How best to deal with a collection agency if they are suing you and you don’t have the money to pay?

I have been served a summons for credit card debt. My husband and I cannot afford another payment. I have been unemployed for over 15 years and my husband has been unemployed for most of the last 2 1/2 years. He is in construction where jobs are almost non-existent. We will be coming into some money early next year. Can settle then. Is this possible?

Asked on October 24, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Nevada


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

You will need to file an answer to the complaint (the complaint is the lawsuit attached to the summons) prior to the deadline stated in the summons.  You will need to file your answer to the complaint with the court and serve it by mail on the opposing party.  If you don't timely file your answer with the court and serve it on the opposing party, a default will be entered against you.  The judgment by default means that you will have lost the case.  If that happens, you will need to file a motion to set aside the default.  If the court grants your motion, the case is then back on track and litigation will continue.

At the law library, look for answer to complaint in the index of Pleading and Practice.  This will give you the general format for an answer to a complaint.  At the end of the answer is the verification which you sign and date under penalty of perjury.  The verification attests to the veracity of your statements in the answer.  The answer to the complaint denies the allegations in the complaint.  When you file your answer to the complaint with verification with the court, attach a proof of service.  The proof of service verifies the date of mailing your documents to the opposing party.  You can use a court form proof of service or you can write your own.  If you write your own proof of service, it just says that you are over eighteen and the attached documents were sent via first class mail unless stated otherwise to ___________ (name and address of opposing attorney) on _________ (date).  You sign and date the proof of service at the bottom.  The date you sign should be the same as the date of mailing and the same date you file your documents with the court.

As the case proceeds through litigation, you can try to settle it when you receive the money you mentioned in early 2012.  If the case isn't settled, and the credit card company gets a court judgment against you, you might want to consider filing bankruptcy.  Chapter 7 bankruptcy is straight liquidation which eliminates your debts.  It would be premature to file bankruptcy until there is a court judgment against you because you would not know the exact amount of the judgment.  If you file bankruptcy, you will need to list all of your creditors. 

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