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What if I do not file an answer in District Court or Superior Court?

If you do not file an answer, the creditor will win the case by default.  Winning by default means that they win just because you did not show up.

If the creditor wins, the creditor will get a judgment for the amount of money the creditor asked for in the complaint.  A judgment is the court’s final decision. If the creditor gets a judgment, the court has decided that you owe the money to the creditor. 

If you do not file an answer, the court will not send you a reminder. The judge will decide you lose the case by default. You will receive a copy of the final judgment in the mail.

You can always get a copy of the judgment from the court where the case was filed. This is the court at the top of the summons.

Once the court has made a judgment, the creditor can ask for an ‘execution.’ An ‘execution’ is the paper a creditor can use to take your car and sell it to pay the debt.  The creditor can use the execution to take money from your bank account. This is called “garnishing”. The execution also means the creditor can put a lien on your home. A lien is a right to the cash value of your home. When your home is sold, you must pay the people who have put a lien on your home before you can pay yourself. A lien holder can foreclose on your home and sell it to get the judgment amount.  If you have a homestead, the lien holder cannot force the sale of your home.

If the creditor wants your employer to make regular payments from your paycheck, there will be another court hearing called Supplemental Process.

Produced by Mariah Jennings-Rampsi, South Coastal Counties Legal Services, with funding from American College of Bankruptcy Foundation
Created June 2012

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