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Pleading is the general term for the papers that set out the plaintiff's allegations and the defendant's defenses. These pleadings go by different names in different courts. In some courts, the plaintiff's pleading is called the complaint and the defendant's is the answer. In others they are original petition and answer.

It is this initial pleading that the plaintiff must have served on the defendant. The defendant has a certain amount of time (frequently twenty days) to file a reply to the initial pleading. If the defendant has been properly served and fails to file the reply on time, the plaintiff may ask the court to rule in his or her favor as a matter of law. In most cases, the court will allow the defendant to file after the deadline but frequently requires the payment of a fine to cover the cost of the delay to the plaintiff. Since the court is not required to accept late filings, it is imperative that the plaintiff's allegations be answered on time.

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