Answering a complaint
An answer is your response to the complaint or petition filed by the plaintiff. It sets forth your position on the claims made by the plaintiff and allows you to deny the claims.
You must file a written answer to the complaint admitting or denying, in part or in whole, the claims made by the plaintiff and set forth a legal defense. If you, the defendant, fail to respond or if the response is not received by the court before the due date, you may automatically lose the case without receiving the opportunity to present your case in court. The court may enter a default judgment (judgment entered against a party who has failed to answer or defend against a claim that has been brought by another party) against you, which the plaintiff can enforce by court order. Your property may be sold or wages garnished (set aside) to pay the judgment.
Your answer must be in writing and filed with the Clerk of Court either by mail or personal delivery, and you must mail a copy to the opposing party or to the attorney of the opposing party within the time permitted by law. If a party is represented by an attorney, you should not contact the party directly, but instead speak with the party's legal representative. Contacting the attorney of the opposing party does not substitute for a written answer to the complaint.
Usually, if the complaint was required to be verified (sworn to under oath), the answer must also be verified. You may need to research the time limitations on filing an answer with the court at your local county law library. A filed, stamped copy must then be provided or served on the opposing party.