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You have been sued to collect a debt. What's next?

This page has a form you can use to respond to a debt collection lawsuit in Harris County Justice Court, Precinct 1, Place 2. It also has information on debtor rights and how you can apply for legal help.

Fill out the Answer Form

How to Answer a Debt Collection Case in Justice Court has a form and instructions to help you fill out and file an Answer.

(If you prefer, you can use this tool that asks you questions and writes an Answer for you.)

If you do not file an Answer, you will probably lose your case. Filing an Answer lets the court and the Plaintiff know that you will take part in the case.

Respond by the Deadline

Use the Answer Deadline Calculator to find the deadline in your case. It is important to file your Answer on time. The deadline is generally 14 days after you get served with the lawsuit papers, but it can vary slightly depending on weekends and holidays. 

If you miss the deadline, it is still better to file the Answer late than not at all.

Where to File

File the Answer with the court where you are being sued.

You can take it in person or mail it to the address listed in the court papers. Mail sometimes gets lost or can take longer than expected, so in person is often better.

Also, you can call the court to ask if they allow online filing. For those who want to file online (e-file) documents, detailed step-by-step instructions are available. How to E-File also has additional tips.

What information do I need?

To prepare your response, gather the papers for your case and information about the debt. 

Lawsuit papers. Lawsuit papers, which notified you of the lawsuit, are also called the citation and petition. These papers should include information about the court where you are being sued and information from the person suing you that describes the debt.

If you do not have these papers, you can call the court where you are being sued to ask for help getting them. Call 713-274-0600 about papers for debt cases with the Harris County Justice Court, Precinct 1, Place 2.

Information related to the debt. Gather any information you may have about the debt. For example, payment records, notices, contracts you agreed to, and communications with the creditor.

What happens after I respond?

After the court gets your Answer, the court will mail you the time and date to come to court for a hearing. If your address changes, let the court know

Make sure to go to the hearing. If you do not show up, the court will probably rule against you and you will lose. You can show up with or without a lawyer. 

At the hearing, bring information, documents, and witnesses that support your side. This includes things like: credit card statements, bills, receipts, invoices, letters, or any proof you might have that you don’t owe the debt.

What if I lose my case?

If you lose your case, your creditor may be able to freeze your bank account. In some cases, they might even be able to take and sell your property.

Is there income and property that creditors cannot take?

Even if you lose, some types of income and property are protected. For example, creditors cannot usually take your home, your car, Social Security payments, or child support. Protected property is often called "exempt" property, because it is exempt from seizure. 

See the full list of exempt property.

If you lose your case, you need to tell the court and the creditor about your exempt property. This will tell the creditors not to take it. 

The creditors should mail you forms that let you list your protected property. However, you don't have to wait--and you shouldn't. You can find the forms and instructions in Exempt Property in Debt Collection.

Helpful Resources

Legal Help

Talking to an attorney can be a big help. An experienced attorney might notice and understand things about your case that an untrained person would miss.

Free Legal Aid for Low-Income Defendants

If you cannot get help from legal aid:

  • Access Justice Houston (sliding scale): Call 832-772-6743.
  • Houston Lawyer Referral Service: For private attorneys, you can contact the Houston Lawyer Referral Service at (713) 237-9429 (www.hlrs.org). You can ask if you qualify for the reduced fee program. You can also ask for a 30 minute consultation for $20. If you decide to hire the attorney afterwards, you can negotiate the fees with them.