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How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Delaware (2023 Guide)

George Simons | October 05, 2023

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Fact-checked by Patrick Austin, J.D.

Summary: If you have received a Summons for debt collection in Delaware, you must respond to the lawsuit before the state's deadline which is 15 days for Justice of the Peace cases and 20 days for all other cases. SoloSuit's Answer form makes it easy to respond to your case and defend yourself in court.

Getting served with a summons claiming you owe a debt in Delaware can be an anxiety-inducing experience. You may be feeling overwhelmed and intimidated by the prospect of contesting the lawsuit in court. You may even be feeling scared and uncertain about your path forward. Do not fret. SoloSuit is here to help you through this difficult time and has compiled important information to help simplify debt collection lawsuits so you know what to expect.

Below, you will find helpful information on what needs to be done to properly respond to a summons for debt collection in Delaware. The information in this guide is tailored to debt collection lawsuits in Delaware.

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File an Answer to your Delaware debt collection Summons before the deadline

There are two deadlines to respond to a debt lawsui in Delaware: 15 days for Justice of the Peace cases and 20 days for all other cases.

In other words, you have 15 days to respond to a debt Summons if your case is in the Justice of the Peace court, and you have 20 days to respond if your case is in any other court. It is extremely important to respond before the deadline. Why? Because if you fail to respond, the court will likely enter a default judgment against you. If this occurs, the debt collection company will be awarded the amount alleged to be owed, court costs, and other forms of relief requested as a part of the judgment. They may even be granted the right to garnish your wages.

You can respond by filing an Answer with the court after you have been served the Summons and Complaint and sending a copy to the plaintiff's attorney.

Use these Delaware Answer to Summons forms

An Answer is an explanation, defense, or denial of the claims made against you in a debt collection case. Therefore, you must read and understand the Summons and Complaint to prepare your Answer document correctly.

You can use SoloSuit's Answer form to respond to a Delaware debt lawsuit in minutes. All you have to do is respond to some questions about your case, and SoloSuit's software takes care of the rest. Our Answer form is properly formatted, uses legitimate legal language, and includes sections for your responses and affirmative defenses.

If you prefer to create your own response, here is Delaware's forms wesbite where you can fill out form number CF07 to respond to a Complaint.

What happens when you demand a Bill of Particulars?

If you demand a Bill of Particulars be produced by the plaintiff, the debt collection company will need to serve a detailed Bill of Particulars to you within 15 days, counting the date of mailing as the first day. Typically, plaintiffs in debt collection cases will use a Bill of Particulars form made available by the court, specifically CF10BP. A plaintiff must serve the Bill of Particulars by:

  • mailing the original copy of the Bill of Particulars to the Court where the action is pending, along with a notarized statement as to how the Bill of Particulars was served on the defendant, and
  • mailing a copy to you, the defendant.

The Bill of Particulars needs to be in writing and should expressly state the basis for the claim, along with the manner in which the amount alleged to be owed was calculated.

If a plaintiff fails to satisfy these requirements, you could file a motion with the court seeking an order compelling the plaintiff to comply. A motion to compel needs to be filed with the Court within 5 days after the time for serving the Bill of Particulars lapsed.

You do not have to pay an Answer filing fee in Delaware

In Delaware, you are not required to pay a filing fee to respond to a debt collection lawsuit. You simply need to complete an Answer and mail it to the court within 15 days (for Justice of the Peace cases) or 20 days (for all other cases) of receipt of the Summons.

If you decide to file a counterclaim or third party claim, expect to pay a filing fee. In Delaware, the fee to file a counterclaim is $300. The same $300 filing fee applies to a third party claim. This is because, in Delaware, the filings of counterclaims, cross-claims, or third-party claims are charged at the same rate as filing a new case.

How to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in Delaware

When you are sued by a debt collection company, it is quite common to feel uneasy and somewhat overwhelmed at the thought of going to court against a big debt collection company. Do not give into this fear and anxiety. You need to be proactive and make sure you respond to the summons. Simply ignoring the summons is not recommended since it is simply a one-way ticket to a default judgment against you. Once that happens, the debt collection company holds all of the proverbial cards and can initiate the garnishment of your wages and other adverse actions.

So, here are the steps you need to take to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in Delaware.

1. Create an Answer

The first step is to create your Answer. In this document you respond to the Complaint. First, you'll need to put all of the relevant case information on the document.

Gather all of the information that's in the Complaint and Summons and add it to your Answer, including:

  • Your name, address, and other pertinent personal information
  • Information on the plaintiff. That is, the company who is suing you and their attorney representing them.
  • The name of the court that the case is in in the State of Indiana, the address of the court, etc.
  • Identifying information: the case number, index number, civil number, or whatever the court uses to identifies your case
  • The amount of the lawsuit
  • Other relevant case information

SoloSuit helps you gather this information.

This information helps the court now what case the document refers to.

2. Respond to the each allegation listed in the Complaint

In the Answer, you respond to every paragraph in the Complaint. You can choose one of three options:

  • Admit — Choose Admit if you agree with everything in the paragraph.
  • Deny — Choose Deny if you disagree with something in the paragraph.
  • I Don't Know — Yes, this is a legit option. Choose “I don't know” if you don't have enough information to admit or deny the allegation in the paragraph.

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond the right way.

In Delaware, you can also choose to request a jury trial and request a Bill of Particulars. A Bill of Particulars is a document you can request the debt collector produce to prove you owe the debt. Often times when you request this, they can't actually prove anything.

3. Mail the Answer Form.

You need to complete and mail the Answer form within 15 days of being served with the Summons for Justice of Peace cases and 20 days for other cases. It is extremely important to mail the form within this time period because if the court does not receive a copy of the Answer in a time, they could move forward with entering a default judgment against you. Do not let this happen. Make sure the Answer is filled out and mailed within the deadline, commencing from the date you were served with the Complaint.

SoloSuit mails the Answer for you.

4. Consider filing a counterclaim

Depending on the facts of your case, it may make sense to file a counterclaim against the plaintiff. A counterclaim can be filed when you have reason to believe that the Plaintiff actually owes you money instead of the other way around. For example, if you were subjected to harassment or threats by the debt collector, you may be able to pursue compensatory damages from the debt collection company. But keep in mind, a counterclaim needs to be filed at least 5 days prior to trial (excluding holidays and weekends).

5. Research affirmative defenses

If you opt to challenge the debt collection lawsuit and request a trial, it is important to research any potential affirmative defenses that may apply to your case. Examples of common affirmative defenses used in debt collection lawsuits include:

  • Wrong Defendant - The debt collection company sued the wrong person (i.e. you are not the actual owner of the delinquent account).
  • Satisfaction - this affirmative defense states that the amount alleged to be owed has already been paid.
  • Statute of Limitations Expired - This affirmative defense is most effective when a debt collector is attempting to collect on an old debt. It is important that you affirmatively raise the statute of limitations as a defense since a court will not know whether the statute of limitations expired when the debt collection company filed its lawsuit against you.

SoloSuit helps you make the right defense the right way.

What is SoloSuit?

SoloSuit makes it easy to fight debt collectors.

You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

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

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit. (We can help you in all 50 states.)

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Delaware

It is important to have a general understanding of the statute of limitations since it governs the amount of time a debt collector has to take legal action against you concerning an unpaid debt. Once the statute of limitations expires, a debt collector is generally unable to pursue a lawsuit against you in court. Though, it does not mean a lawsuit cannot be filed against you. Rather, if a debt collector files a lawsuit after the statute of limitations expired, you need to raise this issue as an affirmative defense.

The statute of limitations starts when you fail to make your last payment. In Delaware, the statute of limitations expires after three years have passed from this date for most types of debt.

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Delaware

Debt Type Deadline In Years
Credit Card 3
Medical 3
Student loan 3
Auto Loan 3
Mortgage 3
Medical 3
Personal loan 3
Judgment 5
Source: Del. Code tit. 10 § 5072 and § 8106

Learn more about how the statute of limitations can be used in a debt collection lawsuit here.

If you need help defending yourself in a debt collection lawsuit in Delaware, there are organizations offering assistance at little-to-no-cost to Delaware residents. These organizations include:

Community Legal Aid Society, Inc.
CLASI offers civil legal assistance to Delaware residents who have low incomes, disabilities, and/or who are 60 years of age or older.
Address: 100 W. 10th Street, Suite 801, Wilmington, DE 19801

Delaware Volunteer Legal Services
DVLS consists of volunteer attorneys who provide legal assistance to low-income individuals.
Address:100 West 10th Street, Suite 203, Wilmington, DE 19801

Legal Services Corporation of Delaware, Inc.
LSCDI offers legal assistance to low-income individuals in civil matters such as bankruptcy petitions and advice, consumer problems, housing problems, and unemployment benefit problems.
Address:4601 Concord Pike, Wilmington, DE 19803

Limited Legal Assistance Program
The LLAP is coordinated through the Administrative Office of the Courts and is sponsored by the Delaware State Courts, the Delaware State Bar Association, Delaware Volunteer Legal Services, Inc., Community Legal Aid Society, Inc., Legal Services Corporation of Delaware, Inc., Widener University School of Law, and the Delaware Paralegal Association.

Delaware Court Locations

Courts in Delaware are based in the three major counties: New Castle, Kent, and Sussex. Within each county is a set of courts that possess jurisdiction over different legal matters. The Delaware court system is unique so it is important to understand whether the debt collection agency actually filed the lawsuit with the proper court.

There is a Justice of the Peace Court, which is considered to be the “entry level” court and empowered to oversee cases where the amount in dispute in a civil matter is less than $15,000.

There is also the Court of Common Pleas, which possesses jurisdiction over civil cases involving an amount in dispute between $15,001 and $50,000.

In addition to the Court of Common Pleas, there is the Superior Court, which is Delaware's court of general jurisdiction. The Superior Court possesses original jurisdiction over civil cases, with the exception of “equity” cases.

Key Takeaways

In summary, here is what you need to do to effectively answer a summons for debt collection in Delaware.

Deadline to file an Answer for Justice of the Peace courts: 15 days.
Deadline to file an Answer for all other courts: 20 days.

Do these steps:

  • Decide how you want to respond to each paragraph
  • Review the Complaint and determine whether you can assert any affirmative defenses
  • Appear in court on the date and time provided by the court if you opt to contest the debt collection lawsuit.

Best of Luck!

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