When you default on a debt, it's not unusual for a creditor to sue for the amount owed. A court judgment lets the creditor take money from you via a bank or wage garnishment or by seizing other assets, so ignoring it is probably not a good option. If you were sued for a debt and lost, here are your options for dealing with the resulting judgment.
Settle the Debt
The best option for handling a court judgment depends on your long-term goals and financial situation. If you want to protect your credit, settling with the creditor may be the preferable option. A court judgment stays on your credit report for seven years from the date the case was filed in court. That means it will likely fall off your credit report sooner than other remedies you may employ. Additionally, if you don't resolve the issue, the judgment could be renewed on your report for another seven years by the creditor filing a petition with the court to extend the amount of time they have to collect the debt.
Just because the creditor obtained a court judgment for a certain amount doesn't mean you have to pay it in full. Collecting a debt is expensive, and the creditor may be willing to cut a deal with you to avoid spending any more time or money trying to resolve the issue. If you can come up with a good portion of the amount due (e.g. 80 percent), see if the creditor is willing to take that amount in exchange for marking the debt as paid-in-full on your credit report. Be sure to get any agreement you make in writing before sending in the money.
File for Bankruptcy
The other option for dealing with a court judgment is to file for bankruptcy. This option is probably best suited for people who are struggling to pay a lot of debt. Bankruptcy will prevent the creditor from collecting the judgment or making any other negative entries on your credit report. Additionally, a chapter 7 bankruptcy will typically wipe out all unsecured debt, freeing up money you can use to pay other bills, such as your house or car payments.
Be aware, though, that this kind of bankruptcy stays on your credit report for up to 10 years. Though it may be easier to get credit again after receiving a bankruptcy discharge, it will generally be more expensive (e.g. higher interest rates). However, this option can provide you with a fresh start to recreate a better financial life for yourself.
For more information about these options or assistance with filing bankruptcy, contact an attorney such as those found at Reppe Law Office.
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