Respond to a debt lawsuit

Once you decide to respond to a Complaint in a debt lawsuit, your first step is to fill out an Answer form. Filing an Answer to the Complaint forces the other side to prove their case with evidence.

Before you start

Be prepared for the time and effort of a lawsuit

To defend yourself, you'll need to learn about the law and follow court rules, even if you're not a lawyer. There are free legal resources to help.

A lawsuit is a drawn-out process (it may last as much as a year) that is fought primarily on paper, and only goes to court at the end. If you respond, but then ignore your next steps, you may lose your case and end up owing even more money.

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Expect to get legal documents in the mail. Once you file your Answer, watch for documents in the mail from the court and the other side (Plaintiff). If you ignore these or miss a deadline, you can lose your case. If you move, let the court and Plaintiff know your new address.

There is a deadline to file your Answer form


You must fill out an Answer, serve the other side's attorney, and file your Answer form with the court within 30 days.

If you don’t, the creditor can ask for a default. If there's a default, the court won't let you file an Answer and can decide the case without you.

If you received the Complaint more than 30 days ago, check with the court to find out the Plaintiff got a default. If there isn’t a default, you can still file an Answer.

How to fill out an Answer - Contract form

  • Figure out what defenses you can use in your case

    You need to include a defense in your Answer.  A defense is a legal reason that you don't have to pay the debt. You may have good reasons why you can't pay the money like you lost your job. But you need to find a legal reason, a defense.

    For example, a defense could be that the other side waited too long to sue you. Or, that they didn't give you credit for all the payments you made - they are suing you for more than you actually owe.

    The defenses you list in your Answer are only what you might use to defend yourself. The actual defenses you use will depend on the evidence you discover while preparing for your trial.

    Check the list of some defenses used in debt cases and see if any apply to your situation.

    Review list of defenses 

  • Fill out the form

    illustration of a paper form with signature

    Fill out the Answer — Contract (form PLD-C-010).  


    This form asks you to either identify what might be false in the Complaint and identify the defenses that you might raise. 

    Since you are the one defending against the lawsuit,  you’re called the Defendant. The creditor is the Plaintiff

    Fill out more forms, if you can't afford the filing fee. You’ll need to pay a fee ($225-$450) to the clerk when you file your forms. If you can’t afford the fee, you can ask for a fee waiver

  • Find out if there are any local forms to complete

    Some courts have additional local forms they require you to use.   

    Contact your court clerk’s office or check your court’s website to ask if they have any local forms you need to use. 

  • Make copies of your forms

    After you’ve filled out the forms and signed the Answer, make 3 copies of the form. 

Debt lawsuits

What's next

Once you’ve completed the forms and made copies, you’ll serve the Answer on the attorney for the creditor and file the original and copies with the court.

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