What Should I do if I Receive a Summons?

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  • Written By: Karyn Maier
  • Edited By: Jay Garcia
  • Last Modified Date: 10 November 2018
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If you have been served with a summons, it means that a creditor has initiated a court action against you to collect a debt. A summons actually consists of two parts: a summons and a complaint. The complaint outlines the accusations made against you and the summons is an order of the court directing you to appear to answer to the charges made in the complaint. Generally, these documents are referred to as a single action called Summons and Complaint.

Depending on the nature of the complaint, it may be in your best interest to consult with an attorney before you proceed. However, do not under any circumstances ignore the command to appear. This will almost certainly result in a default judgment being recorded against you. A creditor may present this judgment for execution, which means that the creditor will be able to place a lien against your bank accounts or real property. It may also subject you to an income execution from your paycheck.


When you are served with a summons, there will be a time period specified in which you are required to answer. If a Process Server served you in person, then you will usually have 20 days to answer. However, you will usually have 30 days to answer the summons if it was received by mail or any other method. Other methods include the command to appear being accepted by another resident of your household who is over the age of 18.

Answering a summons does not necessarily mean that you must make a personal appearance to the court. In fact, most of the time an answer may be made in writing and filed with the court within the specified time (20 or 30 days). Basically, an Answer is a written document that outlines your defenses against the accusations made in the complaint against you. This may consist of a general denial or include "affirmative defenses" and counterclaims, if applicable.

Your answer must be served upon the attorney for the Plaintiff (the creditor), if they are using one. This also constitutes service on the Plaintiff. At this time, you may also request that the attorney provide details about the alleged debt (and always word it as such!) by serving him or her with a list of questions called a Bill of Particulars.

There are also very specific guidelines to serving and filing your answer and other accompanying documents. First, serve a copy of your Answer on the Plaintiff or their attorney by mail or process server. Then, file the original Answer with the court, together with an Affidavit of Service. This paper documents how and when the Plaintiff was served and must be signed by you before a Notary Public. Finally, when you file the original Answer and Affidavit of Service with the court, ask the clerk to date stamp a copy of each for your records.


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Discuss this Article

Post 9

@anon943698: It is a scam. Ignore it, delete it from your email and block the sender. Courts in the United States *only* use the U.S. Mail or a live person to serve a summons. They do *not* send emails. Ever. Period.

I'm not sure what these scammers are trying to accomplish, but it's a complete scam. Delete the message and block the sender.

Post 8

This is very strange. I received an email to be summoned to court in Glendale CA, United States. The email would not allow a response and I'm not sure it's valid, but I want to check up, but don't know how. There were no attachments to that email.

I believe that I am being scammed. What do I do next? Here is a copy of that email.


Notice of appearance,

Hereby you are notified that you have been scheduled to appear for your hearing that will take place in the court of Glendale in May 02, 2014 at 11:45 am.

Please, kindly prepare and bring the documents related to this case to court on the date mentioned above.

The copy of the court notice is attached to this letter. Please, read it thoroughly. Note: The case may be heard by the judge in your absence if you do not come.

Yours very truly,


Clerk of court

Post 7

I was in debt and applied for administration. After a while due to non payment, the administration company started taking money from my salary. I left that employer and since then have not paid them. A month ago. I was contacted by an attorney wanting to serve me with summons.

I have paid most of the debt I had asked them to administer for me for me but now I must still pay them. This is so frustrating, I don't know what to do.

Post 5

I have was in an accident about 18 months ago. Yesterday, I received a summons from someone saying I owe them R13,000 for damages. The police cleared me and the insurance paid. By the way, it's a company vehicle and I was on the clock. It was just a small fender bender.

I just want to know why they sent me the summons and not the company and why after almost two years? I went to my previous company and asked them to reply to the summons. Any advice?

Post 4

@Sierra02 - The odds are against you this late in the game. Credit card companies are aggressive. They just want their money back. But don’t despair a summons to court isn't the end of the world. Just answer the summons and you'll be fine. Honesty is the best policy.

Post 3

@Sierra02 - You might not have to go to court. You should contact the credit card company in writing and let them know your situation and what you’re able to do. Send it certified and send another copy to the court with your answer. The important thing is that you answer the summons. The judge might come to an agreement just from your response. You probably will owe more than the original debt but at least there’s a better chance you won’t have to go to court.

Post 2

I was making payments for 2 years on an old credit card debt when I lost my job and I couldn’t make the payments anymore. I’m working now and was going to start making payments again. Then I got this court summons in the mail. They added on interests, penalties, court fees, etc. so now I owe twice as much as the original debt. This is ridiculous. Is there anything I can do? I don’t want to go to court but I do want to end this nightmare.

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