I have been sued for a credit card debt. What do I need to do?
When you are served with a lawsuit, you will have 20 days from the date you were served to file an Answer. An Answer is a written response to the papers the debt collector filed. If the case is filed in Small Claims, you should receive an Answer form with the paperwork. Small Claims is for cases where the claim for money is $6,500 or less. Even if you don’t get a form, you will need to file a response to the claim.
If you get a form, you can agree or deny the claim. If you want to be heard in court on the matter, you should deny the claim that is asked for in the debt collector’s court papers. If you deny it and the case is in Small Claims court, the court will set the matter for hearing. To be heard, you must appear at the court hearing. If you do not appear, the court will find against you by default. If the case is in district court (claims must be for more than $6,500), the debt collector may file other documents in court or send you requests for information. You will need to respond to these documents and show up in court, or the court may find against you by default.
How do I file documents in my case?
Iowa is an electronic filing state. The Iowa court’s e-filing system is called “EDMS”. The EDMS website is located at https://www.iowacourts.state.ia.us/Efile/reg?pageAction=Logout. In order to sign up for EDMS you need to go to the website and register a username and password. Once you have registered for EDMS, any time a document is filed in your case you will receive an email notification. You can go to the EDMS website to view the document. You can also file documents in the case.
Some people don’t have internet access or computer skills necessary to use EDMS. If you are unable to use EDMS then you can go to the clerk’s office in the county where your case is filed and tell the clerk, you need to file a motion for exemption from EDMS. The clerk should provide you with a paper motion for exemption from EDMS that you will need to complete by hand. You will need to explain in the motion why you are unable to use EDMS. The motion will then be reviewed by either a judge or a person designated by the clerk. If the motion is granted, then you can file your Answer and other documents by paper with the clerk and the debt collector will be required to mail any documents they file in the case to you.
Are there any defenses to a debt collection lawsuit?
Debt collectors need to show more than your name and address and a dollar amount you owe. The debt collector probably needs to show how it came to own the debt, how the amount owed was calculated, that the required written notices were given to you and the debt isn’t too old to collect.
You should have received a “notice to cure” before the lawsuit was filed. It would tell you how much you owe to bring the debt current. If you haven’t received a notice, that could be a defense to the lawsuit.
Review the amount they are suing you for. If you have receipts or record of payments, check to see if those amounts were credited against your debt. Bring proof of payments to court if you believe the creditor has missed some payments.
Lawsuits have to be started on most debts within 10 years.
You may also be able to countersue the debt collector for harassment or not being truthful in connection with collecting the debt, or other illegal behavior. Remember at this stage of the case the issue is the amount of money (if any) that you owe the debt collector, not whether you can afford to pay.
I have credit card debt but have not been sued. Can a debt collector start taking money from me right away?
Usually, no. In most cases of consumer debt, a debt collector cannot even consider taking a debtor’s money until they file a case in court and provide notice to the debtor. If the debtor denies the allegations in the lawsuit, then the debt collector will have to put on evidence to prove they should win the case against the debtor. If a judge finds in favor of the debt collector, a court order is issued, called a “judgment.” The judgment tells the debtor that a certain amount of money is owed to the debt collector. It also allows the debt collector to recover the money from the debtor.
One exception to this is if a debtor owes a bank where he also has a bank account. The bank can in many cases take the money in the account to pay the debt.
The debt collector can ask you to make a payment arrangement with their company. You can agree to this prior to the debt collector filing in court, but only if you choose to do so. There is no enforceable obligation to pay until the court has issued a judgment against you.