You can use the complaint as an initial "go-by." Use the caption as the plaintiff did and go through the various paragraphs and either admit or deny each paragraph.
Also, affirmative defenses will have to be set out such as accord and satisfaction.
Also, this sounds like a debt buyer lawsuit. Generally, debt buyers have a very difficult time proving their case. Also, in NC, a debt buyer is subject to stringent requirements and if they do not meet the requirements, it may give rise to a counterclaim.
You have thirty days in which to file an answer from when you were served.
If you like, you may contact me off list for additional assistance. I may be able to direct you to a lawyer who can assist if you are too far out of my area.
By answering this question, general information is provided and no attorney-client relationship is established. For specific inquiries, you should consult with experienced counsel in your area.
I agree with Attorney Lapas. Here is a link to some very simple forms (scroll down - an answer is there)http://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/BySection/Chapter_1A/GS_1A-1,_Rule_84.html
However, before you try to do something like this, see a lawyer. First, this must be a credit card or other unsecured debt bought by Portfolio Recovery Associates. They are a junk debt buyer. How long has it been since you last paid on the debt? Has it been more or less than 3 years? What information was attached to the complaint about the debt? Is there proof that Portfolio Recovery lawfully acquired the account from the original creditor? If they bought it from someone else, is there proof that Portfolio's predecessor(s) did so?
Depending on the answers to these questions depends on what you do. If you have a valid defense (like the debt is barred by the statute of limitations or there is no proof attached to the complaint), then you may have a valid defense. In such case, don't do this on your own. Pay a lawyer to draft a proper answer for you. If successful, the lawyer may be able to get the case dismissed.
If this really is your debt and you have no valid defenses, then getting a lawyer or answering on your own is not going to be productive. If this is your debt and you don't answer, Portfolio gets a judgment by default. If you answer and admit the debt, Portfolio will still get a judgment by either summary judgment motion or motion for judgment on the pleadings.
In such case, you have to look at your circumstances. If you have a lot of debts, maybe contact Attorney Lapas about filing bankruptcy. If you can do a chapter 7, it may make sense to do that if you have at least $10,000 in debts and exempt assets.
If bankruptcy is not right for you, how much is your debt? What assets do you have? It may make more sense to allow a judgment to be entered, save up and settle the debt when you have the funds. If you have at least 50% of whatever they are asking for in the complaint, the debt can probably be settled now.
I give free consults by email and charge $50 for a 30-minute phone chat. If you are interested in resolving the debt in a non-bankruptcy non-litigation context for a reasonable fee, then please contact me so that I can review your situation. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you decide to litigate or file bankruptcy, then you will be better off finding a local attorney in your area.