Unpaid credit card debt can come back to haunt you in the form of a lawsuit. Credit card companies frequently transfer delinquent accounts to debt collectors, who can then file lawsuits against the debtors. If a creditor sues you, you will receive a court summons that officially notifies you of the lawsuit and a complaint that details the creditor's reason for filing the suit. In most states, you have less than 30 days to file an answer to the suit with the court.
Things You'll Need
- Answer form
- Documentation of defense
Read the summons and mark the date and time of the court hearing on your calendar. Unless filing an answer with the court results in your creditor dropping its lawsuit, you will still need to appear before the judge at the hearing and explain your defense.
Read the complaint. Evaluate how much money the creditor is requesting and if the debt belongs to you. It's best to answer the summons with a valid defense, as this increases the chances that your creditor will drop the case.
Visit the county clerk's office and request an answer form. Every court district uses a different answer form, but a standard form includes all of the information about the pending lawsuit and any defenses that apply to your situation. Some court answer forms also give you the option to "verify" the debt by admitting to it. This results in a forfeiture of the lawsuit, and the creditor wins the case by default.
Fill out the form and return it to the county clerk's office.
Compile any documentation you have that supports your defense. Depending on the grounds under which you are contesting the lawsuit, this may include financial records, an identity theft report or a copy of your credit file showing the date of the original debt.
Show up in court for the scheduled hearing. Present your defense, and any supporting documentation you have, to the judge. The judge will then make a ruling based on your evidence and the evidence, if any, supplied by the plaintiff.
Tips & Warnings
- Even if you legitimately owe the debt, that doesn't strip you of the right to present a defense to the court.
- You have the right to hire an attorney to defend you in court.
- If you do not file an answer with the court, the creditor wins by default and can then place a real estate lien on your property or garnish your wages and bank accounts.
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