March 03, 2021
Summary: Worried about that car that just pulled up to your house? Could this stranger's visit be related to your old debts? Is sneaking out the back door a good solution? Learn what happens if you simply avoid getting served court papers.
Some surprises in life are awesome, but getting served court papers for debt collection is not one of them. Worse yet, if you are aware that court papers are coming your way, the stress and worry of running into a process server could really have a negative impact on your life.
Living with debt is already a stressful burden to bear. If you're overwhelmed by your situation and find it easier to avoid facing a court date, it's important to know what can happen if you avoid being served court papers.
It's not technically illegal to dodge process servers who are trying to hand you court papers, but the truth is, avoiding them will just make the situation worse for you in the long run. If you thought that not accepting court papers would simply make the problem go away, that's not going to happen. Let's walk you through the situation so you fully understand your options.
If you have debt, chances are it has been piling up for a while.
The company or individual you allegedly owe money, known as the plaintiff, has now started legal proceedings to recover the funds they believe you owe them. The court papers are notification of these legal proceedings, as well as a summons to appear in court to face the charges.
There are different types of people that are legally allowed to serve court papers. In the state of Utah, for example, these are the people who can serve all process issued by Utah courts:
If they have been successful in serving you the papers, they will then file “Proof of Service” paperwork to officially notify the courts you were handed the paperwork.
Then, the clocks start ticking, and you can't deny your situation any longer. While it may seem easier to avoid getting the paperwork or to ignore the paperwork altogether, it's always better to deal with the problem in a timely manner.
The good news is that there are circumstances under which you can fight the case against you. Being served isn't the end. For example, you need to make sure the paperwork is actually legal. Some debt collectors use sneaky and backhanded tricks to scare people, like serving paperwork before they've officially filed with the court system. Sometimes collectors don't even actually serve the person they're suing; this is called “sewer service” In this case, the only way to determine whether you're being sued is to call your local court and ask.
You may get some satisfaction from dodging a process server. Maybe it turned into a game of cat and mouse to avoid getting served court papers. But in the game of real life — specifically the game of legal processes — courts aren't playing around, and the consequences will catch up to you sooner rather than later. What are common consequences you could face if you have avoided being served court papers?
Maybe you've managed to sneak in and out of your house, and you haven't yet had court papers stuck in your face. Maybe you've left the country (not recommended). Regardless of how you've delayed the inevitable, you're far from out of the woods.
Did you know a process server has many ways to find you? You could end up getting served at work (could be rather embarrassing), having the papers handed to another adult you live with, or have the summons printed in the legal notices of your local newspaper. You should also know that getting court papers by certified mail may count as delivery of the papers, so don't pretend you didn't see that envelope the mail-person handed to you!
If you have avoided being served court papers and don't file an Answer by the deadline, it's bad news. The debt collector will likely file a motion with the court asking it to enter a “default judgment” against you.
If you're the party who avoided getting served court papers and didn't show up to the court date, what are the odds the judge will rule in your favor? Not so great. If that happens, watch out! The collector may then be allowed to garnish your wages, seize or put liens against your property, and take other aggressive legal measures.
Once you've been served court papers, you can no longer avoid the court process. The clock is ticking.
Even if you feel the lawsuit against you is wrong, you still need to respond to it, or you could risk getting a default judgement. That will never yield good results for you, so it's time to face the music.
Every state has different timeframes for you to respond to the lawsuit filed against you. This process is called “filing an Answer.” It's critical that you know the time frame allowed in your own state. Generally, states allow between 20 and 30 days to respond and file an Answer to a debt collection lawsuit.
The thing is, you want to file an Answer not only because it avoids a default judgement but also because it may end up showing that the company or individual suing you doesn't have enough proof to back up their claims against you. You should know that in a court of law, it falls on the plaintiff (the one suing you) to prove anything that they are alleging against you. Filing an Answer is your chance to stand up for yourself.
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.
"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
Here's a list of guides for other states.
Being sued by a different debt collector? We're making guides on how to beat each one.
Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.
Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.
Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.