What to do if I received a summons and a complaint for a debt but I just recently got laid off?

I’ve laid off for 3 months, I’m going to be receiving unemployment but between our car and other bills we have $650 going out each month. That isn’t including rent and utilities. I have two little ones that I have to make sure are fed and have a roof over their heads. I’m not denying we owe them money but is there anyway to postpone the payments until I go back to work?

Asked on September 19, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Ohio


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

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

You will need to file an answer to the complaint with the court and serve a copy by mail on the opposng party's attorney or  the opposing party if no attorney within the time set forth in the summons.  If you don't timely file your answer to the complaint, the opposing party will obtain a default judgment against you.  A default judgment means you will have lost.  If that happens, you will need to file a motion to set aside the default.  If the judge grants your motion, the case will be back on track and litigation will continue.

By filing a timely answer to the complaint, you can proceed with litigation and delay the other party obtaining a judgment against you which means postponing payment until there is a judgment against you.

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 to the complaint is the verification which you sign and date under penalty of perjury attesting to the veracity of your statements in the answer.  An answer to a complaint denies the allegations in the complaint.  File your answer to the complaint with verification and a proof of service with the court and serve a copy by mail on the opposing party's attorney or opposing party if no attorney.  You can either 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 at least eighteen years of age and the attached documents were sent via first class mail unless stated otherwise to __________ (name and address of opposing party's attorney or opposing party if no attorney) on _______ (date).  You sign and date 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 mentioned above, by pursuing litigation, you will postpone the other party obtaining  a judgment against you and the time for making your payment.  If the other party eventually obtains a judgment against you which you cannot afford to pay, you might want to consider filing bankruptcy.  Chapter 7 bankruptcy is straight liquidation which eliminates certain types of debts.  If you are not elegible to file Chapter 7, you can file Chapter 13 bankruptcy; however, Chapter 13 requires a plan (budget) for repayment of creditors. 

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