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

George Simons

May 21, 2020

Summary: Live in New Jersey and need help responding to a debt collection lawsuit? SoloSuit can help. Our automated service will guide you quickly and easily through the process of creating your response.

What's so stressful about being sued by a debt collector? Grab some snacks, this may take awhile. But even though being sued by a debt collector or debt collection law firm (there are ones who specialize just in buying and selling your debt) seems like the beginning of a long and scary road, it's actually full of shortcuts. And we brought the maps. In this article, we will try to ease the pain of debt collection lawsuits and make the process of responding a little bit easier. We will give you the right roadmap to answer a summons for debt collection in New Jersey. 

Before we begin, rest assured: you can fight, and you can win, your debt collection lawsuit.

Below, you'll find helpful topics on how to answer a summons for debt collection in the Garden State.

New Jersey Deadline for Answering a Debt Collection Summons

Here are the deadlines for answering a debt collection summons in New Jersey:

What do these deadlines all have in common? They're 35 days. No matter which division your case is “venued” in, when you get sued for a debt in New Jersey, you only have 35 days to respond or you automatically lose your case through a process called “default” judgment. Debt collectors are hoping you will forget to respond or not know how to respond; don't give them the satisfaction!

As we said, the standard amount of time is the same, whether your case is for $1 or more than $15,000, and whether you case is given an “L” for Law Division, “DC” for Special Civil Part, or “SC” for Small Claims. Occasionally, and worth keeping in mind, is that if your case is in the Law Division with an “L” assigned to it, you may be able to request an extension of time from the Courts. First, you have to ask your adversary, and if you ask nicely, the debt collector will probably grant the extension. Every little bit of time can provide you additional peace of mind as you prepare your response.

We'll show you some ways to respond below. With SoloSuit, you can generate your response in 15 minutes and we'll have an attorney review it and even file it for you.

New Jersey Answer to Summons Templates

To respond to your debt collection lawsuit, you need to make an Answer document that responds to the Summons and Complaint you received. SoloSuit helps you do this for free. The New Jersey Superior Courts also provides some helpful forms. Here are links to booklets the Courts have created to help guide you through the process.  

Use the appropriate form to create your response to the debt collection lawsuit. New Jersey provides an e-filing option through New Jersey “eCourts” for Law Division and Special Civil Part cases, allowing registered users to receive updates on their case directly to their e-mail address.

SoloSuit helps you create your Answer in 15 minutes.

Answer Filing Fees for New Jersey

New Jersey courts charge a filing fee to file your Answer with them. I know, it's like being kicked when you're already down, having to pay money to defend yourself on top of being sued for a debt. But if you win your debt collection lawsuit, the minor cost of admission will be well worth it. Here are the filing fees you should expect in each division of the Courts:


Answer Filing Fees in New Jersey

Amount in Controversy

Filing Fee

$15,000+ (Law Division)

$175

$3000–$15,000 (Special Civil Part)

$30

$1,000–$3000 (Small Claims Court)

$30

Request for a Jury Trial*

$100


*Additional charges for a jury trial are only assessed in the Special Civil Part and Small Claims Division. There is no charge for requesting a jury in the Law Division. However, in all three divisions, you have the right to request a jury trial or waive a jury trial and choose a “bench trial” – where it's just you, the debt collector, and the judge.



Just like you can't pump your own gas in Jersey, you can't access the courts for free – what a racket! The pork roll sandwiches, however, are the best in the world.

Back to business - Let's consider an example to see how to use the table above. Jeff is sued for $5,000 in the Special Civil Part in Hudson County Superior Court for failing to pay his overdue credit card bill. He's in Hudson County because he lives in Hoboken, and debt collectors will usually sue the debtor where they live. Since the amount in controversy, $5,000, is less than $15,000, Jeff needs to pay a $30 filing fee.   

SoloSuit takes care of paying your filing fees for you.

Steps to Respond to a Debt Collection Case in New Jersey

A lawsuit begins when you receive the Complaint and Summons. In most states, these documents needed to be handed personally to someone at your home. However, these documents are frequently delivered incorrectly, a process called “sewer service,” which is something you can use as a defense (more on defenses to come). Once you receive the Complaint and Summons, your clock starts ticking and you need to respond within 35 days or you will lose your case. 

To respond, you need to follow these four steps:  

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

Let's check out each step. 

1. Create an Answer Document. 

The first step to responding to a debt collection lawsuit is creating your answer document. 

First, you must gather the information listed on the Complaint and Summons and add it to your Answer Document. This includes

  • Personal information: your own address, name, etc.
  • Plaintiff information: the attorney suing you, the company suing you, etc. 
  • Court information: the name of the court the case is venued in, the address of the court, etc. 
  • Docket information: the docket number, which is made up of the three digit abbreviation for the courthouse, the division where the lawsuit is occurring, and a set of numbers representing the number the courthouse assigned your case and the year it was filed.

SoloSuit gathers all of this information for you and inserts it properly into your Answer.

This is another good time for an example. Let's say that Kelly is sued in Morris County, New Jersey, by a lender for the unpaid balance of $10,000 on a loan. Let's also say the lender filed the lawsuit in January 2020. The Docket number could be something like “MRS-DC-123-20.” “MRS” is the abbreviation for Morris County. “DC” means the case is in the Special Civil Part, since the amount in controversy is between $3,000 and $15,000. “123” is the number the case was given by the courthouse staff and “20” means the case was filed in the year 2020.

This information is called “docketing” by the Courts. You must add it properly to your Answer Document. Once you have created your Answer Document and added this information steps, two and three help you complete your Answer. 

2. Respond to each issue of the Complaint.

Next, you need to respond to every paragraph of 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. Sometimes these are broken into sections, such as “parties,” “jurisdiction” and “facts,” and sometimes they aren't. It's a matter of style really, and every attorney has their own preference. But make sure to pay attention to the numbers, and to mirror them in each of your responses. You are limited to four types of responses: 

  • Admit: Admit the paragraph if you agree with everything in the paragraph. In other words, “The Defendant admits the allegations contained in the paragraph of the Complaint.”
  • Deny: Deny the paragraph if you disagree with anything in the paragraph. In other words, “The Defendant denies the allegations contained in the paragraph of the Complaint.”
  • Lack of Information: Respond that “The Defendant denies the allegation for lack of knowledge or information sufficient to form a belief as to the truth or falsity of the allegations in the Plaintiff's Complaint, and thus leaves the Plaintiff to their proofs. 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. 
  • Not Directed at the Defendant: This is a rarer response but occasionally may come up if you are being sued along with someone else (a “Co-Defendant”). If the allegations don't pertain to you, you should say so, with verbiage such as “The allegations contained in the paragraph of the Complaint do not refer or relate to this Defendant, and therefore do not warrant a response.”

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

Many attorneys recommend making a general denial, where you deny everything in the complaint and force the other side to prove everything. This is a good strategy in many cases. 

3. Assert your affirmative defenses.

An “affirmative defense” is a reason why the person suing you doesn't have a case; it is your defense against all or part of the lawsuit. You must list these defenses in your Answer, otherwise, you can't bring them up later, or to put it in a lawyerly way, you are “barred from raising” the defenses. So you must speak now, or forever hold your peace.

SoloSuit helps you bring up the right defenses.    

Here are some of the more common defenses we see:

  • The account with the debt is not your account.
  • The contract was already canceled and therefore you don't owe the creditor anything. 
  • The Plaintiff acted in bad faith or with “unclean hands” in suing you.
  • The statute of limitations has expired. A statute of limitations is a law that sets a time limit on an action.
  • The debt has been paid or excused. 
  • The debt has been settled for a different amount than the one in the Complaint.
  • The debt has been partially or fully paid, also known as “satisfied.” 
  • 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 out there. Unfortunately, being unable to pay the debt is not normally a legal defense to the debt. 

4. File the answer with the court and serve 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 painting a picture and immediately putting it into storage for no one to ever see. SoloSuit takes care of filing for you so you don't have to worry about buying a printer and figuring out whether you need Certified Mail, Priority Mail, First Class Mail, a Flat Rate Box or some other type of service from 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. 

SoloSuit files for you. It even gives you a tracking number to make sure it is filed.

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 Summonses don't list the mailing address of the Court. And the mailing address of the Civil Division is often different from the physical address of the Courthouse listed online for any number of reasons, such as one Court having more than one building, or even a Court having two locations on opposite ends of the same county. For a small state, New Jersey has almost as many courthouses as shopping malls. That's why we compiled a list of every court in New Jersey to find the correct mailing address for you to use. They are listed below.

Once you complete this final step: Congrats! You have successfully responded to your debt lawsuit. With SoloSuit, 50 percent of our customers' cases have been dismissed. 

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 their attorney and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit and their services so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but was it 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


Statute of Limitations for Debt in New Jersey

The statute of limitations in New Jersey on all types of debt except judgements is six years. This means that you can't legally be sued for a debt more than six years after you made the last payment. But you can be sued for the debt; it is up to you to show that the statute of limitations has passed in your Answer. On judgment debt, the statute of limitations is 20 years. That means if you get sued for a debt, don't respond and lose by default judgment, then the new statute of limitations will be 20 years; that's a long time.

New Jersey Statute of Limitations
on Debt

Debt Type

Deadline in Years

Oral

6

Written

6

Promissory

6

Open

6

Credit Card

6

Judgements

20


Source: Findlaw


SoloSuit makes it easy to assert the statute of limitations.

Let's consider an example. Willy has a credit card debt, and the last time he made a payment towards the debt was eight years ago. A debt collector tries to sue him for the debt. In this case, the statute of limitations has expired and Willy needs to bring that up as an affirmative defense.

Every state has at least one government-funded organization that provides free legal services to people, including New Jersey, which has many, grouped by region.

Northeast New Jersey Legal Services

Bergen County Office
190 Moore Street, Suite 100,
Hackensack, NJ 07601 
Tel: 201-487-2166

E-mail: NNJLS@lsnj.org

Hudson County Office
574 Summit Avenue, 2nd Floor, 
Jersey City, NJ 07306 
Tel: 201-792-6363

E-mail: NNJLS@lsnj.org

Passaic County Office
152 Market Street, 6th Floor,
Paterson, NJ 07505 
Tel: 973-523-2900

E-mail: NNJLS@lsnj.org

Essex-Newark Legal Services

Essex County Office
5 Commerce Street, 2nd Floor
Newark, NJ 07102
Tel: 973-624-4500

E-mail:  enls@lsnj.org

South Jersey Legal Services

Atlantic County Office
1300 Atlantic Avenue
Mezzanine Floor
Atlantic City, NJ 08401
Tel: 609-348-4200

E-mail:  SJLS@lsnj.org 

Burlington County Office
107 High Street
Mount Holly, NJ 08060
Tel:609-261-1088
E-mail:  SJLS@lsnj.org 

Camden County Office
745 Market Street
Camden, NJ 08102 
Tel: 856-964-2010

E-mail:  SJLS@lsnj.org 

Cape May County Office
1261 Route 9 South
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
Tel: 609-465-3001

E-mail:  SJLS@lsnj.org 

Cumberland/Salem County Office
415 W. Landis Avenue-2nd Floor 
Vineland, NJ 08360
Tel: 856-691-0494
E-mail:  SJLS@lsnj.org 

Gloucester County Office
47 Newton Avenue
Woodbury, NJ 08096
Tel: 856-848-5360

E-mail:  SJLS@lsnj.org 

Monmouth County Office
303 West Main Street, Third Floor
Freehold, NJ 07728
Tel: 732-414-6750

E-mail:  SJLS@lsnj.org

Ocean County Office
215 Main Street
Toms River, NJ 08753
Tel: 732-608-7794

E-mail:  SJLS@lsnj.org

Legal Services of Northwest New Jersey

Hunterdon County
82 Park Avenue
Flemington, NJ 08822
Tel: 908-782-7979

E-mail: lsnwj-hunterdon@lsnj.org 

Morris County
30 Schuyler Place, 2nd Floor
P.O. Box 900
Morristown, NJ 07963
Tel: 973-285-6911

E-mail: lsnwj-morris@lsnj.org 

Somerset County
90 East Main Street, 3rd Floor
Somerville, NJ 08876
Tel: 908-231-0840

E-mail: lsnwj-somerset@lsnj.org 

Sussex County
18 Church Street, Suite 120
Newton, NJ 07860
Tel: 973-383-7400

E-mail: lsnwj-sussex@lsnj.org 

Warren County
91 Front Street 
Belvidere, NJ 07823-1437
Tel: 908-475-2010 

E-mail: lsnwj-warren@lsnj.org 

Central Jersey Legal Services

Trenton Office
198 West State Street 
Trenton, NJ 08608
Tel: 609-695-6249

E-mail:  cjls@lsnj.org

Perth Amboy Office
313 State Street, Suite 308 
Perth Amboy, NJ 08861
Tel: 732-324-1613

E-mail:  cjls@lsnj.org

New Brunswick Office
317 George Street, Suite 201
New Brunswick, NJ 08901

Tel: 732-249-7600

E-mail:  cjls@lsnj.org

Elizabeth Office
60 Prince Street 
Elizabeth, NJ 07208
Tel: 908-354-4340

E-mail:  cjls@lsnj.org

New Jersey Court Mailing Addresses

To file your Answer, you need to get it to your Court. For many people, the easiest way to do this is to mail it. But it can be surprisingly difficult to find the mailing address for your Court online. So we've listed the mailing address for all New Jersey Courts here. Note: New Jersey has  21 counties, but 15 “Vicinages” – or districts, for its Courts. A few counties have to buddy up and share!

New Jersey Court Address Phone Number
Atlantic County Superior Court (Vicinage 1) Atlantic County Civil Courts Building

1201 Bacharach Boulevard

Atlantic City, Nj 08401

(609) 402-0100
Cape May County Superior Court (Vicinage 1) Cape May County Courthouse

9 North Main Street

Cape May Court House, NJ 08210

(609) 402-0100
Bergen County Superior Court (Vicinage 2) Bergen County Justice Center

10 Main Street

Hackensack, NJ 07601

(201) 221-0700
Burlington County Superior Court (Vicinage 3) Burlington County Court Facility

49 Rancocas Road

Mount Holly, NJ 08060

(609) 288-9500
Camden County Superior Court (Vicinage 4) Camden County Hall of Justice

101 South 5th Street

Camden, NJ 08103

(856) 650-9100
Cumberland County Superior Court (Vicinage 15) Cumberland County Courthouse

Broad and Fayette Streets

Bridgeton, NJ 08302

(856) 878-5050
Essex County Superior Court (Vicinage 5) Essex County Historic Courthouse

470 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard

Newark, NJ 07102

(973) 776-9300
Gloucester County Superior Court (Vicinage 15) Gloucester County Courthouse

1 North Broad Street

Woodbury, NJ 08096

(856) 878-5050
Hudson County Superior Court (Vicinage 6) Hudson County Administration Building

595 Newark Avenue

Jersey City, NJ 07306

(201) 795-5162
Hunterdon County Superior Court (Vicinage 13) Hunterdon County Courthouse

65 Park Avenue

Flemington, NJ 08822

(908) 824-9750
Mercer County Superior Court (Vicinage 7) Mercer County Civil Courthouse

175 South Broad Street

Trenton, NJ 08650

(609) 571-4200
Middlesex County Superior Court (Vicinage 8) Middlesex County Courthouse

56 Paterson Street

New Brunswick, NJ 08903

(732) 645-4300
Monmouth County Superior Court (Vicinage 9) Monmouth County Courthouse

71 Monument Park

Freehold, NJ 07728

(732) 358-8700
Morris County Superior Court (Vicinage 10) Morris County Courthouse

Washington and Court Streets

Morristown, NJ 07963

(862) 397-5700
Passaic County Superior Court (Vicinage 11) Passaic County Courthouse

77 Hamilton Street

Paterson, NJ 07505

(973) 653-2910
Ocean County Superior Court (Vicinage 14) Ocean County Courthouse

118 Washington Street

Toms River, NJ 08754

(732) 504-0700
Salem County Superior Court (Vicinage 15) Salem County Courthouse

92 Market Street

Salem, NJ 08079

(856) 878-5050
Somerset County Superior Court (Vicinage 13) Somerset County Courthouse

20 North Bridge Street

Somerville, NJ

(908) 332-7700
Sussex County Superior Court (Vicinage 10) Sussex County Judicial Center

43-47 High Street

Newton, NJ 07860

(862) 397-5700
Union County Superior Court (Vicinage 12) Union County Courthouse

2 Broad Street

Elizabeth, NJ 07207

(908) 787-1650
Warren County Superior Court (Vicinage 13) Warren County Courthouse

413 Second Street

P.O. Box 900

Belvidere, NJ 07823

(908) 750-8100

Key Takeaways

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

You have respond within these deadlines:

  • 35 Days for a Law Division, Special Civil Part, or Small Claims case.

You can use SoloSuit to respond. We can help you pay the filing fee.

To respond, do these steps: 

  1. Create an Answer document
  2. Respond to each issue in the complaint. 
  3. Assert your affirmative defenses
  4. File and serve the Answer

Good Luck!

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

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