How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Montana

George Simons

October 08, 2021

Debt collectors ^

Summary: Are you being sued for an old debt in Montana? Find out how to answer a summons for debt collection in Montana with SoloSuit.

If you've been sued by a creditor or debt collection agency over unpaid debt in Montana, you may be feeling overwhelmed and even scared. Do not fret. You have options and there are ways to effectively respond to the debt collector's legal action.

A summons for debt collection is a formal legal action filed by a plaintiff (i.e., the debt collection agency, creditor, etc.) against a defendant (i.e., you) alleging you failed to stay current on a particular account and there remains an unpaid debt.

If you are served with a summons for debt collection, one of the worst things you can do is ignore the summons in the hopes the matter just goes away. This is a terrible course of action because if you fail to answer a debt summons or complaint, it means you are guaranteeing the debt collector will prevail in their lawsuit. Why? Because the debt collector will file a motion for default judgment and a court will likely grant it.

Avoid a default judgment by filing a response with SoloSuit.

Filing an Answer to a summons for debt collection offers you the opportunity to respond to the allegations in the lawsuit. For example, you can highlight any errors, oversights, or problems with the debt collector's complaint.

For example, if you don't owe the debt claimed, answering the summons gives you a chance to argue your defense and bring this issue to the court's attention. Responding to the lawsuit also gives you a chance to file a counterclaim.

Montana deadline for answering a debt collection summons

For Montana residents, you must file a written answer within 21 days after being served. These days vary depending on whether the hearing occurs in a small claims court or a district court.

A small claims court determines cases involving debt collection for debts valued at $7,000 and below. A district court judge hears a debt collection case valued between $7000-$25,000. Also, if the deadline coincides with a holiday or weekend, it will be pushed to the next business day.

When you receive the summons, check to find out how long you have to file an Answer. The summons and complaint will also contain details about the plaintiff, their demands, and the amount you owe.

Missing the deadline will prompt the plaintiff to file for a default judgment. A default judgment renders any of your efforts at winning the case fruitless. When this happens, the court may decide to:

  • Levy your bank accounts
  • Garnish your wages
  • Auction your assets
  • Among others

Even if you decide to reach out to the creditor outside the court, you'll still need to file your Answer with the court clerk. If you do not know where to start, SoloSuit offers a great way to file an Answer just by clicking a button!

Respond to a debt collection lawsuit fast with SoloSuit.

Montana answer to summons forms

You can download the Answer to the summons form from the Montana Judicial Branch website. The document requires you to fill in personal information such as name, contact information, and location.

Filing an Answer with the court requires you to pay a legal fee. But if you cannot afford the payment, you may apply for a waiver. To do so, you have to fill a ‘Statement of Inability to Pay' form and mail it to the court clerk before the deadline. You can download the form here.

The court will evaluate your application and decide whether to waive the fee. After the court waives the payment, you can then file your written Answer to the summons. A counterclaim is another way to answer a summons for a debt collection lawsuit in Montana. This kind of Answer challenges the claims made by the plaintiff if you believe the case against you is false. You also need to notify the plaintiff about the counterclaim.

Given that counterclaims usually involve many legal tussles, you may need legal advice to determine if it's the best shot at winning the case. To file a countersuit, download and fill a counterclaim form from Montana's judicial branch website.

Use SoloSuit to make the right defense and win your case.

Answer filing fees in Montana

To fill an answer for a summons of debt collection in a small claims court, you will pay $15 to the court. For district courts, the filing fee is $30. Counterclaims are more costly to file, and you may end up paying up to $1200 depending on the case and debt amount.

Steps to respond to a debt collection case in Montana

Even if the claims stated in the summons and complaints are untrue, you must respond with a written Answer to the court. Be sure to also send a copy of this Answer to the plaintiff directly or through their attorney.

Let us look at the steps you need to follow when responding to a debt collection lawsuit:

1. Draft your answer

The Montana Judicial Branch website has a sample answer document that you can use to fill in the required details. A satisfactory answer document should contain the following information:

  • Your information, such as name, contacts, address, county, and city.
  • Information on the plaintiff and the legal company representing them.
  • Court details, such as name, location, and address.
  • Case details, which include the case number and docket.
  • Whether you deny or admit the claims made by the plaintiff.
Answer each issue of the complaint

Provide answers for every claim made by the creditor in the complaint document. The best way to do this is to study the Complaint, identify each claim and address the issues in each paragraph.

There are three ways in which you may respond to the claims, as outlined below.

Admit

You can list down all the paragraphs with factual claims. For instance, you can write, “these paragraphs in the Complaint are true,” then list them down.

Deny

Alternatively, you may highlight all the false allegations. For instance, you can say, “these paragraphs in the Complaint are false,” then write them down. Additionally, if you are unsure about information written in any section, feel free to deny it. Note that failure to deny a claim is considered an admission of responsibility for the debt.

Admit and deny

Some paragraphs will have true allegations, while some may be questionable or completely untrue. In that case, you may write, “all sections of this paragraph are true except this and this part.” Likewise, you can say, “all accusations in this paragraph are false except this and this part.” Then, list down the sections in question.

Make the right affirmative defense with SoloSuit and win in court.

2. Assert affirmative defenses

After accepting or refuting the claims, the next step is giving reasons, known as affirmative defenses, to convince the judge to rule the case in your favor. Assert affirmative defenses only if you can prove it in court.

Asserting affirmative defenses that cannot be proven during trial increases your chances of losing the entire case. The following are some common affirmative defenses you may write in your Answer. Please select the one that applies to your specific situation.

You are not the debtor

Debt collectors sometimes unknowingly sue the wrong person. This error may be a result of identity theft or incorrect record-keeping. If you can prove you are not the debtor during the trial, you may win the lawsuit.

Wrong amount of debt

If the debt indicated in the summons and Complaint is incorrect, you can use it as an affirmative defense against the plaintiff.

Unidentified creditor

Debt collection agencies buy debts from creditors and present them as their own. If you can prove that you don't have any relationship with the plaintiff, the judge can rule the case in your favor.

Breach of contract

The creditor may have breached the terms of your contract leading to termination of their services. In that case, you can tell the court you cannot pay for a terminated contract. However, you must present evidence that the agreement was officially closed.

Already litigated case

If the case is pending in another court, or judgment for the same subject had already been passed, this could be a great defense during the trial. But you need to indicate the case number, and the court involved to prove your defense.

You already filed for bankruptcy

If you filed for bankruptcy and the case is in trial or the court has declared you bankrupt, you will be exempted from paying the debt.

Statute of limitations invalidates the case

The statute of limitations sets the time during which a creditor can legally sue you for a debt. After the period has elapsed, the creditor cannot collect their debt through the legal process.

In Montana, the statute of limitations for debt collection cases lies between three and ten years. If a plaintiff sues you after the expiry of the statute of limitations, you could use that as an affirmative defense.

Military exemption

If you are actively serving in the military or have just retired, you can ask the court to grant you a stay. A stay halts the case and gives you more time before trial. Although it does not remove the lawsuit, it provides you with more time to pay the debt.

Protect your property with SoloSuit.

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

The last step is to mail the Answer to the court. Some courts accept in-person delivery of the Answer through the office of the court clerk. Also, it is important to send a copy of the Answer to the plaintiff directly or through their attorney.

Given that debt collection laws are quite complicated and you may not know how to file your Answer correctly, SoloSuit offers a better alternative. This web application helps you file your Answer in easy steps, which an attorney then reviews before being sent to the plaintiff and court.

Statute of limitations on debt collection in Montana

Montana Statute of Limitations
on Debt

Debt Type

Deadline in Years

Written agreements and liabilities

8

Oral agreements and liabilities

3

Mortgage

8

Medical

8

State Tax

10

Auto Loan

4

Credit Card

5

Judgment

10


Source: Findlaw

The statute of limitations on debt refers to how long the creditor can legally sue you to pay what you owe them. Once this time has elapsed, the creditor can still use other ways to seek their payment but cannot take you to court.

The statute of limitations in Montana varies with the kind of agreement, whether written or verbal. The statute of limitations for written agreements and liabilities in Montana is eight years. On the other hand, oral liabilities and obligations have a 3-year statute of limitations.

The statute of limitation also varies depending on the kind of debt. For mortgage and medical debts, the statute of limitations is eight years. The state of Montana can sue you for state tax debt within ten years, while an auto loan debt is valid for four years.

In addition, the statute of limitations for credit card company debt is five years. If the plaintiff sues you and the court passes a judgment, the statute of limitations starts afresh. The creditor has ten years from the time of judgment to pursue the debt. This statute applies to the judgment of decrees in a court in any state.

Another thing to note is that once you start partial payments on a debt you've been sued for, the statute of limitations begins to count from scratch. Having an old debt (one has surpassed the statute of limitations) does not mean the debt collector cannot pursue their debt; it only means they cannot file a debt lawsuit in court. The debt may be time-barred, but the creditor can use other means to reach you.

Don't let debt collectors push you around. Respond with SoloSuit.

Montana legal aid organizations

When the court serves you with summons and complaint papers, you can choose to represent yourself or consult an attorney. The latter helps you make informed choices.

With legal help, you can answer the summons confidently. It also raises your chance of winning the lawsuit.

If you cannot afford paid legal services, government and non-profit organizations offer free legal services in Montana. You can find these pro bono legal aids across several counties in the state.

Here is a list of some great legal aid organizations in Montana:

  • Montana Legal Services Association
  • Cascade County Pro Bono program
  • Fifth Judicial district Pro Bono program
  • Northwest Area bar Association Pro Bono program
  • Gallatin County Pro Bono program
  • Western Montana Bar Association Pro Bono program

Key takeaways

Getting sued in court for an alleged unpaid debt can be extremely stressful. Do not give up hope or throw your hands up in despair. There are simple steps you can take to formally respond to the debt collector's summons and complaint.

Answering a summons for debt collection in Montana gives you a chance to fight the debt. When arguing your defense, you should consider including one, or a combination, of the following responses:

  • Answer to every Complaint; you can admit or deny the claims.
  • Include affirmative defenses, which give you a fighting chance to win the case.
  • File the Answer with the court and send a copy to the plaintiff.

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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