Instructions for Handling a Summons & Complaint

By Maggie Lourdes

When a person is sued, he is served with a summons and complaint. A summons is a court form that provides basic information about a particular case or legal matter. For example, it provides the court's address and the names of all parties in the lawsuit. It also details how many days a defendant has to file an answer with the court. The complaint describes the actual lawsuit. It states the facts involved in the dispute and legal grounds for the litigation.

When a person is sued, he is served with a summons and complaint. A summons is a court form that provides basic information about a particular case or legal matter. For example, it provides the court's address and the names of all parties in the lawsuit. It also details how many days a defendant has to file an answer with the court. The complaint describes the actual lawsuit. It states the facts involved in the dispute and legal grounds for the litigation.

Evaluate the Claims

Anyone served with a summons and complaint should carefully evaluate both documents. The summons gives important information regarding the court, its filing deadlines and required appearance dates. It also states general facts about your legal rights. For example, it may provide information about available assistance at the courthouse for disabled litigants. The complaint provides the legal basis and facts surrounding the actual dispute. It names all parties being sued and details the allegations and claims.

Get help changing your legal name. Learn More

Decide if You Need Legal Help

Many people choose to represent themselves in court. For example, generally, small claims cases are litigated without the assistance of lawyers. Reputable, third-party legal websites offer valuable information on legal topics that may assist with simple lawsuits. However, if a lawsuit is complicated or hotly-contested, consulting with a lawyer is a wise. Lawsuits are serious matters and it's important to take reasonable, legal steps to protect your rights.

Answer the Lawsuit

An answer to a lawsuit must be filed with the court and sent to all litigants. You can speak to a court clerk to ensure compliance with filing and service procedures. Generally, a caption appears on the first page of an answer. It states information such as the identity of the court involved, the assigned judge, parties in the case and court docket number. Each individual allegation in the lawsuit must be admitted or denied. Sometimes you can state you do not have sufficient information to admit or deny a specific allegation.

Counterclaims

Sometimes you may have grievances against the person who is suing you. For example, Jane is sued by her neighbor for backing into his car and denting its hood. However, the car was illegally parked. Jane believes her neighbor should pay for the damage her car received in the collision. Thus, she may countersue him, which means both parties are now suing one another. Counterclaims are generally filed with your answer to the original lawsuit.

Appear in Court

If you're a party to a lawsuit, you must appear in court on all scheduled dates. The summons notes any initial requirements to appear. The court may also schedule subsequent appearance dates as the lawsuit proceeds. If an emergency arises that prevents your appearance, the court should be notified immediately. A judge must grant permission to reschedule a court date.

Get help changing your legal name. Learn More
How to File an Answer to a Summons for Visitation

References

Related articles

What Is the Contested Divorce Process in Alabama?

If you are contemplating filing for divorce or have been served papers in a contested divorce in the state of Alabama, you will need to become familiar with the process. A contested divorce can be one in which one spouse opposes the divorce, or it can be a case in which the couple can't agree on all of the terms and conditions, such as property settlement and child custody, upon which they are to dissolve the marriage. Contested divorces are generally more time-consuming, complicated and expensive than uncontested ones.

Documents Needed for the Respondents in a Divorce Summons

Receiving notice that your spouse filed for divorce can be a stressful experience. Most states require that the filing spouse have the other spouse personally served with the divorce paperwork, which typically includes both a summons and complaint. These documents provide a basic outline of the case and explain your initial responsibilities. Knowing how and when you must respond to this paperwork will help ensure your full participation in all aspects of the divorce process.

How to Sue an LLC

You can file suit against a limited liability corporation, or LLC, just as you might file suit against an individual person, a corporation, or any other legal entity. Suing an LLC involves filing an initial complaint in court. Because lawsuits can become complicated, you may wish to consult with an experienced attorney, who can either help you with the process or help you decide whether it's advisable to go it alone.

Doing the right thing has never been easier.

Related articles

In Divorce, What Does It Mean to Have an Answer Filed?

You just received a complaint, or petition, for divorce from your spouse. Now you need to file an answer to the ...

Is a Divorce a Lawsuit?

Even an uncontested divorce is technically a lawsuit. You and your spouse may agree to a divorce settlement, but you ...

Can a Notary Make a Power of Attorney Document?

A notary, also called a notary public, serves an important function in verifying the authenticity of legal documents ...

How to Respond to a Divorce Complaint

You must respond to a divorce complaint to preserve your rights and have a voice in the proceedings. If you don't ...

Browse by category