Financial crisis hits people at various times. At some point you may find yourself unable to pay off your debts. Phone calls from debt collectors are persistent and intrusive. If the situation remains unresolved, one day you will hear a knock at your door: Someone is serving you with a summons to appear in court. Scary? Yes. But you have rights, and following certain procedures will protect you throughout the process.
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After confirming that you do in fact owe the money, contact the original creditor to be certain that the credit agency has the authority to collect the debt. Write to the original creditor or the debt collector asking for proof that they have this authority. Always use certified mail. This will prove to the court that you made contact and that you are making an effort to settle the situation.
Look at the summons to see when the court date is. You have until that date to make some important decisions. Contact the collection agency and try to settle out of court. This will likely give you the opportunity to lower the debt and set up a payment plan. All contact should be in writing, so if the agency refuses to settle you can show the judge that you attempted to work with the agency.
If you receive a summons from a collection agency and do not wish to settle out of court, you must appear in court on the appropriate day and time. If you do not show up, judgment will go to the debt collector and become part of your credit history for up to 10 years.
Know exactly how much you can pay on the debt per month and communicate this to the judge. Provide a written document detailing your monthly income and expenses as proof of your willingness to settle your debt and to establish how much you can afford each month.
Going to Court
If you owe the money and a lawsuit is filed against you, you will have to pay what you owe. Your summons will provide you with the total amount due as well as the amount of the court costs. You will be responsible to pay these as well. If attempts to settle the debt fail, the judge will determine how much you will pay and the time frame for your payments.
If you choose not to appear in court, a judgment will be filed against you. This gives the collection agency a lot of power. The agency can place a lien on your home that will need to be paid before you can sell or refinance. In some states collection agencies can garnishee your wages and even seize personal property.
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