If you are served with a complaint and summons, it will tell you that you need to answer within a certain amount of time. The person who started the court action is called the “plaintiff,” and the person who is responding is the “defendant.” An “answer” is a document you write to tell your side of the story to the plaintiff and to the court.
Read your summons carefully; it will tell you how much time you have to answer. Be sure you get your answer to the plaintiff and the court by that deadline.
There is no special court form for an answer. It is a document that you write yourself. You will need to have the complaint with you when you write the answer, because a lot of the information you need will be in the complaint.
Parts of the Answer
The answer must include the following:
This is the information at the top of the page. It should include:
- The name of the court. In this case, that is Probate and Family Court.
- The division of the court. This means the county where the complaint was filed. The complaint will tell you what division it is in.
- The docket number.
- The plaintiff’s name. This is the person who filed the complaint.
- The defendant’s name. This is you.
Look at the complaint and see what it is called, and then begin with “Answer to”. For example, if the complaint says “Complaint for Modification,” your title will be “Answer to Complaint for Modification.”
The list of answers to the statements in the complaint. See Writing and Sending Your Answer, below.
Your signature and date
Read the complaint carefully. This is what you are responding to.
The complaint is a list of statements. The paragraphs in the complaint should be numbered. When you write your answer, you will use the same numbers to write your answers. For each statement, your answer will say whether you agree with the statement (admit), disagree (deny), or don’t know about it.
You should have an answer for every one of the numbered statements in the complaint. When you have written all your responses, sign the answer and put the date.
Make a copy of the answer for the plaintiff.
Serving the Answer
Now you need to get a copy of your answer to the plaintiff. Usually, the Answer is mailed to the plaintiff. Make note of how you delivered the Answer to the plaintiff and the date. Be sure to send a copy of the Answer, and not the original. The original will go to the court.
Certificate of Service
The court needs to know that you delivered the Answer to the plaintiff. A “Certificate of Service” is a section at the end of your Answer that tells the court when and how you delivered the Answer to the plaintiff.
- At the end of your Answer, write a new title in the middle of the page that says “Certificate of Service.”
- Write a sentence or two to explain how you sent the Answer to the plaintiff. You should include your name, the name of the person to whom you sent the answer, when you sent it, how you sent it (Certified Mail, First Class Mail, hand-delivered, etc.) and the address you sent it to.
- Sign and date the Certificate of Service section.
- Make a copy of the Answer with the Certificate of Service.
After you have sent a copy of your Answer to the plaintiff and kept a copy for yourself, take the original signed Answer with the Certificate of Service to the court and give them to the clerk’s office. They will file them with the other documents for the case.