How to Format an Answer Letter for a Civil Summons

Read the Summons before writing an answer.
••• Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images

When a party decides to sue you, he must write a complaint or summons outlining the reasons for the suit. You typically have 28 days to respond to avoid a default judgment. In a default judgment, a judge automatically rules in favor of the opposing party because you didn’t file a response known as an Answer. Preparing a written Answer entails writing a letter to the judge. In the letter, you’re explaining your reasons why you should win the lawsuit. Writing an Anwer letter isn’t hard work, but it isn’t as simple as composing a letter or email as you would to a friend.

Step 1

Provide the name of the court at the top of the Answer. You can find the information on the summons. Write the entire address just like it is on the complaint.

Step 2

List the name of the plaintiff on the left side. Place a “v” on the next line, then write your name -- you’re the defendant.

Step 3

Write the case number on the right side of the Answer. You can find the number on the Summons.

Step 4

Address the Judge and discuss your side of the case. For example, start with “Your Honor….” You can either admit or deny any part of the summons. When you deny the plaintiff’s statements, briefly talk about why it’s not true.

Step 5

Ask the judge to dismiss the case. Print your information such as name, address and telephone number. Underneath your printed name, sign you name.


  • You may have to make additional copies of your Answer if more than party is suing you. For example, if two people are suing you, you must send separate copies of the Answer to both parties. If you decide to counter-sue the plaintiff, you have to create a complaint and pay a filing fee. Legal matters can be quite complex and often have serious, long-term consequences. Consider hiring an attorney to defend you, especially if the plaintiff is being represented by a lawyer.


  • Before you send your Answer to the clerk of courts, make three copies. You want to keep the original and additional copy. Provide a copy to the plaintiff and to the clerk. The clerk may want you to attach a separate document with your Answer. On the document, write a brief statement. Include the date you plan to mail the Answer to the plaintiff. Also specify how you will mail the letter. For example, if you mailed it via first class mail, you’d write: “A copy of the Answer was sent via first class mail on (date).” You don’t have to pay to file your complaint.

Related Articles