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

George Simons | March 21, 2023

When you ignore debt collectors ^^

Summary: In Virginia, there is no deadline to file a response to a debt lawsuit. However, if you want to dispute the debt, you must show up in court on the date outlined in the Warrant In Debt. You can fill out a Grounds of Defense form and bring it with you in preparation for the court date. You may also consider submitting SoloSuit’s Answer form to help you strengthen your case and assert your affirmative defenses.

Virginia is for lovers, not debt collection lawsuits.

Getting sued for debt in Virginia can be stressful and overwhelming. You may be struggling financially and are concerned about getting stuck in costly litigation, going to court, testifying before a judge, and so forth.

Your feelings of anxiety and stress are understandable, but they shouldn’t consume you or stop you from taking action. It is important to be proactive and learn what to expect when you’ve been sued for debt in Virginia.

Below, you will find helpful topics on how to answer a Summons for debt collection, which is referred to as a “Warrant In Debt” in Virginia. You may have taken note of the word “warrant.” This may sound like some sort of a criminal violation; it is not. Please understand that getting served with a Warrant In Debt does not mean you could be subjected to jail time. However, failing to take proper action could seriously penalize your bank account.

This article is designed to help make the process of responding to a debt lawsuit less confusing and easier by giving you a step-by-step overview of Virginia's legal debt collection process and how to respond. This includes information specific to filing in Virginia, like state deadlines, forms, and filing fees.

Let’s get started.

Respond to the lawsuit before the Virginia deadline

While there is no deadline to respond to a debt lawsuit in Virginia, Virginia Code § 16.1-79 clearly states you must appear in court if you want to defend yourself in a debt lawsuit case:

“A civil action in a general district court may be brought by warrant directed to the sheriff or to any other person authorized to serve process in such county or city, requiring the person against whom the claim is asserted to appear before the court on a certain day, not exceeding sixty days from the date of service thereof, to answer the complaint of the plaintiff set out in the warrant. After the warrant has been issued and delivered for service it shall not be altered, nor any blank filled, except by order of the court.”

This means that the plaintiff (the creditor or debt collector that is suing you) must schedule a court date within sixty days of delivering the Warrant In Debt to the opposing party. Then, the defendant (person being sued) must appear on that day to avoid a default judgment.

A default judgment means you lose the cause automatically, and the plaintiff can garnish your wages or seize your property to get their money back.

So, if you want to avoid a default judgment and fight back against your Virginia debt lawsuit, you must prepare to appear in court on the date outlined in the Warrant In Debt. To prepare for your court date, you can fill out a Grounds of Defense and submit it to the court (or you can just wait to submit it in person).

Check out this video for tips on how to win your debt collection lawsuit:

Virginia Answer to Summons Forms

As mentioned above, Virginia does not require a formal “Answer” to be filed into the case before the court date. However, if you plan to dispute the debt, you must go to court and submit a Grounds of Defense document.

A Grounds of Defense gives you the opportunity to list your reasonings for why you should not be held liable for the debt. It is also a formal request for the plaintiff to submit a more detailed explanation of why you do owe it, known as a Bill of Particulars.

You can fill out this Grounds of Defense form and bring it with you to court on the date set forth by the Warrant In Debt. You may also consider submitting SoloSuit’s Answer form to help you strengthen your case and assert your affirmative defenses.

Answer Filing Fees for Virginia

An advantage to Virginia's unique system is that you do not need to shell out money to respond to a Warrant In Debt. That’s right: there is no filing fee to submit a Grounds of Defense in Virginia.

However, the amount you save in filing fees may wind up being spent on gas and other travel expenses since, in order to dispute a Warrant In Debt, you need to appear before a judge on a specific date and specific time. This date and time typically appear in the upper right hand corner of the Warrant In Debt you receive from the sheriff or process server.

What is a Virginia Warrant In Debt?

To initiate a debt collection lawsuit in Virginia, the debt collection company will need to fill out a document titled Warrant In Debt (Civil Claim for Money) and make arrangements to serve you with this document pursuant to Virginia Code § 16.1-79.

Not sure what a Warrant In Debt looks like? Here’s a Warrant In Debt form and example below:

Warrant In Debt example

Since the Warrant In Debt includes a section indicating you have the option not to appear in court, it has been referred to as an expedited motion for judgment. In effect, if someone ignores the Warrant in Debt and does not show up on the specified hearing date, the Warrant in Debt is essentially a motion for judgment for the debt collector.

So, a Virginia Warrant in Debt also serves as (1) a summons for the defendant to appear before the court on a specific date and time and (2) formal notice that if you fail to appear, a formal judgment could be entered against you for the amount the collector says you owe.

How to read a Warrant In Debt

If you have been served with a Warrant In Debt, it is quite common to not recognize the name of the debt collector or debt collection company. Why? Because many debts are sold, packaged, and even resold to other debt collectors and debt consolidation agencies.

This is why it is important to thoroughly review the warrant to make sure the information contained within the document is accurate. There is a chance that a random third-party debt collector filed a warrant with an incorrect amount owed or other inaccurate information.

While conducting your review, it is important to note that a Warrant In Debt in Virginia should contain the following information about the claim:

  • The names of all relevant parties
  • The city/county and address of the court where the warrant was filed and where you need to appear
  • The date and time you are scheduled to appear before the court in order to dispute the amount allegedly owed. The date of the hearing is typically within sixty days of being served with the warrant
  • The amount of the original debt owed including the interest rate and any claimed litigation cost and attorney's fees sought by the plaintiff
  • The type of debt owed: whether the amount owed is based on a contract, a mortgage or other financial note, or unpaid account balance

Respond to a Warrant In Debt in Virginia

When you get sued for debt in Virginia, you have options. For example, you can fight the case, ignore it, or try to settle. Below are some of the routes you might consider taking as a “response” to a debt collection lawsuit in Virginia:

Object to the venue of proceedings

If you have reason to believe the plaintiff (the person or company suing you) should have filed the Warrant In Debt in a different city or county, you have the right to file a written request to have the case moved to a different court. Virginia Code §8.01-264 states you must file a motion objecting to venue on or before your court date for it to be considered.

Let’s consider an example.

Example: Samuel lives in Virginia and recently moved from Richmond County to Arlington County. A few weeks after moving, Samuel receives a letter in the mail from the court. It is a Warrant In Debt stating that he is being sued by LVNV Funding in Richmond County. Since he no longer lives there, Samuel files a motion objecting to venue by mailing it to the courthouse listed on Warrant In Debt. A few weeks later, he learns the case has been dismissed and LVNV Funding will most likely file a new case in the correct court.

Appear in court to dispute the debt

You can appear before the judge on the designated date and time to dispute the amount owed. During the hearing, you can present evidence that you shouldn't need to pay the amount allegedly owed. You also can request a trial and request that the plaintiff produce a Bill of Particulars.

Let’s look at another example.

Example: Jill was sued by Midland Credit Management for an old credit card debt in Virginia. She filled out a Grounds of Defense and appeared in court to dispute the claims. She also used SoloSuit to prepare an Answer to the lawsuit, which helped her understand which affirmative defenses would help her strengthen her case. After submitting the Grounds of Defense and Answer in the court, Midland Credit dismissed the case.

Settle the Warrant In Debt before your court date

After you are served with the Warrant In Debt, you could attempt to reach a settlement. This could be a worthwhile endeavor since a judgment entered against you means the plaintiff will be able to garnish your wages and collect on the amount owed. If that was not bad enough, the plaintiff can also seek damages to cover filing fees, attorney's fees, and other costs. This is why it could be beneficial to attempt mediation or another form of negotiation to reach an out-of-court settlement.

Many debt collectors are willing to settle for less than the full debt amount, especially if they’ve purchased the debt for pennies on the dollar. In fact, on average, debt buyers purchase old debt accounts for just 4% of the original amount. So, when you pay off the debt in full to a debt buyer, they’re going to make a huge profit.

SoloSettle makes it easy to settle your debt and avoid going to court. Our software manages the settlement negotiation process for you and helps you get everything in writing.

Check out this video to learn more about how to settle a debt in Virginia:

And now, another example.

Example: After receiving a Warrant In Debt for $5,000 in the mail, Brian decided to take a close look at his finances to see if he could pay off his outstanding debts without going to court. He determined he could afford to pay off $4,000 in a lump-sum payment immediately. He used SoloSettle to send a settlement offer and start the negotiation process with the debt collector. After a few rounds of negotiations, they reached a settlement of $3,500—only 70% of the original debt amount! Brian saved money and the case was dismissed. He could rest easy knowing he had fulfilled his financial obligations and avoided going to court.

Ignore the Warrant In Debt

This is the riskiest option since ignoring the warrant means you're basically allowing the court to rule against and make you lose. If you lost, the adverse judgment would probably include any accumulated interest, litigation and collection costs, and attorney's fees. In addition, an adverse judgment means you are effectively waiving your ability to contest the legality of the debt once the judge enters an adverse judgment. You should also be aware of the fact that an adverse judgment will also appear on your credit report.

Below is one final example.

Example: When Mary got sued for a debt in Virginia, she felt so overwhelmed that she decided to ignore the case altogether. When she failed to show up in court, the judge ordered a default judgment against her. Within a matter of weeks, Mary’s wages were being garnished. All this could have been avoided if she had responded to the lawsuit and showed up in court.

What to expect from a Warrant In Debt trial in Virginia

While at the hearing, you should request a trial and a Bill of Particulars from the plaintiff.

In most instances, the judge will assign a trial date within three months from the date of the hearing. You need to use that time wisely to develop a good defense that shows why you do not actually owe the money alleged by the plaintiff. The Bill of Particulars can be helpful in building your defense. The Bill of Particulars will include details, provided by the plaintiff, laying out why they believe you owe them money.

The Bill of Particulars is not the only legal document that needs to be filed. When you get a trial date, you need to file a Grounds of Defense. Your Grounds of Defense include the specific reasons why you do not actually owe money to the plaintiff. At the hearing, the judge will provide you with a date to file your Grounds of Defense. It is extremely important to file those Grounds of Defense on time. If you fail to do so, you could lose.

It is worth noting that Virginia's court system has many pitfalls that appear to benefit debt collectors in these types of cases. For example, if you fail to appear at the hearing listed on the Warrant In Debt, an adverse judgment will probably be entered against you. If you appear at the hearing, but admit you owe the plaintiff money, then judgment will be entered against you. If you fail to file your Grounds of Defense on time, you are at risk of having an adverse judgment entered against you. This is why you need to be fully prepared and understand this process from beginning to end.

Affirmative defenses to a Warrant In Debt can help you present a strong case

When drafting your Grounds of Defense, it is important to examine different affirmative defenses that can be asserted to challenge the Warrant In Debt. One of the strongest affirmative defenses is asserting that the plaintiff failed to file their lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations. The statute of limitations defense is most likely viable when the alleged debt has been packaged and re-sold from one debt collector to another.

SoloSuit’s Answer form helps you determine which affirmative defenses are applicable to your case. This makes is a strong document to consider filing along with your Grounds of Defense.

The Virginia statute of limitations on debt is six years

In Virginia, the statute of limitations for most Warrant In Debt cases is typically six years. The six-year statute of limitations generally applies to most written contracts, oral contracts and open-ended accounts such as credit cards. This means that when a debt is more than six years overdue, then it is quite likely that a creditor can no longer attempt to collect the amount allegedly owed. The statute of limitations for a Warrant In Debt based on a promissory note is even shorter: five years.

Utilize Virginia legal aid organizations

Virginia has at least one government-funded organization that provides free legal services to people, in addition to other non-profits and public interest groups focused on assisting people who are being subjected to debt collection lawsuits. These organizations include:

Virginia Legal Aid Society
Phone (LawLine): 1-866-534-5243
434-455-3080 (for out-of-state numbers)
LawLine Intake Hours: 9am-3:30pm Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday.

National Association of Consumer Advocates
Phone: 202-452-1989
Fax: 202-452-0099

Virginia debt collection court locations

When it comes to debt collection lawsuits in Virginia, they will be filed in either a general district court or circuit court. There are general district courts and circuit courts in each city and county in Virginia.

The general district court is empowered to hear a variety of cases, including traffic violations and certain criminal cases. General district courts also possess exclusive authority to oversee civil cases with claims of $4,500 or less. General district courts also share authority with circuit courts to hear civil cases involving claims between $4,500 and $25,000. A Warrant In Debt is a civil claim. As a result, if you are being sued for an amount totaling $4,500 or less, the case will likely be filed in a general district court. If the amount allegedly owed is between $4,500 and $25,000, then the case could be filed in a general district court or a circuit court.

However, if the Warrant In Debt is seeking more than $25,000, then the case will be filed in a circuit court. This is because Virginia circuit courts handle all civil cases with claims of more than $25,000.


In short, here's the review on how to answer a summons for debt collection, which is known as a Warrant In Debt, in Virginia:

Take these actions:

  1. If you agree with the amount owed, you should try to pay it off, if you can.

  2. If you dispute the amount owed, appear in court on the designated date and time. When the hearing commences, you should ask the judge for a trial and submit your Grounds of Defense.

  3. In addition to asking for a trial, you should request that the plaintiff produce a “Bill of Particulars.” The Bill of Particulars is a written document that the plaintiff will need to provide to you and the court showing that you owe money. Requesting a Bill of Particulars is important since it provides you with a general sense of how strong or weak the plaintiff's case is against you.

Best of Luck!

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