You may wonder what to do next after receiving court documents for an unpaid debt in Vermont. First, you should take action, pay attention to the lawsuit, and wait until the last minute.
Debt collection lawsuits can be either small claims or regular Civil Division cases, depending on the amount of money owed. Small claims court handles debts of $5,000 or less, while ordinary Civil Division deals with anything above that amount.
There are different types of civil courts, each with its own rules and procedures. Small claims court is one type where the process of responding to a lawsuit differs from other courts. In small claims court, there is an Answer form provided by the court, and the deadline for filing the Answer is different. Knowing which type of court your case is in is essential so that you can follow the correct procedures.
When you’re involved in a small claims case in Vermont, it’s essential to know the ins and outs of the process. This guide will break down everything you need about fees, deadlines, forms, and how to win your case. We also have a guide that covers responding to a Vermont case in a regular civil court.
In Vermont, what is a small claims case?
Vermont small claims court is ideal for resolving disputes involving claims of $5,000 or less. This court offers a convenient and efficient way to settle such conflicts without requiring costly and time-consuming litigation.
You should know a few things about creditors and debt collectors suing people in Vermont’s more minor, less formal court system known as the “claims court.” This type of court is designed to be cheaper and more straightforward than regular civil courts, but the process could be more explicit. Here’s what you need to keep in mind.
- Vermont small claims cases have a $5,000 limit.
- Vermont small claims cases only involve suits for money.
- Vermont small claims cases only handle straightforward claims.
- Vermont small claims cases do not include a trial by jury.
The first step to winning your Vermont small claims court case is to respond with a written Answer. However, before we explore how a small claims case is started, let’s look at the different ways you can prepare for your case.
What is the process of a Vermont small claims case?
To file a small claims case, the plaintiff must first file a Summons and Complaint with the court. The Summons and Complaint must also be sent to the defendant for the chance to proceed.
A lawsuit is started by two legal documents – a Summons and a Complaint. A Summons is simply noticing that somebody is being sued, while a Complaint explains what specific claims are being made against them. To win your case in Vermont, you must respond to both of these documents. Here’s how to do it.
Answer a small claims lawsuit in Vermont
You must respond to a Vermont Summons and Complaint within 30 days of receiving the court documents. The clock starts ticking from when the documents are mailed, so it is essential to be aware of this time limit.
Filing an Answer is your chance to oppose the lawsuit and challenge any inaccurate information in the Complaint. Please fill in your Answer on time to avoid the plaintiff asking the court to issue a default judgment against you. This would mean that you would have to pay the unpaid debt, likely through wage garnishment, without having the opportunity to have your side of the case heard.
Don’t worry; even though it may seem daunting, answering a small claims lawsuit is relatively easy. Use this Vermont small claims Answer form and fill it out to the best of your ability.
Here are five steps for responding effectively to a small claims case:
- Read the Complaint and react to the allegations.
- Check the exempt income box if it applies to you.
- Fill out the counterclaim section if you think the plaintiff owes you.
- File the Answer with the court, and send a copy to the plaintiff.
- Fill out a certificate of service.
Step 1: Take a look at the complaint and respond to the allegations
The plaintiff has made several allegations in the Complaint. You can agree with these allegations by checking the “agree” box on the answer form. Alternatively, you can disagree with the accusations by checking the “disagree” box and providing a reason for your disagreement.
Note: In any lawsuit, the plaintiff has the burden of proof for any claims unless the defendant admits to them. This means that the plaintiff must be able to provide evidence to support their allegations.
You must respond to the allegations made by the plaintiff in your Answer. This will allow the court to understand your position and whether you agree or disagree with what is being said.
There are different ways that you can respond to the allegations. For example, you may agree with the debt owed but request an installment judgment be issued stating the amount to be paid on a specific date.
Step 2: If you qualify for exempt income, check the box
It’s important to know which of your income sources are exempt from debt collection if you ever find yourself in a situation where someone is trying to garnish your wages. Exempt income includes state benefits, social security, child support, and earnings from being the head of the household or sole provider. You can find a complete list of exempt incomes and other relevant forms on our website. This notice informs you that some or all of your income may be protected from garnishment. Even if a judgment is rendered in favor of the plaintiff, they will not be able to collect any of your exempt wages.
You must also submit a Disclosure of Income form when you finish this section. This form is available on the website listed above.
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Step 3: You may file a counterclaim if you think the plaintiff owes you money
You must check the “counterclaim” box and describe your claim against the plaintiff to file a counterclaim. Your counterclaim cannot exceed $5,000.00; otherwise, you will need to file it as a regular civil action rather than through small claims.
Step 4: File the Answer with the court, and send a copy to the plaintiff
You must file your Answer with the court once you have completed it. You can either mail it in or drop it off at the courthouse.
To avoid a default judgment, filing your Answer to the plaintiff within 30 days is essential. The plaintiff’s address should be listed on the Summons and Complaint. Make sure to send a copy of the Answer to the plaintiff.
Step 5: You will need to fill out a certificate of service
It is essential to provide evidence to the court that the plaintiff has been served with your Answer. This can be done by completing a certificate of service and submitting it to the court.
Fill out the Vermont small claims court forms
The small claims process in the state of Vermont is designed to be simple. To that end, the judiciary website has a dedicated small claims forms page where you can access any form you might need for your case.
The available forms include the Answer, appeals, and motions. While these forms are helpful, you need more room to state your case. However, a section on the Answer form allows you to attach additional pages should you need more space to respond.
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