Start My Answer

How to File a Civil Answer With the Duval Clerk of Courts - Florida

Melissa Lyken | December 12, 2023

Summary: You can respond with your own answer to debt collection lawsuits in Florida. Learn how to file a Civil Answer with the Duval Clerk of Courts.

If you are a Florida resident and have been served a complaint and summons to a civil lawsuit, you are probably wondering what your next steps are. In Florida, a defendant must file an answer within 20 days of being served with a summons and complaint. Filing a response to the complaint and sending it on time prevents the court from entering a default judgment against you.

A default judgment allows the creditor to garnish your wages or apply lien to your property. The answer should state your defenses to the claims asserted in the complaint. Drafting your response is as simple as saying you admit, deny or lack knowledge as your response to any of the allegations set in the complaint.

You should also include any affirmative defenses you're planning to use against the plaintiff. If you are being sued for a debt owed, continue reading for information on filing your civil answer with the Duval Clerk of Courts.

Avoid a default judgment by responding with SoloSuit.

How to Draft Your Answer to a Summons and Complaint

Once a plaintiff starts a lawsuit, you are then served with a summons and complaint. The summons notifies you that you've been sued and requires you to respond to the lawsuit. A complaint outlines the reason and basis for the suit.

The first step is to read the petition or complaint to determine why you've been sued. Next, you need to provide a response to each allegation in the complaint. The allegations are arranged in numbered paragraphs, and you should number the answers the same way. All the answers must be in writing and filed with the Clerk of Court at Duval County.

All you need to do is write whether you agree or disagree with the statements. If you don't agree with some statements, you don't have to provide the reason. Here are examples of common responses:

  • Defendant admits the allegation.
  • Defendant denies the allegation.
  • Defendant denies the allegation for lack of knowledge.

Florida law states that any denial must meet the substance of the allegation. This means that if the defendant doesn't deny all the allegations, they must either deny all except those specifically admitted or deny designated allegations. The court deems allegations not denied as admitted.

Make the right defense the right way with SoloSuit.

As highlighted earlier, state law allows you to raise affirmative defenses in your answer. This is not a denial of facts but an acknowledgment of new issues that defeat the plaintiff's claim.

Florida's state law also requires the defendant to be a little more specific if using affirmative defenses associated with fraud or a mistake. If asserting that the plaintiff lacks the capacity to sue you, you must include supporting documents or other particulars within your knowledge.

Be sure to assert all applicable defenses when drafting the answer regardless of whether they're factual because, according to Florida's state law Rule 1.140 (h), the court assumes a party has waived all defenses not presented in the answer.

If asked to provide facts for your defenses, you can argue that some defenses were raised to avoid waiver, and discovery is in progress. This strategy, however, could cause the court to dismiss or strike the defense because Florida statutes authorize sanctions against parties filing affirmative defenses without legal or factual proof. However, you can seek permission to amend the defense to avoid the sanction.

What to Include in the Answer Form

In the caption of the answer form, you must include the following information:

  • The plaintiff's name (the person suing you as it is written in the complaint)
  • The defendant's name (your name)
  • The case number and division
  • The name of the court

Be sure to copy this information carefully from the summons, as incorrect information may lead to a rejection of your filing. If you aren't sure whether you've filled in the right information, ask the Clerk of Court's office to confirm the details of the initial filings.

Next, you want to create numbered paragraphs to match the amount in the complaint. You will then Answer each complaint, for example.

Let's say there are five allegations in the complaint. Your answer to the claims may look like this.

  1. Defendant denies the allegation.
  2. Defendant denies the allegation for lack of knowledge.
  3. Defendant denies the allegation for lack of knowledge.
  4. Defendant denies the allegation for lack of knowledge.
  5. Defendant denies the allegation for lack of knowledge.

Next, you will want to include your affirmative defenses.

Use SoloSuit to make effective affirmative defenses and win in court.

At the end of the answer form, is another section called the 'certificate of service.' This part requires you to state how you'll send a copy to the plaintiff. You can write the plaintiff's name and address or that of their attorney. Be sure to indicate the date you mailed the copy, as well as the method you used to deliver it.

You must make two copies of the answer: you keep one copy, send the other to the plaintiff. The original document is what you file with the Duval Clerk of Court.

The court then sends a notice indicating when the case is scheduled for a hearing that you must attend.

You must also be prepared to explain your position on the issue, dress appropriately, and arrive on time.

You Can File a Motion to Dismiss Instead of an Answer

A defendant should file a motion to dismiss after filing an answer with the court based on the following grounds:

  • If the plaintiff lacks jurisdiction over the person
  • If the plaintiff lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter
  • Insufficiency of the process
  • Failure to illustrate a cause of action
  • Improper venue
  • A poorly written complaint

Some attorneys may file a motion to dismiss in a bid to get the entire complaint dismissed or to delay the process. The most common reason for filing a motion to dismiss is 'failure to state the cause of action.' According to Florida state laws, the pleader/plaintiff must state a cause of action with short and plain jurisdiction grounds. Otherwise, the defendant can file a motion to dismiss the case.

If the court confirms a motion to dismiss the case, it has deemed the allegations contained in the complaint true and doesn't examine beyond this. However, the court isn't obliged to accept claims that aren't consistent with the law.

Methods for Filing an Answer

Defendants filing pro se or without an attorney can e-file or mail their document to the Duval Clerk of Court.

If you want to e-file, you will do so here.

If you chose to mail your document, you can do so here:

Duval County Clerk of Courts
501 West Adams Street, Room 1209
Jacksonville, FL 32202

Duval County Clerk of Courts
501 West Adams Street, Room 1046

This detailed guide should help you file a civil answer with the Duval Clerk of Courts in Florida. Be sure to include all your defenses as it gives you a better chance of successfully pleading your case.

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

Get Started

>>Read the FastCompany article: Debt Lawsuits Are Complicated: This Website Makes Them Simpler To Navigate

>>Read the NPR story on SoloSuit: A Student Solution To Give Utah Debtors A Fighting Chance

How to Answer a Summons for debt collection in all 50 states

Here's a list of guides on how to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in each state:

The Ultimate 50 State Guide

Guides on how to resolve debt with every debt collector

Are you being sued by a debt collector? We’re making guides on how to resolve debt with each one.

Resolve your debt with your creditor

Some creditors, banks, and lenders have an internal collections department. If they come after you for a debt, Solosuit can still help you respond and resolve the debt. Here’s a list of guides on how to resolve debt with different creditors.

Settle your medical debt

Having a health challenge is stressful, but dealing medical debt on top of it is overwhelming. Here are some resources on how to manage medical debt.

Guides on arbitration

If the thought of going to court stresses you out, you’re not alone. Many Americans who are sued for credit card debt utilize a Motion to Compel Arbitration to push their case out of court and into arbitration.

Below are some resources on how to use an arbitration clause to your advantage and win a debt lawsuit.

Stop calls from debt collectors

Do you keep getting calls from an unknown number, only to realize that it’s a debt collector on the other line? If you’ve been called by any of the following numbers, chances are you have collectors coming after you, and we’ll tell you how to stop them.

Federal debt collection laws can protect you

Knowing your rights makes it easier to stand up for your rights. Below, we’ve compiled all our articles on federal debt collection laws that protect you from unfair practices.

Get debt relief in your state

We’ve created a specialized guide on how to find debt relief in all 50 states, complete with steps to take to find relief, state-specific resources, and more.

Debt collection laws in all 50 states

Debt collection laws vary by state, so we have compiled a guide to each state’s debt collection laws to make it easier for you to stand up for your rights—no matter where you live.

Statute of limitations on debt state guides

Like all debt collection laws, the statute of limitations on debt varies by state. So, we wrote a guide on each state’s statutes. Check it out below.

Statute of Limitations on Debt Collection by State (Best Guide)

Check the status of your court case

Don’t have time to go to your local courthouse to check the status of your case? We’ve created a guide on how to check the status of your case in every state, complete with online search tools and court directories.

How to stop wage garnishment in your state

Forgot to respond to your debt lawsuit? The judge may have ordered a default judgment against you, and with a default judgment, debt collectors can garnish your wages. Here are our guides on how to stop wage garnishment in all 50 states.

How to settle a debt in your state

Debt settlement is one of the most effective ways to resolve a debt and save money. We’ve created a guide on how to settle your debt in all 50 states. Find out how to settle in your state with a simple click and explore other debt settlement resources below.

How to settle with every debt collector

Not sure how to negotiate a debt settlement with a debt collector? We are creating guides to help you know how to start the settlement conversation and increase your chances of coming to an agreement with every debt collector.

Other debt settlement resources

Personal loan and debt relief reviews

We give a factual review of the following debt consolidation, debt settlement, and loan organizations and companies to help you make an informed decision before you take on a debt.

Civil law legal definitions

You can represent yourself in court. Save yourself the time and cost of finding an attorney, and use the following resources to understand legal definitions better and how they may apply to your case.

Get answers to these FAQs on debt collection

How-to debt guides

Learn more with these additional debt resources