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

George Simons

May 16, 2020

Woman smiling because she won her debt collection lawsuit with SoloSuit

Summary: Have you been sued for a debt in Michigan? You can use SoloSuit to respond in 15 minutes. This guide will show you how to respond.

“I hope that phone call turns out to be a debt collector” -- said no one ever.

Worrying about debt collection is never fun. It gets even more stressful when facing a debt collection lawsuit. It can be intimidating to try to figure out how to answer a summons for debt collection.

Chances are hiring an attorney to defend you is off the table because if you had extra money to hire one you would have paid off the debt in the first place! Most of these lawsuits count on that very fact. If you don't respond within a particular period of time, the Court will hold in favor of the filer (or “creditor”) with a default judgment.

This means that by failing to answer and defend yourself, the other side wins by default. And once they have that court order, they can start to collect. Usually, they do so by garnishing your paycheck or your tax returns.

The good news is that by following the steps outlined below you can defend yourself, which is half the battle. This article will help you learn how to answer a summons for debt collection.

Simply by answering the lawsuit, you've already thrown a wrench into the works of the debt collector. Creditors would prefer to sit back, get a default judgment, and start taking your money rather than going to court. But as soon as you challenge them they have to work harder to show you owe the debt. And you have a chance to prove that you do not owe it.

A lawsuit begins when your creditor files a Summons and Complaint. As soon as the creditor files those documents the clock starts on the case. At that point, you only have a specific period to respond.

Michigan Deadline for Answering a Debt Collection Summons

In Michigan, the amount of time you have to respond to a summons for debt collection can vary depending on how you receive the paperwork.

  • 21 days — If you receive the paperwork in person (also called “being served”).
  • 28 days — If the paperwork is mailed to you instead.
  • 28 days — If you get the documents outside of Michigan.

The way that you respond is by filing and serving your document, which is called an Answer. There are a few important things to keep in mind:

  • These deadlines are very strict.
  • The clock starts as soon as you are served.
  • Keep in mind that the response times include weekend and non-business holidays. If the 21st (or 28th) day ends up being a day that the Court is closed, the deadline is the next day that the Court is open.

Again, these deadlines are very strict. If you miss it, that's it. You will not have a chance to defend yourself and the Court will enter a default judgment. While it might be possible to ask the Court to set aside the default judgment and give you a chance to respond, that is rare and should not be expected.

Once the default judgment is in place, then the creditor can collect from you. The default judgment will be for the full amount of money they claim you owe. This means that there's no chance to dispute the amount or whether you even owe the debt in the first place. The most likely way they will collect will be through garnishment. The garnishment will take money out of your paycheck before you even see it. This will no doubt put you in an even worse financial situation, so make extra sure that you are aware of all deadlines.

Michigan Sample Answer to Complaint Forms

The way that you answer a Summons for debt collection is by drafting and filing your own document, called an Answer. Filing the Answer lets the Court know that you are disputing some or all of the claims made against you. If you do not answer, then the Court assumes the allegations to be true. This again leads to the default judgment.

Here are a couple options for forms to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in Michigan.

The Answer to a summons for debt collection is a very specific legal document. In Michigan, the form is available online. Once you download a copy you can type directly into the form to complete it.

You can also simply use SoloSuit to generate the answer. We do all the difficult stuff for you. Just answer a few questions and we translate your plain English into professional legalese. And we even have an attorney review it and file it for you.

Steps to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Michigan

We break responding to a debt collection lawsuit into three steps. We'll take a look at each one.

  1. Answer each issue of the Complaint
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses
  3. File your Answer with the court

Each one of these steps is a fairly formal process that needs to be done properly.

1. Answer each issue of the Complaint.

The complaint that you receive will have several issues set forth. Each issue will be in a separate numbered paragraph. You need to respond to each and every paragraph of the summons for debt collection to let the Court know which issues you are disputing.

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to all of the paragraphs.

On the Michigan Answer form it will lay out every numbered paragraph with a choice of three boxes to check:

  • I agree with the statements in paragraph 1.
  • I disagree with the statements in paragraph 1 because _________________.
  • I do not know if the statements in paragraph 1 are true.

The downloadable form makes this easy. You can hover your cursor over the box that applies to that paragraph to add in the checkmark. Only choose “agree” if you know that it is true. Similarly only choose “disagree” if you know that it is not true. If you do not know, then choose “I do not know.” If the paragraph has more than one claim only choose “agree” if all the claims are true. Whenever you choose “disagree” add in a brief reason to explain what is wrong with the statement. If you have downloaded the form you can type your reason right into it following the work “because.”

Make sure that you are comfortable with each answer before you submit it. You cannot change an answer to a paragraph once it is submitted to the court. It is also important to choose “agree” if or when the paragraph is true. You do not need to deny each separate paragraph to win your case. You should, however, deny every paragraph that is not true.

2. Assert Your Defenses.

When you need to go beyond just “disagreeing” with the complaint you can assert a legal defense. Asserting a defense (or an “affirmative defense”) is how you can show the Court that the creditor does not have a case against you.

SoloSuit walks you through each defense and helps apply the right ones.

There are common defenses that come up in response to a summons for debt collection. With Michigan's form, they are even laid out for you just like the choices for your Answer. The options include the 12 most likely defenses. The options also reference the proper Michigan debt collection law to cite. Some of the likely defenses are as follows:

  1. Asserting that the debt has already been paid.
  2. The allowable time frame to collect has run out (referred to as the “statute of limitations”)
  3. There is a problem with the contract itself

Again here you can simply check the box next to any affirmative defense that applies to you. Make certain that you fill in any blanks associated with that defense. You should also attach any supporting paperwork when requested.

If there is another defense you think is applicable that is not listed, you can check the box next to option 13 for “other” and fill in the defense yourself. For example, if you believe they are suing the wrong person you could list ‘improper party” as a defense. If you believe that the amount listed is incorrect, you could counter with another amount. If you believe that the creditor has acted improperly you can also explore How To File an FDCPA Complaint Against Your Debt Collector.

Keep in mind, however, that while there are quite a few affirmative defenses available, your inability to pay the debt is not one of them.

3. File the Answer with the Court and serve the Plaintiff.

Once you complete your Answer you will need to print it out to sign and make four copies. You need to file the original with the Court, either in person or by first-class mail.

SoloSuit files for you so you don't have to miss work. You don't even need to leave your house.

Michigan does not charge any fee to file an answer so you do not need to worry about any costs.

The next step will be to serve your Answer on the plaintiff (who is the creditor suing you.) Their contact information will be on the original summons. Make certain that you complete the certificate of service on the bottom of the “answer” portion of your two remaining copies. Then be certain to file one copy with the court (again in person or by first-class mail) and keep the remaining copy for yourself.

You should also get together all the documents that support your answer to bring along to your court hearing.

Ways to file an answer for a debt collection lawsuit in Michigan

Here are a few ways you can file an Answer to a debt collection lawsuit in Michigan. We're partial to SoloSuit.

Online with SoloSuit

Includes:
Response to Complaint
Affirmative Defenses
PDF Answer
Filing
Status Updates
Debt Collection Attorney Review
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Print & Fill Out Paper Forms

Print the PDF template, fill out by hand,
and snail mail to courts and plaintiff.

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>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit: A Student Solution To Give Utah Debtors A Fighting Chance

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 defendants all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, users can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or they can pay SoloSuit to file it for them and to have an attorney review the document. Start here.

>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

Michigan Court Locations for Debt Collection Lawsuits

Debt collection lawsuits in Michigan are held in either District or Circuit Courts.

  • District Courts handle cases up to $25,000.
  • Circuit Courts are for claims above $25,000.
  • Small claims courts take cases for less than $6,000; small claims courts are a division of District Court.

District and Circuit courts exist for every county in Michigan, and there can be many locations within a county depending on its size.

One perk (if it can be called that) to being sued is that you do not need to make the determination for which court is appropriate to file in. Since the creditor started the lawsuit against you, they already designated a court. That court information, including district/circuit, address, and telephone number will be in the first page of your Complaint. You should also reference the case number in your response paperwork.

Now if you receive a complaint against you for debt collection and the location of the court seems incorrect you might want to double-check. You can always look up your court location for your residence in the Trial Court Directory.

You can also find all Michigan Court information, locations and phone numbers listed here.

Michigan has a lot of different legal aid services available for its residents. Please see below for links to major legal aid organizations. These resources can either help with debt collection cases or put you in touch with someone who can help based on your location:

Michigan Legal Help

State Bar of Michigan Legal Aid by County

Michigan Courts Self-Help Center

Michigan Legal Aid Offices

Legal Services of South Central Michigan

Legal Services of Eastern Michigan

Legal Services of Northern Michigan

Legal Aid of Western Michigan

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Michigan

The statute of limitations for all types of consumer debt in Michigan is six years. This includes the following:

  • written contracts,
  • oral contracts,
  • promissory notes and
  • open-ended accounts like credit cards

What this means is that after a debt is more than six years overdue or has not been paid in six years, this limitation applies. So, once the Michigan statute of limitations has passed, creditors and debt collectors no longer have the right to take legal action.

It is important to note, however, that the clock for the statute of limitations on debt in Michigan starts on the date of the last payment on a debt. This is often confused with when the debt started. So if you took out a loan or credit card six years ago and made payments until two years ago, the statute of limitations would not pass for another four years.

Michigan has its own version of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), known as the Collection Practices Act. Both of these laws prohibit deceptive statements or acts to collect on a debt, as well as outlawing harassment or abuse.

The Michigan debt collection laws, however, go even further than federal in terms of protection for consumers. The federal law applies only to outside debt collectors, or third parties who are hired by the original creditor to try to collect a debt. The Michigan state law, however, applies directly to creditors and lenders as well as third party collectors.

What Happens After Answering a Complaint for Debt Collection?

Filing an Answer to the Summons for debt collection makes the lawsuit officially in dispute.

The court will set a hearing to determine the schedule of the lawsuit and set deadlines for the rest of the proceedings. This may be referred to as a scheduling order or hearing notice that you receive in the mail. Take careful note of all of the dates and deadlines. If you have not received your notice of hearing from the court within 15 days of filing your Answer you should call the court clerk to check-in. You should make sure they have it and get an update. That phone number will be on the front page of the Complaint against you.

When you are preparing for your debt collection hearing it is important to gather your evidence to prove your argument. You have to bring all documents that support your checked answers. This can include any documents that support your argument or statements from other people who know firsthand what went on.

What If I Can't Pay a Debt Collection Lawsuit?

While there are many legal defenses you can offer in your Answer for debt collection, the inability to pay for a debt is not one of them. That said, it may be your reality. In that instance, you may want to consider filing for bankruptcy that allows you to walk away from the debt.

As soon as you file bankruptcy any debt collection cases or actions are immediately put on hold because of the automatic stay. If you can file for Chapter 7 there is every chance that you could walk away from the debt entirely. To learn more about bankruptcy, you can check out Upsolve.com. Upsolve is a nonprofit that offers free help to people filing their own cases. To see if you qualify go to their screener.

Key Takeaways

So, in short, here's how to answer a summons for debt collection in Michigan.

Do these steps:

  1. Answer the Complaint, paragraph by paragraph.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File and serve the Answer.<br>

Good Luck!

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

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