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

George Simons | July 11, 2023

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Summary: You have 28 days or less to respond to a debt lawsuit in Michigan. To avoid default judgment, you must file an Answer to the Summons and Complaint. In your Answer, it's best to respond to each claim that's being made against you and assert your affirmative defenses. SoloSuit can help you draft and file an Answer in any Michigan court.

Table of Contents

"I hope the phone call turns out to be a debt collector," — said no one.

Worrying about debt collection is never fun. It gets even more stressful when facing a debt collection lawsuit. It can feel intimidating to need to file an Answer to a summons for a debt collection suit.

Hiring an attorney to defend you might be 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, the court will hold in favor of the filer (or "creditor") with a default judgment.

The other side wins by default if you fail to respond to a lawsuit by filing an Answer. If you fail to respond, the debt collector may be granted a default judgment, which allows them to garnish your wages or your tax returns.

The good news is that SoloSuit is here to help. 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.

Michigan deadline for answering a debt collection Summons

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.

In Michigan, the 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.

How to respond to summons for debt begins when you file and serve your document, which is called an Answer. There are a few essential things to keep in mind:

  • These deadlines are stringent.
  • 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 a no-miss. If you miss it, that's it. You will not 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.

The creditor can collect from you once the default judgment is in place.

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 seeing it. This will undoubtedly put you in a worse financial situation, so make sure you know 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.

You can use SoloSuit's Answer form, for free. We've included a sample below, but it's easiest to fill it out on the SoloSuit website. Here's the sample:

You can also try using Michigan's statewide Answer form, but you'll have to fill this out out manually.

By filing an Answer in time, you keep your rights to argue about this matter in court and to get notice of future hearings.

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, the court assumes the allegations are true. This again leads to the default judgment.

Steps to answer a Summons for debt collection in Michigan

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

  1. Answer each issue of the complaint
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses
  3. File your Answer with the court and send a copy to the plaintiff

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 the chance to prove you do not owe it.

Each of these steps is a fairly formal process that needs to be done correctly. Now, let's break each one down further. Don't like reading? Check out this video:

1. Answer each issue of the Complaint

The Complaint that you receive will likely have several issues set forth. Each issue will be in a separate numbered paragraph. Be sure to answer every paragraph of the Complaint to let the court know which issues you are disputing.

With SoloSuit's Answer form, all you have to do is enter the number of claims or allegations listed in the Complaint document. Then, SoloSuit's software will prompt you to choose one of the following responses for each claim:

  • Admit: like saying, "This is true."
  • Deny: like saying, "Prove it."
  • Deny due to lack of knowledge: like saying, "I don't know."

Keep in mind, most attorney suggest that you deny as many claims as possible. This requires the debt collector or creditor to do more work on their part to prove their case. If they don't have the documentation to prove their claism, the case will most likely be dismissed.

SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to all the paragraphs.

Similarly, Michigan's statewide Answer form has a space for you to respond to each paragraph by checking one of the three boxes that state:

  • 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 to the checkmark. Only choose "agree" if you know it is true. Similarly, only choose "disagree" if you know it is not true, and can offer a supporting statement as to why you do not agree. If you do not know, choose "I do not know." If the paragraph has over one claim, only choose "agree" if all the claims are true.

Make sure that you are comfortable with each response before you submit it. You cannot change an answer to a paragraph once it is submitted. It is also essential to choose "agree" if or when the section 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

You can assert a legal defense when you need to go beyond just "disagreeing" with the Complaint. 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 you apply the right ones.

Common defenses 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 possibilities also reference the proper Michigan debt collection law to cite. Some defenses are:

  • Lack of standing is a powerful defense tool when you can correctly assert that the debt collector has no legal basis for filing the suit. This defense is usually appropriate when the debt has been bought and sold without a clear paper trail from the original owner of the debt.
  • Asserting that the debt has already been paid
  • The allowable time frame to collect has run out (referred to as the "statute of limitations")
  • There is a problem with the contract itself

Again, you can check the box next to any affirmative defense that applies to you. Make sure 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 the amount listed is incorrect, you could counter with another amount. If you believe the creditor has been improper, you can also explore How To File an FDCPA Complaint Against Your Debt Collector.

However, keep in mind 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, print it out to sign and make four copies. Then 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 have to leave your house. Michigan does not charge any fee to file an Answer, so you do not need to worry about 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 sure that you complete the certificate of service at the bottom of the "Answer" portion of your two remaining copies. Then, file one copy with the court (again in person or by first-class mail) and keep the remaining copy.

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

Next, you should serve a copy of the Answer to the plaintiff through first-class mail or personal service. It is a good idea to send your Answer via certified mail return receipt requested. When there is an attorney for the plaintiff, serve the Answer to the attorney rather than the plaintiff.

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 $6,500; small claims courts are a division of the 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 determine which court is appropriate to file in. Since the creditor started the lawsuit against you, they have already designated a court. That court information, including district/circuit, address, and telephone number, will be on 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, 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 here.

Michigan Legal Aid Organizations

Michigan has a lot of different legal aid services available to 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:

Statute of limitations on debt in Michigan

The statute of limitations for many consumer debts in Michigan is six years. This includes:

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

This limitation applies after a debt is over six years overdue or has not been paid in six years. So, once the Michigan statute of limitations has passed, creditors and debt collectors may no longer take legal action.

However, it is essential to note that the clock for the statute of limitations on debt in Michigan starts when a consumer misses a payment on a debt or defaults on the terms of the contract. The starting of the clock on the statute of limitations 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 version of the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), known as the Collection Practices Act. Both laws prohibit deceptive statements or act to collect on a debt and outlaw harassment or abuse.

The Michigan debt collection laws are even better than federal in terms of protection for consumers. The federal law applies only to outside debt collectors or third parties the original creditor hires to collect a debt. However, the Michigan state law applies directly to creditors, lenders, and third-party collectors.

What happens after you answer a Summons and Complaint?

Filing an Answer to the Summons for debt collection puts 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 the dates and deadlines.

If you have not received your notice of hearing from the court within 15 days of filing your Answer, 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 preparing for your debt collection hearing, it is important to gather evidence to prove your argument. 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, which allows you to walk away from the debt.

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

What if I haven't been sued yet?

If you've only received collections notice but not a lawsuit, the best way to respond is with a Debt Validation Letter. When a debt collector contacts you in any way, whether by phone or mail, you can respond with a Debt Validation Letter.

This letter notifies the collector that you dispute the debt and requires them to provide proof you owe the debt. They can't call you or continue collecting until they provide validation of the debt. This flowchart shows how you can use a Debt Validation Letter to win.

Make your own Debt Validation Letter in minutes with SoloSuit.

What is the law on debt collectors in Michigan?

Many Michigan consumers are experiencing financial difficulties, such as job losses, increased mortgage payments, or medical emergencies. You need to be aware of the dos and dons of debt collection and tips on spotting and avoiding debt collection scams. Awareness and knowledge can help combated the anxiety associated with debts and debt collectors.

Debt collectors operating in Michigan are governed by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). The law applies to individuals or companies that regularly collect debts, including attorneys and companies who buy debts and attempt to collect on them.

The FDCPA covers the collection of personal, family, or household debts, but it does not relate to debts incurred through the ownership or operation of a business.

Debt collectors in Michigan must abide by all state and federal laws. Below are examples of behavior prohibited under the FDCPA .

  • Pester, abuse or use oppression with threats of physical violence, obscene language, or repeated calls intended to annoy you.
  • Lie about being from the government, throwing you into jail or "debtors' prison. " telling you they work for a credit reporting agency, or that the documents they send you are legal when they aren't.
  • Threaten to sue you even though they don't intend to.
  • Threaten to evict you unless they have a valid legal basis.
  • Provide you with a document that appears to come from a government or court.
  • Use a false company name or represent themselves as someone they are not.
  • Try to collect interest or fees unless your contract or state law allows the imposition of interest or fees.

Contact the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division, the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or the Federal Trade Commission if you believe a debt collector is harassing you.

Dealing with fraudulent debt collectors

Dealing with legitimate debt collectors can be unpleasant, but Michigan consumers have been on edge because of increased calls from fake collectors. The fraudsters may call you repeatedly at home, work, or on your cell phone, refuse to give you their real name and address, and claim to work for a fake debt collection agency.

Phony debt collectors may have considerable personal information about you. This information may include your bank information, Social Security number, birth date, etc. Impersonators may even imitate law firms, court officials, police forces, or government organizations. In addition, they often tell you that if you don't pay now, someone will come and arrest you.

How can you distinguish between a legitimate but unscrupulous debt collector and a fake one?

Contact your creditor regarding the call and find out who has been allowed to collect the debt by the creditor. Likewise, legitimate debt collectors must send a written notice of the debt within five days of their initial phone call. You will know the call you received was a scam if you don't receive a notice promptly.

The Federal Trade Commission, the Attorney General, or the Federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau should be notified immediately if you are contacted by a legitimate debt collector using any or all of the above-listed scare tactics.

Key takeaways

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

Follow these steps:

  1. Answer the complaint, paragraph by paragraph.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File and serve the Answer.

Answering a Summons does not have to be a complicated or scary process. With the help of SoloSuit, you can preserve your legal rights and even win against debt collectors.

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 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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