Credit card judgments and charge-offs represent serious credit delinquencies. While a charge-off can ultimately lead to a delinquency, a judgment cannot get charged-off. Typically, you have to be months or even years behind on your payments before you get a judgment against you. However, once a judgment is lodged against you, your creditor has the backing of the courts and has additional rights in terms of collecting on your debt.
Judgments and Charge-Offs
If you haven't paid your credit cards for 180 days, your credit card company will typically "charge-off" your debt. This isn't an absolution from repayment, but it does give the creditor the ability to take a tax deduction by classifying your debt as uncollectible. A judgment, on the other hand, is the result of a successful lawsuit against you by a creditor. A judgment is simply a formal court affirmation that a creditor is entitled to the repayment of a debt and can pursue more aggressive means of collection against you, including wage garnishment in some states. A charge-off has no effect on a judgment against you.
Creditors with a judgment can often pursue you for repayment for decades. Each state determines how long a creditor has the right to collect on a judgment, but in many cases a judgment will not expire for 20 years. Some states allow creditors to renew judgments for an additional 20 years. A charge-off and a judgment are listed as two separate negative items on your credit report, with a charge-off remaining for seven years. A judgment will remain on your report until you pay it off, at which point it will remain an additional seven years.
Garnishment and Liens
If you have a judgment against you, the next step may be wage garnishment or a lien. Many states allow creditors with judgments to take as much as 25 percent out of your paycheck until you pay off your debt. Your creditor may also be able to put a lien against your personal property, preventing you from selling it until you satisfy the judgment.
While a charge-off doesn't have the authority to get rid of a judgment, a bankruptcy discharge may. For most debts, a bankruptcy discharge will successfully eliminate the debt that triggered the judgment, making the judgment unenforceable. You may have to file additional paperwork to terminate your wage garnishment or other collection actions, but legally your judgment is null and void.
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