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The date you “get served” with the lawsuit establishes your deadline for filing your Answer.  This article will explain how to calculate your lawsuit answer date.

Justice Court – 14 Calendar Days

In Justice Court, also known as Small Claims Court or JP Court, your answer is due 14 calendar days after the date you were served.  If Day 14 falls on a weekend or on a day the courts are closed, then your answer date automatically goes forward to the next day the courts are open.

County and District Courts – 21-27 Days

In County or District Court, your answer is due 21-27 calendar days after the date you were served.  To determine your “Answer Date,” count forward 20 calendar days from the date you were served and then go to first Monday after that date.  If day 20 falls on a Sunday, your answer is due the next day: Monday, day 21.  If day 20 falls on a Monday, your answer is due the following Monday, day 27.  If the courts are closed on the day your answer is due, then your answer date automatically goes forward to the next day the courts are open.

What happens if I miss the deadline?

If you don’t file an Answer by your answer date, the plaintiff can get a default judgment entered against you at any point after your answer is due.

So if your answer is due Monday the 2nd, the plaintiff could conceivably get a default judgment entered against you on Tuesday the 3rd.  In practice, it rarely happens that quickly.  But it can, and on occasion, it does.

I missed my deadline.  Can I still file an Answer?

Yes.  As long as the plaintiff does not yet have a default judgment entered against you, you can file your answer, and, even though your answer is late, your answer still counts, and you still have the right to fight the lawsuit.

I have a default judgment.  Can I still file an Answer?

No.  If they already have a judgment against you, it is too late for you to file your Answer.  If you already have a judgment against you, your options are…

  1. File A Motion for New Trial, which is a request that the court re-open the lawsuit;
  2. Appeal the judgment; or
  3. Settle the judgment

The next article—“Can I Reopen My Lawsuit after I have a Judgment?”—will go over the deadlines and the processes and procedures for Motions for New Trials and Appeals.

Make sure to file your answer on time. 

The lesson here is that you need to make sure you file your answer on time.  If you don’t, you could get a judgment against you for the full amount of the debt, plus interest, court costs, and legal fees.

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