How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Alabama

George Simons

September 22, 2019

How to Answer a Summons for Debt Collection in Alabama (2019 Guide)

Getting sued for a debt is just the worst. This article will make the process a little bit easier and tell you how to answer a summons for debt collection in Alabama.

Below, you’ll find helpful topics on how to answer a summons for debt collection in the Heart of Dixie. This list includes information specific to filing in Alabama, like state deadlines and forms.

Alabama Deadline for Answering a Debt Collection Summons

Small Claims Court – 14 Days

District Court – 14 Days

Circuit Court – 30 Days

Alabama Answer to Summons Forms

Defendant's Answer Form

Civil Forms

Small Claims Forms

E-file

Steps to Respond to a Debt Collection Case in Alabama

You know you’re being sued for a debt if you receive a document in the mail saying you’re being sued for a debt. This document is called a Summons and Complaint. Normally, you only have 14 days to do respond to the complaint. You can respond with either an Answer document or a Motion; usually, you’ll want to respond with an Answer document.

There are four steps to respond to a complaint.

  • Answer each issue of the complaint
  • Assert affirmative defenses
  • File the answer with the court and serve the plaintiff with answer

Let’s take a look at each one.

(Here’s the official Alabama court site.)

1. Answer each issue of the Complaint.

Answering a Complaint will most likely seem very intimidating, but the process is really quite simple. All you need to do is read the complaint carefully and then decide how you want to respond to each numbered paragraph. You can respond in one of three ways:

  • Agree
  • Disagree
  • I don’t know

Just choose one of these answers and write it into your Answer. If you choose “disagree” you can explain why you disagree.

Alabama’s form linked above, provides a simplified approach, where can simply agree to all, disagree with all, or agree that owe some debt but not all of it.

2. Assert affirmative defenses.

“Assert affirmative defenses” means give reasons for why you shouldn’t lose the lawsuit or why you don’t owe the debt. These defenses are written into your Answer.

Here are some of the more common defenses we see:

  • The account with the debt is not your account
  • The contract was already canceled. Therefore you don’t owe the creditor anything.
  • The statute of limitations has expired. A statute of limitations is a law that sets a deadline on an action. In this case, the statute of limitations sets the deadline at 6 years, so you can’t be sued for a debt based on a contract from six years ago.
  • The debt has been paid or excused.
  • The debt has been partially paid.
  • You were a co-signer but were not informed of your rights as a co-signer.

These are a few of the many affirmative defenses. Being unable to pay the debt is not a legal defense to the debt.

(Here’s the official section of code establishing affirmative defenses.)

3. File the answer with the court and serve the plaintiff.

Somewhat surprisingly, this is oftentimes the hardest part of the process: actually getting your Answer to the courts. Alabama courts require defendant debtors who don’t have an attorney to file the answer by mail or in person. So here’s what you need to do:

  • Print two copies of your Answer
  • Mail one copy to the court
  • Mail the other copy to the plaintiff’s attorney.

The address for both should be in the Summons and Complaint you received in the mail. The attorney’s address should be on the top left of the first page. The court’s address should be in the first two paragraphs.

There is no fee for filing an Answer. The Answer needs to arrive at the court before the 14-day deadline.