What Is Civil Debt?

Written by geoffrey st. marie
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What Is Civil Debt?
Civil debt can result when one person sues another. (you owe me money. image by Ken Pilon from Fotolia.com)

A civil debt results from a lawsuit. The binding agreement stipulates that a debtor, as determined by the court, pays an established amount of money to the creditor.

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When one person sues another, the matter is taken to a civil court. Often, the plaintiff in the case seeks monetary compensation to settle the claim. The court can then order the defendant in the case to pay a certain sum to the plaintiff. This sum is the defendant's civil debt.


There is usually a time limit set for the repayment of the civil debt. Depending upon the legal system, the terms of repayment, including its scheduling, may be decided upon by the plaintiff and the defendant.


If the debtor fails to pay the debt, the creditor has several options. He can use a lawyer or a collection agency to assist him in obtaining the payment, or he can petition the court to intervene. The court may use wage garnishment, contempt charges or other coercive measure to induce payment. However, the court seldom uses its own agents to collect the money.

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