|Taken to court for credit card debt
I just received a summons to go to court on an old credit
card bill asking for judgment. What does this mean?
Now that you've received a summons, you can decide whether you need to go. In
short, if the debt is not yours, go! For example, if someone opened
up the line of credit without your permission, the judge should know
that. However, if the debt is yours, there's no need to go -- the
court will enter the same judgment (in favor of the creditor) whether
you're there or not.
This is no time to fool around. At
the point that the courts become involved it is a very serious matter. You might
try to disappear, but most people who attempt to use this strategy incur a lot
of costs moving from one job to another and eventually are still found by the
creditor. In fact, the bank (the creditor) would not be suing you in the first
place unless it thought it had a reasonable chance of recovering the debt. So
step No. 1 is to accept that this is a big deal; it is really happening.
Once the judgment is entered against
you the court will notify you by mail. Usually it will say that you have one month
to begin making payments to the creditor. However, it can also say that a wage-garnishment
order is in place and that your employer will be keeping 25 percent of your take-home
pay until the judgment is satisfied. Another possibility is that the creditor
will get a levy against your bank account. This would effectively freeze your
checking account, making it impossible for you to deposit or withdraw cash.
Suppose that you've only been instructed to pay the creditor, and you do
not. In that event, there will be another summons and another hearing to determine
why you have failed to pay. You absolutely want to show up for that hearing. If
you do not, the court can issue a bench warrant -- and while the police rarely
show up at your door, they can. More likely is that you would be arrested after
getting pulled over for speeding one day and the outstanding warrant will pop
up on the officer's computer screen.
Effectively, you have five choices:
1. Pay the debt.
2. Settle with the
creditor and pay a percentage of the debt in a lump sum.
3. Pay a debt expert
to negotiate a settlement.
4. Move to Bolivia and become a candlemaker.
5. Get bankruptcy protection and either pay it through a Chapter 13 reorganization
or a Chapter 7 debt elimination.
My choice for
you would be No. 3 or No. 5.
To ask a question of the Bankruptcy Adviser go to the "Ask
the Experts" page, and select "bankruptcy" as