Basic Steps in Drafting and Filing an Answer


When drafting and filing an Answer in a civil court case, it's important to follow the specific rules and guidelines set forth by the jurisdiction in which the case is filed. Here's a helpful guide on how to proceed:


Review the Complaint: Carefully read the Complaint to understand the claims against you. Note any deadlines by which you must respond.


Check Court Rules: Familiarize yourself with the local court rules which will provide the specific requirements for drafting an Answer, such as formatting, required information, and the method of filing.


Drafting the Answer:


  • Caption and Title: Start with the caption that includes the court name, case number, and parties' names, similar to the Complaint. Title your document "Answer."
  • Admissions and Denials: Respond to each paragraph of the Complaint by admitting, denying, or stating that you lack sufficient information to admit or deny the claims.
  • Affirmative Defenses: List any affirmative defenses you have, which are legal reasons why the plaintiff should not prevail even if their claims are true.
  • Counterclaims: Include any counterclaims if you believe the plaintiff owes you damages for related or unrelated issues.


Sign the Answer: Sign the Answer and include your contact information. If represented by an attorney, they will sign it.


 Filing the Answer:


  • Method of Filing: Determine if the court accepts electronic filing (e-filing), mail, or in-person delivery. Comply with the preferred or required method.
  • Service: Serve a copy of the Answer on the plaintiff or their attorney. This can usually be done by mail, but electronic service may be available or required in some jurisdictions.
  • Proof of Service: File a Proof of Service with the court, which is a document stating how and when you served the Answer on the plaintiff.


Filing Fee: Check if there is a filing fee required to submit your Answer. If you cannot afford the fee, you may be able to apply for a fee waiver.


Conformity Certificate: Some courts require a conformity certificate, which states that the filed documents are true and correct copies of what was served.


File the Answer with the Court: Submit the Answer along with any required filing fees, Proof of Service, and other necessary documents to the court clerk within the deadline (typically 20 to 30 days after service of the Complaint).


Keep Records: Retain a copy of the filed Answer and all other documents for your records.


Follow-Up: Monitor the case for any notifications or additional filings. Be prepared to engage in the discovery process or attend court hearings as necessary.


Remember, it's crucial to respond to each part of the Complaint accurately and completely, as failure to do so may result in a default judgment against you. 


For more on drafting and filing an Answer – and to develop the fundamental skills that help ensure an effective Answer – check out the Self Rep Edge Video Series and Civil Litigation Workbook.