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What Should I Do If I Get Court Papers?

Information

Most people are afraid when they get court papers. Here is some advice on the court system and what to do if you get court papers.

I got a notice someone is suing me in court. What should I do?

  • Read the notice.
  • Write down the date that you received the papers.
  • Count on a calendar to the date of your deadline and mark it on the calendar.
  • To protect your rights, you must take action.

What if I don't do anything after getting the court papers?

  • The problem will not work itself out or go away.
  • If the case is an eviction, you don't have to file an Answer; you have to go to court. If you do not go to the hearing, you will be evicted.
  • In some types of cases, you may get 10 more days to file an Answer after the deadline to file an Answer passes. This depends on the type of case you have.
  • If you do not file anything in the 10 days, the court can give the other party a judgment against you.

How do I respond to the court papers I got?

  • You should take action by filing an Answer, a formal reply to a lawsuit against you.
  • If there is an Answer form included, use that form. To fill out the Answer, look at the Petition.
  • In some cases, the Petition has numbered paragraphs. Sometimes it will just be one paragraph.
  • In your Answer, you have three choices: agree with, disagree with, or don't know whether to agree or disagree with the paragraphs.
  • For each numbered paragraph or for the one paragraph, you need to say whether you agree, disagree, or don't know whether to agree with the paragraphs.
  • You can also tell the court what you want the outcome of the case to be.

Where do I file the Answer?

  • Clerk of Court - in the county courthouse where the lawsuit was filed.
  • Send a copy of the Answer to the person who filed the lawsuit - to the attorney if there is one, if not, then to the individual.

What do I do after I have filed the Answer?

  • Wait to hear from the court or the other side.
  • The court will give you instructions on hearing dates, classes you must take, or deadlines in your case.
  • Use this time to gather any witnesses or paperwork that will help your case.
  • You may get more papers from the court or the other side after the case is filed.
  • Do not ignore these papers. Read them and find out what they want.
  • Legal Terms:
  • "Discovery" is a way to make a side give information about the case before trial.
  • "Deposition" is when a party has to answer questions under oath that are recorded.
  • "Request for admission," the party has to say whether they agree with the statements. Pay attention to a request for admission.
  • If you do not answer in time, the court assumes all the statements are true.

How do I prove my side of the story?

  • You can tell your side of the case at the trial.
  • You can bring witnesses with you who can testify for you.
  • You can bring any paperwork that may help your case.

Where can I go for help with my case?

  • If you get court papers and need legal advice, you may be able to get help from Iowa Legal Aid.
  • Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans.
  • Income and assets limits apply.
  • Iowa Legal Aid only helps with certain types of civil cases.
  •  To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid, call 1-800-532-1275.
  • Iowa Legal Aid's website has information at www.iowalegalaid.org.
  • If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, you may find an attorney on "Find a Lawyer" on the Iowa State Bar Association website, www.iowabar.org
  • A lawyer from Find-A-Lawyer will talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes. Anything beyond that has to be worked out with the lawyer.

Iowa Legal Aid provides help to low-income Iowans. 

To apply for help from Iowa Legal Aid:

  • Call 800-532-1275. 
  • Iowans age 60 and over, call 800-992-8161.
  • Apply online at iowalegalaid.org

If Iowa Legal Aid cannot help, look for an attorney on “Find A Lawyer”   A private attorney there can talk with you for a fee of $25 for 30 minutes of legal advice.

*As you read this information, remember this article is not a substitute for legal advice.

Last Review and Update: Jun 25, 2019
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