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

Hannah Cagle | February 01, 2023

When you win your New Jersey debt collection lawsuit.

Summary: You have 35 days to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in New Jersey. To respond, you must draft and file a written Answer into your case. In your Answer, you should respond to each claim against you and assert your affirmative defenses. SoloSuit can help you draft and file your Answer in New Jersey in a matter of minutes. Keep reading to learn more.

What's so stressful about being sued by a debt collector? Grab some snacks, this may take awhile.

But seriously, even though being sued by a debt collector or debt collection law firm (especially those who specialize 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. Now, let’s jump into everything you should know about how to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in New Jersey, including deadlines, fees, forms, and more.

Respond to your lawsuit before the New Jersey deadline

According to New Jersey Rules of Civil Procedure, RULE 4:6-1(a) states:

“(a) Time; Presentation. Except as otherwise provided by Rules 4:7-5(c) (crossclaims), 4:8-1(b) (third-party joinder), 4:9-1 (answer to amended complaint), and 4:64-1(i) (governmental answer in foreclosure actions), the defendant shall serve an answer, including therein any counterclaim, within 35 days after service of the summons and complaint on that defendant.”

In other words, you have 35 days to respond to a debt lawsuit in New Jersey. Knowing which court has jurisdiction over your case will make responding much easier. Here are the following judicial divisions that oversee debt collection cases:

  • Law Division (Claims above $15,000)
  • Law Division, Special Civil Part (Claims between $3,000-$15,000)
  • Small Claims Court (Claims between $1-$3,000)

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.

The SoloSuit Answer form is the easiest way to generate a customized response to your debt lawsuit. All you have to do is respond to a series of questions about your case, and our software will create a personalized Answer for you that includes your responses to each claim and affirmative defenses.

Alternatively, you can use the New Jersey Answer to Summons forms listed on their judicial branch website:

Answer Filing Fees for New Jersey

New Jersey courts charge a filing fee to file your Answer with them.

Sure, having to pay money to defend yourself on top of being sued is like being kicked when you're already down... 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 Fee
$15,000+ (Law Division) $175
Medical $30
Auto Loan $30
State Tax $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 New Jersey filing fee table above.

Example: 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.

Follow these steps to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in New Jersey

A lawsuit begins when you receive the court Summons and Complaint. The Summons notifies you of the case, while the Complaint lists the specific claims against you.

In most states, these documents need to be handed personally to someone at your home. However, these documents are frequently delivered incorrectly, a process called “sewer service”—something you can use as a defense (more on defenses to come).

Once you receive the Summons and Complaint, your clock starts ticking and you need to respond within 35 days or you will lose your case automatically.

To respond, you need to follow these three steps:

  1. Respond to each claim listed in the Complaint.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File the Answer in court, and send a copy to the plaintiff’s attorney.

Let's check out each step in detail. You can also watch this video to learn more:

1. Respond to each claim listed in the Complaint

When drafting your Answer, you should primarily focus on responding to each claim against you.

The Complaint document includes several numbered paragraphs that lay out the lawsuit against you. For debt collection cases, there are usually between 10 and 30 numbered paragraphs, or claims. 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 should reply to each claim with one of the following responses:

  • Admit: Admit the paragraph if you agree with everything in the paragraph.
  • Deny: Deny the paragraph if you disagree with anything in the paragraph.
  • Deny due to lack of knowledge: 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.

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.

2. 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. To put it in a lawyerly way, you are “barred from raising” the defenses if you don’t include them in your initial response. 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 a legal defense to the debt.

3. File the Answer in court, and send a copy to the plaintiff’s attorney

Once you responded to each claim listed 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 your Answer for you, in all 50 states.

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 court documents 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, you can increase the chances of winning your case by 7x.

Now, let’s look at an example of how to respond to a debt lawsuit in New Jersey.

Example: Joseph is being sued by Midland Credit Management in New Jersey for an old credit card debt of $2,000. He uses SoloSuit to draft and file a response to the lawsuit. In his Answer, Joseph denies most of the claims and lists several affirmative defenses, including the expired statute of limitations on debt. When Midland Credit Management receives Joseph’s response, they file a motion to dismiss the case in court. Joseph is now off the hook and can move on with his life!

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.

Respond with SoloSuit

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Statute of limitations on debt in New Jersey

Under New Jersey Rules of Civil Procedure, §2A:14-1 states:

“Every action at law for trespass to real property, for any tortious injury to real or personal property, for taking, detaining, or converting personal property, for replevin of goods or chattels, for any tortious injury to the rights of another not stated in sections 2A:14-2 and 2A:14-3 of this Title, or for recovery upon a contractual claim or liability, express or implied, not under seal, or upon an account other than one which concerns the trade or merchandise between merchant and merchant, their factors, agents and servants, shall be commenced within 6 years next after the cause of any such action shall have accrued.”

In other words, the statute of limitations on debt is six years in New Jersey. This means that you can't legally be sued for a debt more than six years after you made the last payment.

However, that won’t stop creditors and debt collectors from filing a suit against you. It’s up to you to show that the statute of limitations has passed in your Answer. SoloSuit can help you use the statute of limitations as a defense in your case.

Similarly, §2A:14-5 states:

“A judgment in any court of record in this state may be revived by proper proceedings or an action at law may be commenced thereon within 20 years next after the date thereof, but not thereafter. An action may be commenced on a judgment obtained in any other state or country within 20 years next after the date thereof or within the period in which a like action might be brought thereon in that state or country, whichever period is shorter, but not thereafter.”

This means that, on judgment debt, the statute of limitations is 20 years. So, 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.

The table below further illustrates the statute of limitations on different types of debt in New Jersey. Check it out:

Statute of Limitations on Debt in New Jersey

Debt Type Deadline
Credit Card 6 years
Medical 6 years
Auto Loan 6 years
Mortgage 6 years
Written contract 6 years
Open contract 6 years
Oral contract 6 years
Judgment 20 years

SoloSuit makes it easy to assert the statute of limitations.

Let's consider another example.

Example: Willy owes a credit card debt in New Jersey, 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 in his case.

New Jersey debt collection laws can protect you

New Jersey is governed by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, which is a federal law that protects consumers from abusive debt collectors. Here are some of the most relevant New Jersey debt collection laws you should know about:

  • Debt collectors cannot call you before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m.
  • Debt collectors cannot call you at work when your employer prohibits such communication.
  • Debt collectors cannot tell your family or friends that you owe a debt.
  • Debt collectors cannot continue to contact you when you have explicitly asked them not to.
  • Debt collectors cannot take actions considered harassment or abuse under the FDCPA.
  • Debt collectors cannot claim they will sell your debt in order to coerce you to pay.
  • Debt collectors cannot cause your phone to ring repeatedly with the intent to annoy.
  • Debt collectors cannot fail to disclose that they are a debt collector.
  • Debt collectors cannot make false claims about who they are.
  • Debt collectors cannot threaten to seize your house or other property.
  • Debt collectors cannot threaten to take legal action that they cannot, or do not plan to, take.

Knowing your rights as a consumer is the best way to protect yourself from debt collectors and fight back. If a debt collector has violated any of these regulations when communicating with you about your debt, you can file a counterclaim and potentially be compensated up to $1,000 per violation.

New Jersey legal aid organizations can help you

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

County Address Phone Email
Bergen 190 Moore Street, Suite 100
Hackensack, NJ 07601
Hudson 574 Summit Avenue, 2nd Floor
Jersey City, NJ 07306
Passaic 152 Market Street, 6th Floor
Paterson, NJ 07505
Essex 5 Commerce Street, 2nd Floor
Newark, NJ 07102

Northwest New Jersey Legal Services

County Address Phone Email
Hunterdon 82 Park Avenue
Flemington, NJ 08822
Morris 30 Schuyler Place, 2nd Floor
Morristown, NJ 07963
Somerset 18 Church Street, Suite 120
Newton, NJ 07860
Warren 91 Front Street
Belvidere, NJ 07823-1437

Central Jersey Legal Services

County Address Phone Email
Trenton 198 West State Street
Trenton, NJ 08608
Perth Amboy 313 State Street, Suite 308
Perth Amboy, NJ 08861
New Brunswick 317 George Street, Suite 201
New Brunswick, NJ 08901
Elizabeth 60 Prince Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07208

South Jersey Legal Services

County Address Phone Email
Atlantic 1300 Atlantic Avenue
Atlantic City, NJ 08401
Burlington 107 High Street
Mount Holly, NJ 08060
Camden 745 Market Street
Camden, NJ 08102
Cape May 1261 Route 9 South
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
Cumberland/Salem 415 W. Landis Avenue-2nd Floor
Vineland, NJ 08360
Gloucester 47 Newton Avenue
Woodbury, NJ 08096
Monmouth 303 West Main Street, Third Floor
Freehold, NJ 07728
Ocean 215 Main Street
Toms River, NJ 08753

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!

Northeast New Jersey Legal Services

NJ Court Address Phone Vicinage
Atlantic County Superior Court Atlantic County Civil Courts Building
1201 Bacharach Boulevard
Atlantic City, Nj 08401
609-402-0100 1
Cape May County Superior Court Cape May County Courthouse
9 North Main Street
Cape May Court House, NJ 08210
609-402-0100 1
Bergen County Superior Court Bergen County Justice Center
10 Main Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601
609-402-0100 2
Burlington County Superior Court Burlington County Court Facility
49 Rancocas Road
Mount Holly, NJ 08060
609-288-9500 3
Camden County Superior Court Camden County Hall of Justice
101 South 5th Street
Camden, NJ 08103
856-650-9100 4
Cumberland County Superior Court Cumberland County Courthouse
Broad and Fayette Streets
Bridgeton, NJ 08302
856-878-5050 15
Essex County Superior Court Essex County Historic Courthouse
470 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
Newark, NJ 07102
973-776-9300 5
Gloucester County Superior Court Gloucester County Courthouse
1 North Broad Street
Woodbury, NJ 08096
856-878-5050 15
Hudson County Superior Court Hudson County Administration Building
595 Newark Avenue
Jersey City, NJ 07306
201-795-5162 6
Hunterdon County Superior Court Hunterdon County Courthouse
65 Park Avenue
Flemington, NJ 08822
908-824-9750 13
Mercer County Superior Court Mercer County Civil Courthouse
175 South Broad Street
Trenton, NJ 08650
609-571-4200 7
Middlesex County Superior Court Middlesex County Courthouse
56 Paterson Street
New Brunswick, NJ 08903
732-645-4300 8
Monmouth County Superior Court Monmouth County Courthouse
71 Monument Park
Freehold, NJ 07728
732-358-8700 9
Morris County Superior Court Morris County Courthouse
Washington and Court Streets
Morristown, NJ 07963
862-397-5700 10
Passaic County Superior Court Passaic County Courthouse
77 Hamilton Street
Paterson, NJ 07505
973-653-2910 11
Ocean County Superior Court Ocean County Courthouse
118 Washington Street
Toms River, NJ 08754
732-504-0700 14
Salem County Superior Court Salem County Courthouse
92 Market Street
Salem, NJ 08079
856-878-5050 15
Somerset County Superior Court Somerset County Courthouse
20 North Bridge Street
Somerville, NJ
908-332-7700 13
Sussex County Superior Court Sussex County Judicial Center
43-47 High Street
Newton, NJ 07860
862-397-5700 10
Union County Superior Court Union County Courthouse
2 Broad Street
Elizabeth, NJ 07207
908-787-1650 12
Warren County Superior Court Warren County Courthouse
413 Second Street
Belvidere, NJ 07823
908-750-8100 13

>>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.)

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