You should respond to a court summons for credit card debt by first trying to settle the issue with your creditor and then by fighting the lawsuit in court if you’re unable to come to an agreement. The worst thing you can do is ignore the summons. It’s not going to go away, and pretending it doesn’t exist will just result in the court ruling against you, ordering you to repay the full amount your creditor says you owe.
If you don’t know why you received a court summons for credit card debt, contact the debt collector that filed suit and ask for documentation proving you owe the amount in question. This will give you more information to go on, and if the debt collector doesn’t have the necessary paperwork, the suit could go away.
In general, receiving a summons for credit card debt means you’re at least 180 days behind on payment. Creditors can sue earlier than that, but they rarely will. At the 180-day mark, your credit score will have already taken a hit, and there could be more to come. Court judgments are included on credit reports, after all. So the right response is key. And since the whole situation can be a lot to handle, we’ll summarize the next steps you should take below.
Here’s how to respond to a court summons for credit card debt:
- Don’t ignore it. If you do this, the court will simply rule in the issuer or debt collector’s favor. And they may be able to garnish your paycheck or bank account to get the money they’re due.
- Try to work things out. Call up your issuer or debt collector (if your debt has been sold to a collections agency). Explain that you can’t afford the full amount due but are willing to pay some of it. You might be able to strike a deal, like paying less overall but all at once, and avoid court.
- Answer the summons. If you can’t come to an agreement, you’ll need to answer the summons. You’ll need to do this within 20-30 days of receiving it, depending on the court. It will have a number of claims about your debt on it, to which you must agree, disagree or partially agree/express that you’re not sure. This is like pleading “guilty” or “not guilty,” except the charges aren’t criminal. When you disagree, you need to write out an explanation. For example, “the statute of limitations has passed” or “I have already paid this amount.” It would be a good idea to talk to an attorney before writing your response.
- Consult an attorney. It’s always a good idea to have the advice of a professional on your side. You may be able to get a free consultation from a lawyer.
- Go to court. When the issuer or collections agency brings the claim against you, ask for proof. If they don’t have all the proper documentation, the court may reject their claim. You should also ask if the statute of limitations has expired; if it has, you won’t owe any money.
- Respond to the ruling. The court may dismiss the suit, grant the issuer part of the amount, or grant the full amount. If the court rules in favor of the issuer, there are a few things you can do. You can try once more to settle the debt, just pay the amount you owe, or contest the ruling. You could also declare bankruptcy, but that’s a last-ditch option.
In all, you need to make sure you respond to a summons in a timely manner, and it’s a good idea to try to settle so you won’t pay as much. And with any future debts, having frequent communication with the issuer and trying to work out repayment plans may help avoid more lawsuits.