Unfortunately, the situation you describe is far too common. Aggressive collection attorneys and process servers are frequently careless about serving defendants properly, leading to default judgments against people who do not even know they were sued.
Civil Procedure and You
Many are unaware of these judgments until their wages are garnished or their bank accounts levied. The first step to fighting the judgment against you is gathering evidence that you were not served with the summons as the creditor claims. Contact the court clerk for the county in which the lawsuit was filed; ask him or her how to obtain a copy of the "Return of Service" filed by the creditor. You will probably need to go to the court house to retrieve a copy of the document.
You will then want to find some evidence you were not living at the address shown on the Return of Service, and that you could not reasonably be expected to receive a summons served at that address (for example, show your family did not live at the address).
Since you were at school at the time, you could probably obtain documentation from the school showing your address at school and your permanent address. If you are able to show the summons was not served at one of your listed addresses, nor at an address where you could be reasonable expected to receive it, you may be able to file a "motion to set aside default judgment."
However, given the length of time that has passed since the judgment was entered, you will probably be fighting an uphill battle.
If you plan to pursue the course of action described above, I recommend you consult with an attorney in your area who can advise you on the strengths of your case and your state’s Code of Civil Procedure.
"Civil procedure" is the area of law that concerns the rules parties must follow when litigating a lawsuit. The failure to follow state or federal civil procedure rules can cause a plaintiff (the party bringing the complaint) or the defendant (the party defending the complaint) to lose the lawsuit regardless of the merits of the case. In colloquial terms, civil procedure is the act of dotting Is and crossing Ts.
Judgment & Credit Card Debt Option 1
If you are able to have the judgment set aside, it will not free you from your obligation to the creditor, however the amount that you owe will be up to the court.
The creditor may be able to ask for the principal plus five years interest; however, if you can show that they committed a fraud on the court, the court may bar them from charging interest for the past five years. Again, these are issues that you should discuss with a qualified attorney.
Judgment & Credit Card Debt Option 2
Another option would be to contact the creditor’s attorney and try to settle the judgment. In my opinion, this would probably be the easiest way to resolve this debt. Though I do not know the balance of the judgment in question, if you can come to the table with cash in hand the creditor may be willing to settle this debt for much less than the actual balance, especially given the age of the judgment.
You should probably plan on paying anywhere from 50% to 70% of the balance, though the creditor may be willing to take less, or may ask for more. Usually, if a creditor is going to accept a settlement, it wants payment in a short time frame, so if you make an offer, make sure you have the cash available. Also, make sure you get a letter from the creditor or the law firm outlining the terms of the agreement before you make any payment.
If you want a third party debt help firm to advise and represent you, go to the Bills.com debt relief savings center and get no-cost quotes from pre-screened service providers.
I hope his helps you make the right decision for your particular situation. If you would like more information, visit the Bills.com Debt Help Information page.
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