There are five steps to respond to a lawsuit.

1. Gather information

2. Respond to what is said about you

3. Tell your story

4. Generate your response

5. File the response with the court and send a copy to the lawyer suing you


Nobody wants to get sued for a debt. It’s stressful and can feel really scary to think about trying to respond on your own. Chances are, hiring an attorney to help you out is off the table, because if you had money to pay an attorney you could have just paid off your debt in the first place! As it stands, you’ve probably already been working as hard as you can to make ends meet. So to have a lawsuit looming in front of you on top of all of your regular challenges can understandably feel overwhelming. In fact, it may feel really tempting to just ignore it and hope it goes away.

This is exactly what the party filing the lawsuit (or “plaintiff”) is banking on. See, the party filing the lawsuit is either your creditor (someone you owe money to) or more likely a third party who purchased your delinquent debt (more on this later.) And they know that if you don’t respond to the lawsuit within a specific time period, then the Court will file something called a “default judgment,” which means that the filing party wins the case simply because of your inaction.

Once the plaintiff has a court order from the default judgment they have more power to collect the debt, most often by garnishing your paycheck or tax refund. So, not only have they won the case against you, now they get to collect on their terms, not yours.

Now that you understand their strategy, let’s use it against them. The best move you can make on your behalf is to strike back right away by responding to their debt collection lawsuit. That will make them attend a hearing and pay their attorneys, both of which they wanted to avoid by intimidating you into not responding.

The good news is that the process of responding to a debt lawsuit is likely easier than you thought. This article will walk you through that process to show you how to answer a summons for debt collection in Missouri.

Missouri Deadline for Answering a Debt Collection Summons
Under Missouri debt collection laws you have 30 days to file an Answer after being served with a Summons and Complaint. Let’s take a moment to define some terms that may be unfamiliar. The Summons and Complaint are the documents that start a lawsuit. The Complaint sets forth the allegations against you, such as you owing the debt and the amount of the debt.

These documents will be dated with the filing date stamped on the documents, as well as a dated certificate of service which states when you were served (either or in person or via mail) with the documents. This is the date that you need to start from when determining how long you have to respond.

There are a few important details to keep in mind here.

These deadlines are strict and will be enforced by the Court.
The clock begins as soon as you are served (officially receive notice of the lawsuit.)
The 30 day response period includes days that the Court is not open, such as weekends or federal holidays. If the 30th day falls on a date that the Court is closed, you will have until the next business day to file your Answer.
Knowing all of this, however, we strongly recommend that you aim to submit your Answer (official response to the Complaint) well before the end of the 30 day time period.


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