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Answering a District Court Civil Action


In North Dakota, a state district court civil action starts with service of a summons on the Defendant. A copy of the complaint must be served with the summons. Filing a summons and complaint with the state district court does not start a civil action.

The party who starts a civil action with service of a summons and complaint is called the Plaintiff. The party who is served with a summons and complaint requesting civil legal action against them is called the Defendant.

After a Defendant is served the summons and a copy of the complaint, the Defendant has twenty-one (21) days to serve a written answer to the complaint on the Plaintiff.  The Defendant’s answer may include a counterclaim against the Plaintiff.


An answer is a written response by a Defendant to a complaint.  An answer admits or denies each of the claims in the complaint. If a Defendant does not have enough information to admit or deny a claim, the Defendant must say so. If a Defendant fails to deny a claim, the claim is considered admitted by the Defendant.

The answer must also state any defenses to the claims in short, plain statements.


A counterclaim is a written demand or request to the state district court for judgment granting the relief the Defendant is seeking. A counterclaim allows the Defendant to bring claims against the Plaintiff.

The counterclaim is included with the Defendant’s answer to the Plaintiff’s complaint and must meet all the requirements of a complaint.

Service of the Answer

Service of the answer requires that the Defendant arrange for delivery of the answer documents to the Plaintiff within twenty-one (21) days of service of the summons and complaint.

The proof of service of the answer documents tells the state district court when, how, and where the Plaintiff was served. An affidavit of service gives the court proof of service.

Forms and Guides for Answering a District Court Civil Action

Forms are not available for every legal issue or circumstance.  If you do not find the form on this website, the form is not available through the North Dakota Legal Self Help Center.

You may need to create legal documents yourself.  The General-Use forms below may be used as a starting point for creating your own answer documents.

Informational Guide:

Checklists and General Use Forms:

Selected Statutes (Laws) & Rules

Following are legal research starting points related to answering a district court civil action. You may need to conduct additional legal research into your legal issue.  See the Legal Research Section of this website.

Other Resources

Following are other resources related to answering a district court civil action that may be of interest.

If you do not understand any of this information, or if you have trouble filling out any of the forms located here, please see an attorney for help.

The information provided on and obtained from this site does not constitute the official record of the Court. This information is provided as a service to the general public. Any user of this information is hereby advised that it is being provided "as is". The information provided may be subject to errors or omissions. Visitors to this site agree that the Court is not liable for errors or omissions of any of the information provided.

If you have a question relating to a case that is already filed please contact the clerk of court for the county.