Answering a Civil Complaint in Florida

If you are a resident of Florida and have been served with a civil summons, this means someone has filed a lawsuit against you. The summons lets you know that you have been sued and notifies you as to when you have to respond to the lawsuit. The civil complaint usually gives you a certain period of time in which you have to do this.

With the civil complaint, you have the reasons or the basis for the lawsuit filed against you and the specified time frame (usually about 20 days). It is imperative that you file an answer within the specified time frame or else you’ll lose your right to defend yourself and participate in court proceedings. Apart from a summons eviction, you usually have 20 days to file an answer to a civil summons. To figure out the last day allowed for filing an answer to the complaint, count 20 days beginning with the day after being served. (Make sure to include Saturday’s and Sunday’s when counting.)

When answering the civil summons/complaint, read the petition very carefully to see why you’re being summoned to court and then write an answer to the civil summons. Remember that it’s best to respond to each numbered paragraph of the complaint, as each allegation is usually given a number. Number your answers the same way. To include other facts that you want the judge to know, add on additional numbered paragraphs, placing all your responses under the heading “answer”. In the next post we’ll talk about a sample answer format and the process of service.