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All about divorce and debt trouble

Can you still help with a credit card even though the bank has served me papers?

Hi, hope you can help. Since my divorce its been very difficult financially as I inherited marital debts, but which I have paid off. I only have two debts I need help with which total about $3500. I have been employed for 17 years at my job but the company froze pay raises for 3.5 years while my rent and other expenses rose.

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Bill's Answer
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Given the small amount of debt you have to resolve, I hesitate in referring you to a debt reduction or credit counseling firm. Generally speaking, these programs are designed to assist debtors with significantly more debt than the $3,500 you are currently struggling to repay. I certainly do not mean to minimize the difficulties you are facing, but you should understand that, thankfully, your debt situation is not nearly as perilous as that of many Americans struggling with credit card debt. While I know that this will not make you feel better about your personal financial difficulties, you should know that you are by no means alone, and that you should be able to solve this problem relatively easily.

You state in your question that you have been served with papers stating that the creditor "intends to sue you." From what you say, it sounds like the creditor has already commenced a lawsuit against you, in which case you may need to take action to respond to the complaint. On the summons you received, the court should provide a time frame in which you are required to respond to the complaint; if you do not file a response within that time, the court will likely enter a default judgment against you, which may lead to your wages being garnished, your bank account being levied, or other negative consequences. What action the creditor can take against you will depend on your state's laws regarding the execution of judgments, called exemptions. For example, a few states, such as Texas and North Carolina, do not allow wage garnishment for the enforcement of judgments on this type of debt.

To learn more about debt collection laws in your state, see the Bills.com resources Collection Laws & Exemptions by State and Judgment Garnishment.

See the Bills.com article How to Answer a Summons & Complaint for ideas in how to respond to a lawsuit. Consult with an lawyer in your state for assistance in answering the summons.

Your Options

In my opinion, the best option for resolving this debt and stopping the lawsuit would be to borrow some money to pay off your credit card debt. Since the amount of your debt is so small, hopefully you can borrow the money you need to resolve the debt from a friend or family member. If that is not possible, you should talk to your banker about obtaining a small personal loan.

Even if you cannot borrow the money from your bank, you may be able to obtain a loan. One option to consider is a peer-to-peer loan from Prosper or Lending Club, which are services that connects private lenders with private borrowers, facilitating loans that may not be possible in the regular banking environment.

If you can borrow a small sum of money, you should contact your creditors and attempt to settle these credit card accounts. For example, if you contact the creditor that filed suit on your $2300 credit card and offer settlement, say $1,500, the creditor may be willing to accept the reduced amount to resolve the debt and dismiss the lawsuit. If you are able to negotiate settlements with your creditors, it is imperative that you obtain written settlement agreements from the creditors prior to paying the settlement amount, as you will need this proof in case the creditor fails to live up to its end of the agreement.

If you cannot find the funds needed to offer a settlement to your creditors, you should be able to negotiate a repayment plan with them. It is important that you focus on resolving the account that has filed a lawsuit against you first, as you do not want the lawsuit to escalate to a judgment and potentially to a wage garnishment or bank levy. I encourage you to contact the creditor as soon as possible to resolve this lawsuit. Again, whatever agreement you reach with the creditor, it is important that you obtain a written agreement outlining the terms of your agreement before your make your first payment to the creditor.

To learn more about various debt relief options, I encourage you to visit the Bills.com Debt Help page. I wish you the best of luck in resolving your credit card debt, and hope that the information I have provided helps you Find. Learn. Save.

Best,

Bill

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