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

George Simons | December 01, 2022

Summary: This article will cover the fundamentals of how to respond if you have been served with a debt collection lawsuit in Iowa. We will explain how you can take advantage of SoloSuit's easy-to-use automated service so you can fight back against legal actions brought by aggressive debt collectors.

You were having a good day and then it happened. A knock on the front door. An unfamiliar face. An envelope full of court documents. It takes a few moments, but it finally hits home, you are being sued.

You are likely panicking and losing sleep, but you don't need to. This article will provide you with important information to make responding to a debt lawsuit easier and less stressful. Keep reading to learn how to answer a summons for debt collection in Iowa.

Table of Contents

Iowa Deadline for Answering a Debt Collection Summons

In Iowa, as in most states, you only have a short period of time in which to respond to a debt collection summons. A debt collection summons in Iowa is called an Original Notice and Petition for Money Judgment (the “Petition”). You must file an Appearance and Answer (Form 3.11) to a Petition within 20 calendar days from the date that the Petition was served on you.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. First, if the Petition was served on you by the secretary of state you will have 60 days from the date of service to file your Answer with the clerk. Second, if you received service of the Petition from the department of transportation, you have 60 days from the date the Petition was filed with the department to file an Answer with the clerk.

If you fail to file your Answer with the court by the deadline then the court may enter a default judgment against you. A default judgment is a judgment that is entered in favor of the plaintiff typically for the amount that they are suing you for plus costs.

Once the plaintiff has obtained a default judgment, he or she has the same rights to try and collect on it as any other judgment creditor. This means they can try to take money from your bank accounts and paychecks, among other things.

The law does give a defendant the right to file a motion with the court to set aside a default judgment. Motions to set aside default judgments are typically only granted if the judgment was entered as a mistake, the Petition was never served on the defendant or was entered due to fraud or a misrepresentation by the plaintiff, or the judgment has been satisfied.

If you have missed the deadline to file your Answer and a default judgment has not been entered, file it immediately, the court may accept your Answer even if late.

Iowa Answer to Summons Forms

There are a few options for you to prepare your answer. You can:

  • download and complete an Appearance and Answer of Defendant(s) form and file it electronically using the Iowa Judicial Branch Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) located here;
  • file the Appearance and Answer of Defendant(s) form in person if you obtain an exemption to the electronic filing requirement from the court;
  • use Solosuit; or
  • create your own.

Steps to Respond to a Debt Collection Case in Iowa

In Iowa, the party filing the lawsuit, the plaintiff, is required to file and serve an Original Notice and Petition for Money Judgment on the party they are suing, the defendant.

If you are served with a Petition, you have several options. You can ask the court to throw the case out by filing a motion to dismiss. Examples of grounds for filing motions to dismiss include things like the expiration of the statute of limitations or defective service of process.

In most cases you will be required to file an Answer. In addition to your answer, you may be able to file a counterclaim and/or cross-claim as described below.

Your Answer, whether filed separately or with the above forms, is your opportunity to tell your story to the court. Follow these steps to complete and file your Answer.

1. Create an Answer Document

You can prepare your answer by downloading and completing an Appearance and Answer of Defendant(s) form. The form requires you to fill out the case information at the top and to choose one of three options: that you deny the claim, admit the claim, or admit that you owe a portion of the claim but not the full amount.

You may also prepare your own Answer. When preparing your own Answer, it should include the same basic information that is on eForm 3.11. This includes:

  • the name and location of the court
  • the names of all plaintiffs
  • the names of all defendants
  • the small claim case number

Solosuit can help to identify all relevant information for you.

In the body of the document, underneath the case information listed above, you are required to formally state your response to the allegations contained in the plaintiff's Petition.

2. Answer each issue of the Complaint

On eForm 3.11 you can check a box denying, admitting, or partially admitting the claim. If you are preparing your own Answer, addressing the issues of the Petition can be as simple as stating that you “deny the claims.” Since the plaintiff has the burden of proving his claims, he must produce evidence at trial to prove that he has the right to sue you and that you owe the amount he claims.

You also have the option to admit certain allegations and deny others. For example, you may agree that you entered into a lease with the plaintiff but deny that you owe him any money. If you go this route, you must make sure that you address every allegation in the Petition. If the plaintiff has listed the allegations in numbered paragraphs, address each paragraph separately. For example, “I deny the allegations contained in paragraph 10 of the complaint.”

SoloSuit makes it simple to respond the right way.

You should also list your defenses. These are the reasons why the plaintiff should not be able to collect the money he is suing for. We'll review potential defenses next..

3. Assert affirmative defenses

Affirmative defenses are basically a list of reasons why you believe the plaintiff should not win the case. In Iowa, you must clearly list each affirmative defense that you have in your Answer. If you do not, you risk losing the right to raise the defense at trial.

The following is a list of common defenses under Iowa debt collection laws. Keep in mind that every case is different and that not all defenses will apply to your case. There may also be defenses available to you that are not listed below. Be sure to explore all potential affirmative defenses before you file your Answer.

  • Improper service. The plaintiff must serve the Original Notice and Petition on you using the procedures set forth in Iowa debt collection laws. If you are not properly served the case can be dismissed.
  • The Iowa debt collection statute of limitations has expired. Under Iowa debt collection laws, a plaintiff must sue you within a set amount of time. If he or she fails to file a complaint against you before the end of that period, then there is no standing to bring the case against you. He or she loses the right to sue you forever.
  • You do not owe the plaintiff any money. This defense is used if you did owe the plaintiff money but have since paid all or some of the balance. If you have paid it all, the case will be dismissed. If you paid part, the plaintiff will have to prove that there is still money owed to him.
  • Debt was discharged in bankruptcy. It is not uncommon for creditors to file suit following a bankruptcy discharge. While against the law, it unfortunately happens all the time. If the debt was listed in your bankruptcy case and you received a discharge, then the plaintiff cannot sue you.
  • The debt is unconscionable. This means that the plaintiff is asking for an amount of money that is excessive compared to the original debt amount or that the original agreement you entered into was entirely one-sided.
  • Unjust enrichment. This defense is available where awarding the plaintiff the amount claimed would result in what amounts to a financial windfall. For example, the plaintiff may be claiming an excessive level of interest on an outstanding debt.

SoloSuit makes it easy for you to assert the right affirmative defenses.

4. Assert any counterclaims or cross-claims

In addition to your Answer you may also file:

  • a Counterclaim (eForm 3.13) against the plaintiff (i.e., the plaintiff owes you money)
  • a Cross-Claim (eForm 3.14) against another defendant (i.e., another defendant named in the case owes you money)
  • a Petition against a party not named in the case that you believe is responsible for the plaintiff's claim (eForm 3.7)
  • an Affidavit of Property Exempt from Execution (eForm 3.21) to protect your assets when the plaintiff attempts to enforce the judgment

5. File the answer with the court and serve the plaintiff

Your answer must be filed electronically using the Iowa Judicial Branch Electronic Document Management System (EDMS) located here. If you wish to file the Answer in person at the courthouse, you must obtain permission from the court. For instance, you may not have access to a computer or the internet, in which case the court should approve manually filing your Answer.

SoloSuit files your Answer for you.

If you file your Answer electronically it will automatically be served on the attorney for the plaintiff. If you file it in-person you will be required to serve the plaintiff's lawyer yourself.

Once you have filed you will receive a notice from the court giving you important information about the first hearing and other steps.

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

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Statute of Limitations on Debt in Iowa

To sue you for an unpaid debt, a creditor must file the lawsuit before the deadline set by Iowa law. The Iowa debt collection statute of limitations is governed by Iowa Code Chapter 614.

In Iowa, the statute of limitations for an unwritten contract is 5 years. For written contracts the period is 10 years. What this means is that if you signed a written agreement like a promissory note, and stopped making payments, the creditor has 10 years to file suit against you since there was a written agreement.

If the creditor cannot provide you with a copy of the written agreement, then the statute of limitations is 5 years (based on an oral contract).

Iowa Statute of Limitations
on Debt

Debt Type

Deadline in Years









Credit Card




Source: Findlaw

Be sure to raise any Iowa debt collection statute of limitations defenses in your Answer.

Iowa Debt Collection Laws: What can you do when a process server for a debt collection lawsuit in Iowa is harassing you?

Unfortunately, it happens all the time. Creditors, collection agencies, and attorneys can be relentless when trying to collect a debt from you.

Both the Iowa Debt Collection Practices Act and the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act offer you important rights and protections. For instance, collection agencies must follow certain procedures when attempting to collect a debt from you. They cannot:

  • Threaten violence against you
  • Contact family or friends to discuss your debt
  • Imply that they work for a law enforcement, government, or credit reporting agency
  • Misrepresent the amount of your debt
  • Call you in the middle of the night
  • Contact you if you are represented by an attorney
  • Contact you after you have informed them in writing that you don't want to be contacted

If you think a debt collector has been violating the law, contact an attorney or file a complaint with one of the following agencies:

Office of the Attorney General of Iowa
Hoover State Office Building
1305 E. Walnut Street
Des Moines, IA 50319

Federal Trade Commission
Consumer Response Center
Washington, DC 20508

If you need help with your case but can't afford a lawyer, you may be eligible to receive free or low-cost legal services from:

Iowa Legal Aid Society
1111 Ninth Street, Suite 230, Des Moines, IA 50314

Key Takeaways

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

Be sure to:

  • Create an answer document
  • Make a general denial to all claims or respond to each issue separately
  • Assert all affirmative defenses
  • File any counterclaims or cross-claims
  • File your Answer online or in-person if you get an electronic filing waiver from the court
  • Serve a copy of Answer on the attorney for the plaintiff if you file your Answer in person

If you need help with this process, SoloSuit can help.

SoloSuit is a simple-to-use online application for preparing an Answer to a debt collection Complaint. Preparing your Answer with SoloSuit is free. We can also file and serve the Answer for you for an additional fee.

Don't risk losing your case because you missed the Answer deadline – click here to get started with SoloSuit today.

Good Luck!

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

Here's a list of guides for other states.

All 50 states.