Requesting Additional Time to Respond to a Summons and Complaint

September 3, 2023 The Law Office of Matt Cree

Requesting Additional Time to Respond to a Summons and Complaint

Receiving a summons and complaint for an outstanding debt can be an embarrassing and terrifying experience. Luckily, the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure offer the ability to request additional time to respond; giving you a moment to catch your breath and seek help.

How Summons and Complaints are Served.

Indiana Trial Rule 4.1(A) allows for Summons and Complaints to be served on individuals in four different ways:

(1) by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested (and obtained) to the individual’s residence, place of business, or employment;

(2) by delivering a copy of the summons and complaint personally;

(3) by leaving a copy of the summons and complaint at the individual’s place of residence or usual place of abode; or

(4) by serving the individual’s agent as provided by rule, statute or valid agreement.

There is a 20-day Initial Period of Time to Respond a Summons and Complaint.

Indiana Trial Rule 6(C) provides an initial 20-days for individuals to respond to a summons and complaint. The key here is that the clock starts to run from when the summons and complaint were received. Not the date they were filed with the court. However, this does not mean you should wait until the last minute to respond. Failure to act quickly could result in the entry of a default judgment as explained in more detail below.

You can Request an Additional 30 days to Respond to a Summons and Complaint.

Certain counties, such as Marion County, allow for an automatic additional 30 days to respond to a complaint and summons. However, you must send a written notice to the court hearing your case and to the party suing you (the “plaintiff”) or their attorney. Other counties require a more formal written request, referred to as a “motion”. The court hearing your case will review the motion and will typically grant one initial request for additional time. Approval of the request for additional time is granted through an “order”.

How to Calculate the New Deadline to Respond to a Summons and Complaint.

Recall that the initial 20-day period of time to respond to a summons and complaint is based on the date they were received. For example, if you received the summons and complaint on July 1, then the initial deadline to respond would be July 21 (assuming the deadline does not fall on a Saturday, Sunday, a legal holiday, or a day in which the court is closed during normal business hours, in which case the response is due the following business day).

When requesting an additional 30 days to respond, simply take your initial deadline and add 30 days. In this case, if the initial deadline is July 21, then the new deadline would be August 20.

How to Request Additional Time to Respond to a Summons and Complaint.

Below is a sample motion requesting additional time to respond to a summons and complaint.

The top of the motion is referred to as the “caption”. This quickly informs the court clerk and parties as to which county the case was filed in, which court it is pending in, the number assigned to the case, the party who filed the lawsuit (the “plaintiff”) and the party who is being sued (you).

Immediately below the caption is the title of the motion. This briefly informs the court and parties as to what your request is.

Paragraph 1 outlines when the case began. You can typically locate the file-stamped date either in the middle or upper right corner of the complaint.

Paragraph 2 outlines when you received service and in what manner. Most lawsuits are initiated with delivery by the county sheriff. The summons and complaint will often be slid into doors, left under door mats, or bound to door handles by rubber bands. The county sheriff will also send a copy via first-class mail.

If you are not exactly sure when the summons and complaint were delivered, you can check the court’s docket online at MyCase.IN.Gov. Look for the sheriff’s return on service or the plaintiff’s certificate of service.

Paragraph 3 informs the court as to when your response is initially required. Remember, it is 20 days after you receive service.

Paragraph 4 informs the court as to when your response will be required after an additional 30 days. Recall that you can simply add 30 days to the date listed in Paragraph 3.

Paragraph 5 is standard language certifying to the court that you are not filing the request just to delay the proceedings without intending to respond, to harass the parties, or to cause confusion.

Always Send Two Copies of Your Request to the Court and a Copy to the Plaintiff.

Anything mailed to the court should be sent in duplicate with a self-addressed stamped envelope. The court clerk will scan one copy to the court’s file and return a file-stamped copy to you as proof that it was received. A copy should always be sent to the plaintiff (if not represented by an attorney) or to the plaintiff’s attorney. Likewise, if you respond to the summons and complaint, the plaintiff or its attorney must send you copies of anything that they file with the court.

Courts Appreciate Proposed Orders Granting Additional Time to Respond.

While some courts have their own fill-in-the-blank orders, it never hurts to prepare and send a proposed order with the motion. A sample order is provided below. The order should include the same caption as the motion, your name, and the new deadline to respond. Even if the court has its own forms, the gesture is often appreciated and may expedite the approval of your request.

What to Do After Requesting Additional Time to Respond.

Hopefully, you already started searching for an attorney during the initial 20-day period to respond. If not, please do so. Failure to respond can have dire consequences. Moreover, it can be difficult (and expensive) to have the judgment set aside and then try to resolve the matter.

What Happens if You Do Not Respond to a Summons and Complaint?

Deadlines should never be ignored. Failure to respond to a summons and complaint by either requesting additional time within the initial 20-day period or filing an answer or other responsive pleading, may result in the entry of a default judgment against you. Think of it as the plaintiff winning by forfeit.

Indiana Trial Rule 55 allows the plaintiff to request the entry of judgment if it demonstrates that (1) you failed to timely respond; (2) you are not an infant or incompetent (unless represented by a guardian); (3) and not protected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act. Once judgment is entered, collections may proceed in the form of bank levies and wage garnishments.


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