Too often I meet with people that have either ignored the fact that have been sued by one of their creditors or even more troubling- aren’t even aware that there is lawsuit is pending against them.
Either way the end result is usually a default judgment. And that is just the beginning of the pain…however it is all avoidable. Default judgments are entered after a party is served with a debt collection lawsuit and then fails to file a written response known as an Answer.
20 Days to File Your Answer
In Arizona, after you are served with the Summons and Complaint of your debt collection lawsuit you have twenty (20) calendar days to file a written Answer to the allegations of the plaintiff/creditor. If you don’t file an Answer within twenty (20) days you run the risk of a default judgment.
However, in Arizona, if you don’t file your Answer within the initial twenty (20) days you still have a chance to avoid a default judgment.
The Application for Entry of Default
Arizona law provides for a two-step process to obtain a default judgment. First, if the twenty days goes by with no Answer the creditor can file a document entitled “Application for Entry of Default”. The creditor is required to mail this document to you. This is the court’s way of saying “are you sure you don’t want to respond to the lawsuit, because if you don’t bad things can happen”.
If you file an Answer with the court within ten (10) calendar days from the date that the Application for Entry of Default was filed with the court then the case will proceed as normal and the debt collector will be required to prove their case.
However, if you don’t file your Answer with the court within ten days then a default is entered automatically by the clerk and you have then lost the right to deny the allegations of the debt collector.
But the debt collector still doesn’t have a default judgment…
The Motion for Default Judgment
If the clerk enters a default against you because you haven’t filed an Answer by this stage, then the next step is the debt collector will need to file a Motion for Default Judgment.
The purpose of the Motion for Default Judgment is for the debt collector to prove to the court that it is actually entitled to judgment. However in almost all debt collection cases if you don’t file an Answer the court is going to enter a default against you – no questions asked.
Further, in Arizona the legislature thought it would be a good idea to change the law to make it easier for debt collectors to prove their cases in default proceedings. Arizona law requires very little proof on the part of the debt collector to establish that they are entitled to judgment.
Basically if you don’t respond, you don’t have a prayer.
Avoid a Default Judgment by Filing an Answer
The good news is you can avoid a default judgment by simply filing an Answer with the court. The Answer is nothing more than your response to the allegations of the debt collector. In fact, it is easier than it sounds – all you have to do is either admit or deny the allegations of the debt collector – you don’t even need to tell your side of the story at this stage.
Default proceedings in Arizona give you a little more wiggle room than most states – don’t waste the opportunity to fight back against the debt collectors.