How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection - The Ultimate 50 State Guide

George Simons

September 07, 2021

9 How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection - The Ultimate 50 State Guide

  

Don't just roll over and take it. Fight back. 

We want to help you win your debt collection lawsuit, not pay money that you don't owe, and protect your wages from garnishment. 

That's why we put together this guide for how to answer a summons for debt collection in all 50 states. 

Debt collection lawsuits are difficult to navigate, partly because the relevant laws change from state to state. So we've compiled the most relevant information for each all in one spot. Now you don't have to crawl your state courts' website looking for this information, because, trust me, it's a nightmare. 

For each state, we provide 

  • the Deadline for answering a debt collection summons for filing your answer to the summons and complaint 
  • the most relevant official answer form available in that state. 

Some states don't have answer forms so we've linked to other helpful forms and tidbits where we can. 

Also, we should mention this: SoloSuit can do all of this for you.

You Can Use SoloSuit to Generate Your Answer

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


The 3 Steps to Respond to a Debt Lawsuit

A debt lawsuit begins when you receive a Summons and Complaint. The Summons tells you that you're being sued. The Complaint tells you why you're being sued. In some states these documents are a little different or are called different names. In Texas, they're called a Citation and Petition. Here is what they look like.

Example of a Summons document for debt collection, in California.
Example of a Complaint document for debt collection, in California.

To respond to a debt lawsuit, you need to take three steps. SoloSuit walks you through these steps.

1. Respond to Every Paragraph in the Complaint

The Complaint includes several numbered paragraphs that lay out the lawsuit against you. For debt collection cases, there are usually between 10 and 30 numbered paragraphs. Read each paragraph and decide how you want to respond. You should respond in one of three ways:

  • Admit. Admit the paragraph if you agree with everything in the paragraph.
  • Deny. Deny the paragraph if you want to make the debt collector prove that it is true.
  • Defendant denies the allegation for lack of knowledge sufficient to know the truth or falsity thereof. This is a lawyerly way of saying “I don't know.” Choose this option if you don't understand the paragraph or if you don't have the information needed to respond to it.

Choose one of these responses and write it into your Answer after the corresponding paragraph number.

Many attorneys recommend denying everything to force the other side to prove everything. This is a good strategy in many cases.

2. Assert Affirmative Defenses

An “affirmative defense” is a reason why the person suing you doesn't have a case; it is your defense against the lawsuit. You must list these defenses in your Answer otherwise, you can't bring them up later. That's right, asserting your affirmative defenses is a once in a lifetime opportunity: if you don't bring them up now, you are legally prohibited from bringing them up later. Many online forms don't help you assert your affirmative defenses, SoloSuit does.

Here are some of the more common defenses we see:

  • The account with the debt is not your account
  • The contract was already canceled. Therefore you don't owe the creditor anything.
  • The statute of limitations has expired. A statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline on an action.
  • The debt has been paid or excused.
  • The debt has been partially paid.
  • You were a co-signer but were not informed of your rights as a co-signer.

These are a few of the many affirmative defenses. Being unable to pay the debt is not normally a legal defense to the debt.

3. File the Answer with the Court and the Plaintiff

Once you have created your Answer, responded to the paragraphs in the Complaint, and asserted your affirmative defenses, you are ready for the final step: file your Answer. The Answer document by itself is worthless unless you file it properly. Otherwise, it's like doing homework and not turning it in. SoloSuit takes care of this for you so you don't have to worry about buying a printer and figuring out whether you need Certified Mail or Priority Mail at the Post Office.

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

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

The address for the attorney will be in the Summons and Complaint you received in the mail. But where is the address for the Court? Good question, most Summons don't list the address of the Court. And the mailing address is often different from the physical address of the court listed on Google. With SoloSuit, we figure all of that out for you and make sure your Answer gets to the right place.

Without further ado, this is how you answer a summons for debt collection in any of the 50 states (and the District of Columbia). 

Alabama

The Heart of the Dixie, we made an in-depth guide for you: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Alabama

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

Small Claims Court – 14 Days

District Court – 14 Days

Circuit Court – 30 Days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Defendant's Answer Form

Civil Forms

Small Claims Forms

E-file

SoloSuit

Alaska

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer Form

SoloSuit

Arizona

The Grand Canyon State, do we have a grand guide for you: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection Arizona (2020 Guide)

Most courts in Arizona charge an Answer filing fee. The fee ranges from $40-$245. SoloSuit makes calculation and payment of the fee easy.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days - if you were served in Arizona

30 days - if you were served outside of Arizona

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer (For lawsuits under $10k)

Answer (For lawsuits over $10k)

E-filng (Civil)

E-filing (Small claims)

SoloSuit

Arkansas

The home of Walmart. Here is your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Arkansas.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

30 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Online Answer Form

SoloSuit

California

The Golden State, we made a guide for you too. How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in California.

California courts charge an Answer filing fee. The fee ranges from $181-$450. SoloSuit makes calculation and payment of the fee easy. We can even help you with a fee waiver, if applicable, which brings the fee down to zero.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

30 days 

40 days if the documents were served on someone else in your household or they were mailed to you. 

Other exceptions

Answer to Complaint Forms

The General Denial Form

Answer Form

SoloSuit

Colorado

Vail is pretty good. So we made a guide for you too. How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Colorado

Colorado courts charge an Answer filing fee. The fee ranges from $80-$192. SoloSuit calculates and processes the fee payment for you.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

21 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer Form

SoloSuit

Connecticut

Ah, the Nutmeg State and the home of the Charter Oak. Few states have done as much as you for the independence of the country, so we made you a guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Connecticut.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

30 days of the return date

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer Form (Civil Only)

Other Forms

SoloSuit

Delaware

Delaware is the first state ever! Here's your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Delaware.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 Days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer Form

Other Forms

SoloSuit

District of Columbia

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

21 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer Form

Other Forms

SoloSuit

Florida

The Sunshine State, here is your guide. How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in FL.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer to Complaint Sample Form

SoloSuit

Georgia

Most courts in GA require the defendant to e-file. They charge a fee to e-file. The fee ranges from $7.20–$31.50. SoloSuit takes care of payment of the fee for you.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

30 Days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Online Debt Collection Guide

SoloSuit

Hawai'i

Aloha! How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Hawaii.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Other Forms

SoloSuit

Idaho

Idaho is one of the best kept secrets in the US. So we made a guide for you. So many hot springs. How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Idaho.

Some courts in Idaho charge an Answer filing fee. The fee is usually $136. SoloSuit processes the fee payment for you.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Small claims Answer Form (It's form fillable!)

Civil Answer Form

Helpful brochure

SoloSuit

Illinois

The land that brought us Lincoln! Here is your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Illinois.

Illinois courts charge an appearance fee which usually needs to be filed with or before the Answer. The fee ranges from $119-$378. SoloSuit makes calculation and payment of the fee easy. We can even help you with a fee waiver, if applicable, which brings the fee down to zero.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

Appear in court, then you have 10 days to file an answer.

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer/Response to Complaint/Petition

More Forms

SoloSuit

Indiana

What's a Hoosier? We don't know, but here's your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Indiana.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days (with exceptions)

Answer to Complaint Forms

United States District Courts Southern District of Indiana Answer Form

E-file

More Forms

SoloSuit

Iowa

The Hawkeye state here is your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Iowa.

Answer to Complaint Forms

How to Respond

E-file

Other Forms

Kansas

The Sunflower State, here is your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Kansas.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

21 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Defendant's Claim (Small Claims)

Answer Form

Other Forms

SoloSuit

Kentucky

Kentucky, we love us some bluegrass! Here's your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Kentucky.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Counterclaim

SoloSuit

Louisiana

Can somebody please send us some beignets? We love them so much, we made a guide for your state. How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Louisiana.

Most courts in Louisiana charge an Answer filing fee. The fee ranges from $10-$250. SoloSuit makes calculation and payment of the fee easy. We can even help you with a fee waiver which brings the fee down to zero.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

15 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

SoloSuit

Maine

Do you smell that? It's the smell of pine trees mixed with an Atlantic breeze. And here's your guide to go with it: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Maine.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

SoloSuit

Other Forms

Maryland

This process is a little different in Maryland. Please take a look at this guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Maryland.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summonss

Served in Maryland - 30 days

Served in another state - 60 days

Served outside of the United States - 90 days 

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer Form

SoloSuit

Other Forms

Massachusetts

The Old Colony State, here is your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Massachusetts.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Instructions for writing an answer

Online Answer Form

SoloSuit

Other Forms

Even More Forms!

Michigan

The Land of the Great Lakes. Here is your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Michigan.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

21 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer (Civil)

SoloSuit

Other Forms

Fees

No fee

Minnesota

You gave us 10,000 lakes, and we gave you one guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Minnesota.

Minnesota courts charge an Answer filing fee. The fee ranges from $285-$297. SoloSuit makes calculation and payment of the fee easy. You may qualify for a fee waiver which brings the fee down to zero.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer Form (Civil)

SoloSuit

Response to Conciliation (Small Claims)

Mississippi

The Magnolia State, here is your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Mississippi.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

30 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

SoloSuit

Other Forms

Missouri

Missouri is the Show-Me State. Show me what? Your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Missouri.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

30 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

SoloSuit

Other Forms

Montana

Montana courts charge an Answer filing fee sometimes. The fees range from $20-$70. SoloSuit takes care of paying the fee for you.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

21 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

No answer form for small claims

District Court Answer Form 

SoloSuit

Counterclaim

Nevada

The home of Las Vegas, here is your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Nevada.

Nevada courts charge an Answer filing fee. The fee ranges from $80-$192. SoloSuit calculates and processes the fee payment for you; we make it easy.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answe Form for Washoe County

SoloSuit

Other Forms

New Hampshire

Live free or die! Your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in New Hampshire.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

30 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

SoloSuit

Other Forms

New Jersey

Can we get some pork rolls please? They're so good, so we made you this guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in New Jersey.

Courts in New Jersey charge an Answer filing fee. The fee ranges from $30-$175. SoloSuit processes payment of the fee for you.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

35 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

SoloSuit

New Mexico

Ah, the Land of Enchantment, here is your guide Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection in New Mexico.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

30 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

SoloSuit

Other Forms 

New York

The Big Apple, we got a guide for you. How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in New York.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days - if served personally (documents were handed to you by another person)

30 days - served in any other way

Answer to Complaint Forms

NYC Answer Form

Answer for Consumer Credit Transaction

SoloSuit

E-file

North Carolina

The Old North State, here is your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in North Carolina.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

30 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

SoloSuit

Other Forms

North Dakota

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days (small claims)

21 days (civil)

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer Form (Small Claims)

Answer Form (Civil)

SoloSuit

Other Forms

Ohio

You folks made the airplane. And we made you a guide on How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Ohio.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

28 days (with exceptions)

Answer to Complaint Forms

SoloSuit

Other Forms (For Ashtabula County)

Oklahoma

O-K-L-A-H-O-M-A! Oklahoma! You're doin' fine and here's your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Oklahoma.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

SoloSuit

Other Forms

Oregon

Keep Portland Weird. Here is the guide for your state: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Oregon.

Oregon courts charge an Answer filing fee. The fee ranges from $170-$283. SoloSuit makes calculation and payment of the fee easy. We can even help you with a fee waiver which brings the fee down to zero.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

30 days

14 days – if you are sued in small claims court

Answer to Complaint Forms

Defendant's Response Form

Defendant's Response

SoloSuit

Consumer complaint form

Other Forms

Can eFile 

Fees

$55

Helpful links

What to do if you're sued by a creditor

Pennsylvania

Mining coal is hard work. So we made a guide for your state: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Pennsylvania.

Some courts in Pennsylvania charge an Answer filing fee. This fee is usually $154.54. SoloSuit processes payment of the fee for you.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days (If you don't respond in that period, the person suing you must send you a letter saying that in 10 days they will request a default judgment.)

Answer to Complaint Forms

SoloSuit

Rhode Island

Lil' Rhody, here is your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Rhode Island.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer Form (Small Claims)

SoloSuit

Other Forms

South Carolina

Such beautiful Palmettos. Here's your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in South Carolina.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

30 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Civil Answer Form

SoloSuit

Other Forms

South Dakota

South Dakota courts charge a filing fee to respond to a Complaint. In most cases the fee is $25. SoloSuit takes care of payment of this fee for you.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

30 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

SoloSuit

Tennessee

The Volunteer State, here is your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Tennessee.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

State Court: 30 days

Federal Court: 20 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

SoloSuit

Other Forms

Texas

Will give free Answers in exchange for brisket. How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in texas

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

This one is complicated. Generally, you have 20 days plus until the following Monday, at 10 am to file an Answer. Count all the calendar days including weekends and holidays. 

Answer to Complaint Forms

Defendant's Answer

Online Guided Defendant's Answer

SoloSuit

Other Forms

Fees

Free

Utah

We love Utah. It's where SoloSuit was born. Check out our in-depth guide on How to Respond to a Debt Collection Lawsuit in Utah.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

 21 days – if served in Utah 

30 days – if served outside of Utah

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer Form

SoloSuit.com  

Vermont

The Green Mountain State, here is your guide: How to Answer Summons for Debt Collection in Vermont.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

30 days of the date the Complaint was mailed

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer Form (Small Claims)

SoloSuit

Other Forms

Virginia

This process is different in Virgina. Read up on it here: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Virginia.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summonss

21 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Other forms

Washington

Washington, may you be ever green. Here is your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Washington.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Online form

SoloSuit

West Virginia

The Mountain State, here is your guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in West Virginia.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summonss

21 days

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer Form

Other Forms

Wisconsin

Y'all have the best cheese, so we made you a guide: How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Wisconsin.

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days (45 days for some torts)

Answer to Complaint Forms

Answer and Counterclaim (Small Claims) (Summary)

SoloSuit

More forms

Wyoming

Deadline for answering a debt collection summons

20 days – if served in the state

30 days – if served outside of the state 

Answer to Complaint Forms

SoloSuit

Other Forms

Respond with SoloSuit

"Finding yourself on the wrong side of the law unexpectedly is kinda scary. I started researching on YouTube and found SoloSuit's channel. The videos were so helpful, easy to understand and encouraging. When I reached out to SoloSuit they were on it. Very professional, impeccably prompt. Thanks for the service!" – Heather


Start My Answer


Sample Answer to a Debt Collection Complaint

Some people ask us what our Answer looks like. Here's what a SoloSuit Answer looks like. Our underlying document is created by professional litigation attorneys. It is battle tested, too. It is one of the most commonly filed documents in court across the US. It is such a good document that around 30 percent of collectors beg for the case to be dismissed after we file it for our customers.

Why Does My State Charge an Answer Filing Fee?

Unfortunately, some state courts charge an Answer filing fee. Those states and the fee ranges are shown below.

Answer filing fees by state. Courts that charge a filing fee to respond to a debt colleciton lawsuit.

We find the practice of courts charging an Answer filing fee to be absurd. It is one of the biggest impediments to justice in the United States.

If your court charges a filing fee, we'll let you know. We automatically calculate your filing fee, make it easy for you to pay it, and make sure that payment gets to your court.

What Comes After a Civil Summons for Debt Collection?

The Summons is just the beginning. A series of documents can come after, and even before the Summons. The diagram below shows the possible paths of documents in a debt collection lawsuit.

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

Here is our recommended path to victory. If the collector sends you a Debt Collection Letter, respond with a Debt Validation Letter. There is a good chance they can't validate the debt; if they can't, you win.

If they think they can validate the debt, then a good debt validation letter will force them to sue you to collect on the debt, at which point they'll send you a Complaint and Summons. You should respond with an Answer. If you don't, you'll lose.

Once you've filed an Answer, there are three likely outcomes. One, the collectors give up and file a Motion to Dismiss: you super win. Two, you or the collector makes a settlement offer. In a settlement, the defendant ends up paying less then they're being sued for: you win. Three, litigation continues. In this scenario, the collector usually starts discovery by filing a Request for Admissions or something similar. You then need to respond with a Response to Request for Admission, and the case can go on indefinitely: it's unclear who will win or lose in this scenario.

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

Here''s a list of guides for other states.

All 50 states.

Guides on How to Beat Every Debt Collector

Being sued by a different debt collector? We''re making guides on how to beat each one.

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