Can a Judge Make Me Pay a Credit Card Debt?

Avoid judgment on your debts by settling your payments.

Avoid judgment on your debts by settling your payments.

There's no such thing as a free lunch, especially if you use your credit card. If you haven’t been making payments on your credit card for some time and wonder if a judge can force you to pay, the simple answer is yes. However, this occurs because you have not taken proper steps to resolve the issue and made no effort to pay the debt.

Creditor Tries to Collect

A credit card company tries to collect on a debt when you fall behind on payments. If you don’t make any payments for several months, the creditor may consider suing you if it believes you have significant amounts of cash or property, whether you have credit as an individual or a business owner. In many cases, the creditor may conclude you cannot repay the debt and doesn’t think it is worth it to pursue the matter in court. The company may write you off as a financial loss.

Collection Agencies

However, creditors often turn the debt over to a collection agency. Agencies buy delinquent accounts, often at rates far less than they are worth, and begin the collection process all over again. Collectors attempt to collect on the remaining debt for a certain period of time before taking court action. Whether or when a collector files a lawsuit depends on the agency. Court action requires legal and attorney's fees. Some collection agencies employ attorneys and some law firms handle collections in their practice. Other agencies may continue to try to collect the debt or sell your account to other collectors. When a collection agency contacts you, even though you have allowed your debts to go unpaid, you can still settle with the collection agency. You can offer to pay off a certain amount each month or the collection agency may offer to accept a certain amount in a lump sum to forgive the rest of the debt. It depends on the agency.

Court Action

If you do not make an effort to pay the debt, the agency, or the creditor, if it earlier decided to sue, will file a lawsuit against you. If you do not believe you owe the debt or that you were not properly informed, you must appear in court to show cause why the lawsuit should not have been filed. You also need to attend the court hearing if you want to convince the judge you will make some kind of settlement with the creditor or collector. Settlements may occur in court. If you do not show up for the court date, the judge will order a judgment against you. Usually, you first receive a notice of judgment from the court, giving you 30 days to pay the debt, according to Steve Bucci of Bankrate.com. If you do not pay, this gives the collector or creditor legal remedies to have the debt repaid, including filing a lien against your home or property, garnishing your wages in some states or taking money from your bank account, usually about 25 percent, until you repay the debt.

Judgment-Proof

Some people in debt are considered “judgment-proof” because they don’t have enough money to have wages or money taken from them due to unemployment or severe financial difficulties. However, even if you are unemployed or in financial dire straits, you will most likely become employed again. Collectors and creditors can still collect on the judgment and eventually take a portion of your wages or bank account when you start making an adequate salary again.

Avoiding Judgment

If you have fallen seriously behind in your credit card payments, try to settle with the creditor or collector before it reaches court proceedings. In most cases, you can settle for a certain amount each month or even a lump sum if you can afford it. The option of bankruptcy may play a role if you do not believe you can possibly dig yourself out of debt. Bankruptcy depends on your particular circumstances. Chapter 7 bankruptcy can relieve you of your debt if you simply cannot pay and don’t have significant property as collateral. Chapter 13 bankruptcy allows you to pay a certain amount of debt, often less than you owe, through your finances or property.

About the Author

Jerry Shaw writes for Spice Marketing and LinkBlaze Marketing. His articles have appeared in Gannett and American Media Inc. publications. He is the author of "The Complete Guide to Trust and Estate Management" from Atlantic Publishing.

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