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

Hannah Locklear | December 30, 2023

Fact-checked by George Simons, J.D.

Summary: If you've been sued for debt in Hawaii, you have 20 days to respond before you lose by default. It's best to respond with a written Answer where you reply to each claim listed in the Complaint and assert your affirmative defenses. You can use SoloSuit to draft and file your Answer in minutes.

If collectors are blowing up your phone with calls 24/7, or you've received a Summons and Complaint, you know that being pursued by a collection agency sucks. On a comforting note, you're not alone. According to researchers at the Urban Institute, nearly one in three Americans has at least one debt in collections. At SoloSuit, we talk to people like you every day, and we want to help. That's why we created this guide.

Getting a debt collector off your back in Hawaii can be difficult, but knowing your rights is key. The best thing you can do to stop collectors from calling if you've received a Summons and Complaint for debt is to respond to it. In this article, we'll guide you through the steps to efficiently respond to a debt collection lawsuit in Hawaii.

Hawaii deadline for answering a debt collection Summons

In the state of Hawaii, you have 20 days to file an Answer to the Summons and Complaint, according to Hawaii Civil Code Rule 12(a)(1). The rule officially states:

A defendant shall serve an answer within 20 days after being served with the Summons and Complaint, except when service is made under Rule 4(c) and a different time is prescribed in an order of court under a statute or rule of court.

You need to file an Answer with the court and the plaintiff within this time period. You may be thinking, Yikes! 20 days doesn't sound like a long time! It isn't, but we've got you covered.

Let's start with the bad news. If you don't respond to the Summons and Complaint within 20 days with a written Answer, you will automatically lose. At this point, the plaintiff will file for a default judgment which will be entered against you. This means you will be required to pay the debt amount listed on the Complaint.

With a default judgment, the plaintiff can also use other means to get their money back. For example, they can garnish your wages, put liens on your property, or even freeze your bank account. This is why it's so important to respond within the deadline.

Notably, this could cause serious problems if there is an error in the debt amount or the debt is not yours. But as long as you thoroughly review any Complaint you receive and respond to it within 20 days, you're in the clear.

Want to create an Answer quickly? Try SoloSuit. It's easier than creating an Answer on your own. Plus, we'll make sure all your bases are covered, including getting it approved by an attorney, and ensuring it is delivered to the courts and the person or company suing you.

Here is a Google review of our services from a satisfied customer:

“I received a court summons and didn't know what to do. I knew doing nothing was wrong, so I went online and found SoloSuit. They walked me through the process of replying. I followed through the step-by-step process, mailed everything, and never heard back from the court or the plaintiff.” - Paul Gill

Hawaii Answer to Summons forms

When responding to a debt collection Summons and Complaint in Hawaii, you can use SoloSuit's Answer form. It only takes 15 minutes to generate your response.

You can also use Hawaii's civil forms. A question we often receive is: does an Answer to a Summons need to be notarized? The answer is no. However, you should take some specific steps when mailing it, which we will discuss below.

Hawaii's judicial branch website has many forms for public access, but there is currently no form available for an Answer. However, you may try visiting the courthouse or calling the court clerk to see if they have them in person that you can pick up.

Hawaii does not charge a fee to file an Answer

Good news! There are no fees in the state of Hawaii to file an Answer to a Complaint against you. However, if you plan to file other types of documents into a lawsuit, there may be filing fees involved.

For example, if you plan to file a counterclaim in the District Court, there is a $65 filing fee. Click here to learn more about Hawaii's civil filing fees.

Follow these steps to respond to a debt collection case in Hawaii

When your creditor or a debt collector files a debt collection lawsuit in Hawaii small claims court, their first step is to serve you with what is known as the Summons and Complaint. The Summons notifies you of the lawsuit and the parties involved, while the Complaint contains a list of the specific allegations against you.

You should receive these documents in person or by mail. When you get them, don't delay responding. Remember that you have 20 days to file an Answer. If you don't, a default judgment can be entered and you may have to pay the creditor or debt collector for any debt they say you owe.

Now for the fun and most crucial part (don't worry—it's actually quite simple!). Follow these three steps to respond to a Hawaii debt collection case:

  1. Answer each allegation listed in the Complaint.
  2. Assert affirmative defenses.
  3. File your Answer with the court and serve the plaintiff.

If you're worried about making a mistake, or feeling anxious, SoloSuit has your back. We can help you easily create an Answer, have it reviewed by a qualified attorney, and submit it to the Hawaii small claims court and the plaintiff on time.

If you decide to create the Answer on your own, we've provided detailed instructions for each of these three steps below. If you don't like reading, check out this video instead:

1. Answer each allegation listed in the Complaint

Your Answer is simply your response to the accusations made against you in the Complaint document. When you read the Complaint, you'll notice many numbered paragraphs, each with an allegation against you. This section can be overwhelming, and sometimes confusing. But it doesn't have to be; just follow the guidelines below.

When you draft your Answer to a debt lawsuit, the first section of the Answer should contain a list where you respond to each allegation from the Complaint. There are three ways you can respond to each claim:

  1. Admit—like saying, “This is true.”
  2. Deny—like saying, “Prove it.”
  3. Deny due to lack of knowledge—like saying, “I don't know.”

So, which strategy should you choose? For starters, always be truthful when answering a Complaint. However, you may feel unsure about whether some of the allegations against you are true or false. This is totally normal. If you're unsure, you can either state that you lack the necessary knowledge or deny the allegation.

Whether you deny an allegation or state that you are unsure about it, the plaintiff must prove these allegations in court. In fact, most attorneys recommend denying as many allegations as possible. This gives you the strongest case possible, because when you deny a claim, it transfers the burden of proof to the plaintiff.

Keep in mind that your responses aren't cast in stone; you can always amend your Answer at a later date, even after the case begins.

SoloSuit can help you respond to a Complaint in just 15 minutes.

2. Assert affirmative defenses

Affirmative defenses are a key part of your Answer, as they offer reasons why the collection agency should lose the case. You can use various affirmative defenses, but not all of them apply to your case.

Here are some common affirmative defenses used in debt collection cases:

  • The amount of the debt is incorrect: You can use this affirmative defense if the creditor made an error with regard to how much you owe. For example, if you paid part of the debt but your payment is not reflected in the Summons and Complaint, you could use this defense.
  • You canceled a contract with the creditor and don't owe the debt: Use this defense if you signed a contract with the creditor, but they are charging you for debt accrued after you canceled the contract.
  • Your Summons and Complaint were improperly served: Your Summons and Complaint should have been personally served to you at home. According to Hawaii Civil Code Rule 4(d)(1), the Summons and Complaint must be delivered together and in person. If you are not there, a copy can be left at your home with someone who lives with you.
  • The statute of limitations has expired: The statute of limitations on debt collection in Hawaii is six years, starting from the date you made your last payment. Any debt older than this cannot be taken to court.
  • Identity theft or mistaken identity: There are two identity issues you can use as affirmative defenses. The first one being if the creditor is suing you for a debt that doesn't belong to you, and the second being identity theft. You may use identity theft as an affirmative defense if the debt in question is from a credit card you never applied for, never received, or never used. This scenario includes a card that was stolen and used without your authorization.
  • Lack of standing due to no debtor-creditor relationship: Use this affirmative defense if your original creditor sold off your debt to a collection agency who then filed the lawsuit. In this case, the debt collector must prove that they purchased your debt from your original creditor and provide all the documentation of the transfer.

Asserting your affirmative defenses will strengthen your case. While it may take some time to complete this part of your Answer, it will benefit you as you proceed with the case in Hawaii small claims court. You can only assert your affirmative defenses in your initial response in order to have them considered in the case, so make sure to take the opportunity while you have it.

Now, let's take a look at an example.

Example: Polly received a lawsuit letter from Aargon Collection Agency, Honolulu. The debt collectors claimed that she had a $3,400 3-year old debt in collection. Polly remembers having a debt with Aloha Credit Union (ACU) but canceled the credit card after spending $950. In her answer document, she stated two affirmative defenses; she canceled the credit card with ACU two years back and doesn't owe the entire $3,400. Secondly the debt amount quoted is incorrect. Polly has a strong case with the two affirmative defenses. She uses SoloSuit to draft and file her Answer, and a couple weeks later, Polly finds out that the case has been voluntarily dismissed.

Use the right defense in the right way with SoloSuit's help.

3. File your Answer with the court and serve the plaintiff

Once you've completed your Answer, you need to file it. Make sure you file the Answer promptly, as you could face a default judgment if your Answer does not make it to the court in time. Do you want to have peace of mind during this process? Have SoloSuit file the Answer for you.

To file your Answer correctly, you should:

  • Make two copies of your Answer document.
  • Mail copy #1 to the Hawaii court.
  • Mail copy #2 to the plaintiff's attorney.

Before mailing your copy to the court, make sure you have the correct mailing address for the court that appears on your Summons and Complaint. Mail both copies using USPS Certified Mail and request a confirmation receipt to ensure your Answer is properly delivered.

Once you receive the receipt, make copies of everything including your Answer document. Keep a copy in your phone in case there is an issue and you need proof of receipt.

SoloSuit can help you file your Answer in Hawaii.

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.

Statute of limitations on debt in Hawaii

The Hawaii statute of limitations on debt collections is six years. This means that if an account is left inactive for six or more years, no one can sue you for it. An inactive account means that no payment has been made on it. If you start making payments on an old debt again, this will restart the clock on the statute of limitations. So always check the statute of limitations on a debt before agreeing to make any payments to your creditor or debt collector.

However, keep in mind that an expired statute of limitations will do nothing to keep a creditor or debt collector from suing you; they may try to take you to court and hope that you are not aware of the debt timeline. This is why you should use the statute of limitations as an affirmative defense if it applies to your case. It's the only way you can get out of a lawsuit and avoid being pressured to pay the debt.

The table below highlights Hawaii's statute of limitations on different types of debt:

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Hawaii

Debt Type Deadline
Credit Card 6 years
Medical 6 years
Student Loan 6 years
Auto Loan 6 years
Mortgage 6 years
Personal Loan 6 years
Judgment 6 or 20 years
Source: Haw. Rev. Stat. § 657-1, 5

Respond to a lawsuit in Hawaii Small Claims Court

Most debt collection cases in Hawaii can be filed in the small claims court. Hawaii Small Claims Court is a division of the District Court that has jurisdiction over certain disputes between two or more parties.

If your case involves $5,000 or less, then it was probably filed in the Small Claims Court. To respond to a Small Claims case, you can follow the same steps listed earlier in this article: respond to each allegation in the Complaint document, assert your affirmative defenses, and file your Answer document before the deadline.

Hawaii legal aid organizations can help you

Like all the other U.S. states, Hawaii has at least one government-funded organization where you can receive free legal services, it is called The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii. You can find out more about their service by contacting them using the following information:

The Legal Aid Society of Hawaii (Main Branch)
924 Bethel St.
Honolulu, HI 96813

808-536-4302 (Oahu number)
800-499-4302 (Other Islands)

Hawaii state court locations

Sometimes the location of your court isn't clear from the Summons. So we've linked to a list of Hawaii state courts here. This information should be helpful in finding the location of the specific Hawaii small claims court your case is filed. Be wary though, sometimes the mailing address is different from the physical address. So if you want to avoid that Waikiki traffic, you can have us file for you.

Key takeaways

Nice work—now you know how to properly handle a Summons and Complaint in Hawaii. Here's a quick summary of what you have learned:

  • There is a 20-day deadline to file your Answer
  • There is no fee to file an Answer to a debt lawsuit in Hawaii.
  • To submit your Answer, you should:
    • Respond to each allegation in the Complaint.
    • Assert affirmative defenses.
    • File your Answer with the court and serve the plaintiff.
  • The statute of limitations on debt in Hawaii is six years.
  • Hawaii small claims courts deal with cases involving $5,000 or less.

Feeling stressed by the process? Don't sweat it. Let SoloSuit create, review, and submit your Answer electronically in just 15 minutes. Our documents are designed to cater to all the details needed in responding to a lawsuit.

You can also use our other documents to urge the creditors to settle out of court. Our Motion to Compel Arbitration asks the creditors to honor the arbitration clause in the credit agreement you signed. Learn more about arbitration in this video:

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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