one party (the plaintiff) files a Summons and Complaint against you (the defendant.) The plaintiff is usually a creditor or, more likely, a third party debt collection company who purchased the debt from your original creditor. As soon as the lawsuit is filed, the clock starts ticking and you only have a certain period of time to respond and preserve your rights

In Wisconsin the deadline to file an answer to a debt collection Summons and Complaint is 20 days. There are some legal cases where that deadline can be extended to 45 days, but for almost all debt collection cases it will only be 20 days. If you do not file a response with the Court before those 20 days expire, the plaintiff will win simply from your inaction.

If you miss the deadline to respond, the plaintiff will ask the Court for a default judgment, which means not only do they win the case, but you've also lost your chance to refute any of the details (such as the amount of debt etc.) Even worse, with a default judgment they can now get a garnishment to get payment on the debt by taking money out of your paycheck before you even see it. Obviously it's best to avoid this whenever possible, which you can do by filing a response with the Court before the 20 day deadline.

Wisconsin Answer to Summons Forms

You can have SoloSuit do the work for you by creating your Answer quickly in the proper format. All you have to do is answer a few questions online. SoloSuit will translate your responses into the proper legalese and format to file in Wisconsin. In addition, we'll have an attorney review it to make sure everything is in order and even file it for you with the Court.

Alternatively, Wisconsin Courts provide an online Answer form for debt collection cases in Small Claims Court (a division of Circuit Court which hears matters with claims of $10,000 or less.) If your case is in Small Claims you can use this Answer and Counterclaims form. If your case is in Circuit Court you will need to draft your own response in the proper format for the Court. It's important to note, however, that as the defendant you will not have to determine the proper court, since the case has already been filed. You can simply find the court information in the caption of your Summons and Complaint.

Answer Filing Fees for Wisconsin

Wisconsin Circuit Court Fees

Steps to Respond to a Debt Collection Case in Wisconsin

As we discussed above, a debt collection lawsuit begins when the plaintiff files a case against you. You then have only 20 days to file your response to avoid a default judgment. You can respond by filing an Answer or a Motion. Filing an Answer is generally sufficient in most cases for state debt collection cases in Wisconsin, whereas Motions can get more complicated pretty quickly. Motions often require a greater understanding of the legal system and are best left to attorneys.

It may seem intimidating to think about responding to a lawsuit on your own; you just need to follow the steps below to create your own Answer:

  1. Create an Answer document
  2. Answer each issue of the complaint
  3. Assert affirmative defenses
  4. File one copy of the Answer document with the court and serve the plaintiff with another copy.

Below we will go over each step in detail.

1. Create an Answer Document.

Your first step is to create the Answer document in the proper format. Now if you're in Small Claims Court you don't have to concern yourself with format, as you can simply fill in the Answer and Counterclaims form. You can find most of the information that you'll need in the caption of the Summons and Complaint that you received.

If you're in Circuit Court and drafting your own response you'll need to gather the information listed on the Complaint and Summons and add it to your Answer. This includes the following:

  • Your personal information: address, name, etc.
  • The plaintiff's information: the attorney/company suing you, their address, etc.
  • The Court's information: the name of the court the case is in, which division in Wisconsin, the address of the court, etc.
  • The case information: the case number

After you've gathered the above information you will need to format your Answer document with the appropriate case caption, including all of the relevant information.

SoloSuit makes it easy to find the right information.

2. Answer each issue of the Complaint.

Your next step is to answer each separate issue in the Complaint. In Small Claims this is simplified into a single checkbox and space to fill in additional specifics. You will need to choose either box #1 if the matter is not contested, or box #2 if the matter is contested. The second choice further states that “the reason(s) why the matter is contested are as follows:” You can attach another sheet if you need to in order specifically address each and every allegation where you disagree, consolidated into this response.

If you're in Circuit Court and drafting your own Answer, you should read through the Complaint and consider each numbered paragraph separately, and then respond with one of the following three ways:

  • Admit: This means “I Agree”
  • Deny: This means “I disagree”
  • Deny for lack of knowledge: This means “I don't know”

SoloSuit makes it simple to respond the right way.

You should list whichever of the above responses is appropriate for each allegation in the Complaint. Make certain to list each response beginning with the same number as the corresponding paragraph in the Complaint, so it is clear to see which response goes with each allegation.

Keep in mind that you don't have to deny every separate claim to win the lawsuit. You can admit to facts that are true (such as your name, account number, etc.) without causing any damage to your argument. It's also appropriate to use the third response when you aren't able to verify the allegation. For example, if the plaintiff is a third-party debt collection agency and states that they are incorporated in Wisconsin you can answer “I don't know.” You are not expected to research the corporation details on your own.

3. Assert affirmative defenses.

The next step is for you to assert any and all appropriate affirmative defenses. An affirmative defense is any reason that you can use to show that the other side does not have a case. You can find all the possible affirmative defenses available in Wisconsin in the Wisconsin Legislature, Chapter 802.02 (3).

If you are using the Small Claims Answer for you should include your affirmative defenses under #2 where you are contesting the matter. If you are drafting your own Answer document you can create a new section devoted entirely to your affirmative defenses.

With SoloSuit you can make the right affirmative defenses the right way.

Some of the available affirmative defenses that are commonly used as as follows:

Accord and satisfaction - this is applicable when the parties already reached a new agreement about the issue. In the debt collection context it would be if you and your creditor had an agreement to pay less than the total debt owed in full satisfaction of the debt.

Discharge in bankruptcy - you are no longer legally obligated to pay a debt if you previously filed a bankruptcy case that resulted in discharge and included the debt at issue. This may come up as third party collection agencies don't always check if the debt was discharged in bankruptcy.

Payment - this defense is appropriate if you have already paid the debt at issue. Here, if you have documentation to support this, you can attach it for the court to review.

Statute of Limitations - a statute of limitations refers to the amount of time that one party has to bring a legal action against another. We will discuss in more detail below the statute of limitations for debt collection in Wisconsin. If the lawsuit against you is outside of these limits, this defense can stop the plaintiff from getting a court order against you.

You can also assert an affirmative defense if this is not your debt. It could be that the lawsuit is against someone else with a similar name. Or perhaps the account number listed is not the one under your name. Additionally, you may have been a victim of identity theft, in which case you can argue that you are not responsible for the debt. Unfortunately, however, inability to pay the debt is not an affirmative defense.

After you've addressed your affirmative defenses, you can also assert any counterclaims if you believe that the plaintiff violated any Wisconsin debt collection laws. Wisconsin follows the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) to protect resident consumers from harassment and threats by debt collection agencies. Wisconsin offers additional provisions beyond the fair debt collection practices act including the Wisconsin consumer act — debt collection.

Keep in mind, however, that counterclaims can also get very complicated and may require assistance from legal counsel. If you are in Small Claims court you can check the box under the “Counterclaim/Demand” section and offer any evidence that you have in support as attachments.

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

Your final step is to file your Answer with the Court, and serve it on the plaintiff. Don't forget this important final step or all the work you've done so far will have been for nothing.

SoloSuit files for you.

Here's what you need to do to file your answer.

  • Print at least two copies of your Answer
  • Mail one copy to the court
  • Mail the other copy to the plaintiff's attorney.

With the Small Claims form you will be signing under oath that a copy has been or will be mailed to the plaintiff/plaintiff's attorney. Please note it's always a good idea to make an additional copy for your own records when possible.

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


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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 Wisconsin

The Wisconsin debt collection statute of limitations runs for six years for most types of debt. This includes medical debt, credit card debt, auto loan debt and state tax debt. If that six year period expired before the lawsuit began against you, you can assert the Wisconsin statute of limitations as an affirmative defense.

Wisconsin Statute of Limitations
on Debt

Debt Type

Deadline in Years

Oral

6

Written

6

Mortgage

10

Open

6

Credit Card

6

Auto Loan

6

Judgment

6-20


Source: Findlaw



All states have legal aid organizations, some of which are government-funded, that offer legal services to residents who cannot otherwise afford them. Below are some of these organizations in Wisconsin.

Legal Action of Wisconsin

Wisconsin Judicare

Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee

State Bar of Wisconsin Reduced Fee Services

Wisconsin Court Locations

Wisconsin Court Locations

Key Takeaways

So, in short, here's the review on how to answer a summons for debt collection in Wisconsin.

Follow these three steps:

  1. Answer each issue in the complaint.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses
  3. File and serve the Answer

Good Luck!

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

Here's a list of guides for other states.

All 50 states.