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What court papers will I get?

Produced by Mariah Jennings-Rampsi, South Coastal Counties Legal Services, with funding from American College of Bankruptcy
Reviewed October 2019

If a creditor is taking you to court you should get a Summons and a complaint first. You may also later receive discovery requests or a subpoena.

A Summons — a summons is a paper that gives you information about your next steps at court.  It says:

  • the number of days you have to file an answer and
  • it may give you a date to go to court.

A Complaint — A complaint is a written statement that says that the plaintiff is suing you for a specific violation of the law. It lists the facts the plaintiff thinks prove they should win.  In debt collection cases, the complaint usually says that the creditor believes you broke a contact and you owe the creditor a specific amount of money. The complaint may also say that you owe attorney's fees, court costs, and interest on the amount of the unpaid bill. The name of the county and court where the lawsuit is filed are written on the complaint.

If the case is for a credit card or other "revolving debt" account, you should also get: 1

An Affidavit Regarding Debt — It must say:

(1)The name, position, and employer of the person signing the affidavit;

(2) The name of the current owner of the debt;

(3)The name of the original creditor, including the name under which the original creditor did business with you, if different;

(4)For debts from a credit card with a store, the name of the sponsoring or co-sponsoring retailer;

(5)The last four digits of the account number(s) from the original creditor;

(6)The amount and date of your last payment, or a that no payment has been made;

(7)The date of charge-off;

(8)The amount of the debt on the date of charge-off;

(9) Principal, interest, fees, or other charges and the method of calculating them, for the amount added after the charge-of;

(10) A listing in order of all prior owners of the debt and the date of each transfer of ownership, beginning with the original creditor; and

(11) That the person signing personally looked at the records enough to know these answers.

An Affidavit regarding Address Verification — An Affidavit describing the verification of your address, and the date of the verification.  They should have verified it within the last 3 months. If a database or municipal or state record shows more than one address for you during the last 12 months, the plaintiff must say why they picked the address they used. They must verify the address with one of these methods:

  • Mail from you with that return address;
  • Verification from you within the three-month period that the address is current;
  • A certified mail receipt signed by you with that address within the three-month period; or
  • Sending a letter by first-class mail to your address that has not been returned to sender by the postal service, and verifying the same address as current using a paid subscriber-based commercial online database and, if available, either a municipal record, such as a street list or tax records, or a state motor vehicle registry.

Documents showing the verification must be attached to the affidavit.

A Certification about Statute of Limitations — A certification from the collector or their lawyer that says:

  • If there is a choice of law or limitations provision, and, what it says;
  • The statute or other law establishing the limitations period, and
  • That the limitations period has not expired.

Affidavit and Documentation about the Debt— The Complaint must be filed with readable copies showing:

  • the existence, amount, and terms and conditions of the debt, including:
    • the document you got before the charge-off showing you took out the debt and the amount owed;
    • the terms and conditions of the debt;
    • the written document, if any, you signed showing you agreed to the terms and conditions of the debt. Or, documents showing your acceptance of such terms and conditions. This can be the most recent monthly statement showing a purchase, payment, or balance transfer you authorized before the charge-off date.
  • Every bill of sale, assignment, or other document changing the owner of the debt. They must mention you or your account number.

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