How to answer a civil court summons

Updated March 23, 2017

A civil court summons is a notice served on people letting them know that a complaint or petition has been filed against them. A civil court summons usually includes a date and time that the person upon whom the summons is served must appear in civil court, but that person is also allotted a certain amount of time to compose and file an answer to the summons to defend himself. You can answer a civil court summons yourself if you know the procedure to do so.

Read the complaint or petition that was filed against you carefully, and note the date and time that the summons orders you to appear in court.

Respond to the summons within the time frame allowed by your state by answering the issues addressed in the summons, defending yourself if necessary, and submit any documentation supporting your answer as attachments. Format your answer to the summons in a legal manner. Usually, your answer to the summons must be verified and signed before a notary public to be considered valid and official.

File your answer with the same court that issued the summons and petition against you. You will be required to pay a filing fee.

Serve the other party with a copy of your answer to the summons within the allowed time frame. You may deliver the copy yourself, or you may have it delivered to the other party via the sheriff, at an additional fee.


Consult an attorney for legal advice as to how you should answer the summons if you are unsure. Check with the laws of your state to find out how many days you are given to answer the summons, and serve your answer on the other party too, for some states have different requirements, and some requirements differ based upon the nature of the summons (e.g. evictions and small claims cases).


If you do not respond to the summons within the allowed time frame, a default judgment might be issued against you, which means that a judgment will be issued in the favour of the other party without you receiving a chance to defend yourself. Beware of not appearing in court upon a summons, for the judge could find in contempt of court if you do not and issue a warrant for your arrest.

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About the Author

Kayla Lowe has been a freelance writer since 2008. She writes for various online publications and is also the author of the book "Maiden's Blush," a Christian-fiction romance novel. Lowe is pursuing a degree in elementary education.