Your credit report takes a serious ding when it’s been reported that you have a judgment. What is a judgment? It’s the formal decision handed down by the court in response to a lawsuit. It gives creditors the ability to garnish your paychecks.
Creditors will often sue seriously delinquent creditors to attain the amount they are owed. Even small claims civil judgments can show up on your credit report.Any time a court rules you owe a person money, the judgment is placed on the credit report.
And, this can really damage your credit score. Why?
Judgments are public records, and removing this can be difficult to do. However, don’t fret. It’s not totally impossible to do!
Judgments vs. Other Credit Items
Judgments are not like other credit items. They’re public records, with no ties to an outstanding debt. Anytime you lose a case, the judgment will be reported on the credit report, even if you pay it off immediately. While it’s better to have a paid judgment reported, it’s a negative mark regardless.
The real problem with judgments is that they never fully go away. Unlike most negative items that are deleted after seven years, the judgment can be renewed until your state’s statute of limitations expires. This can be up to 20 years – sometimes longer.
With this feature, creditors have the power they need to attain debts. A judgment gives them the power to use the law to collect money from you. This means they can do a wage garnishment.
In most cases, the creditor may decide to negotiate with you – to delete the negative mark in exchange for money. When it comes to a judgment, you have very little negotiating power behind you.
Again, judgments are public record, usually containing correct information. Unless you can find areason for it to be removed, it’s often very difficult to remove.
What Are You Options In Light Of A Judgment?
When it comes to judgments, you don’t have a lot of options at your disposal:
- Pay The Judgement – The most commonly taken path in dealing with a judgment is to pay the debt and wait for it to fall off in seven years’ time. Courts deem this as satisfactory judgments. While it still hurts your credit score, it looks better than a non-paid judgment. With a satisfied judgment, lenders are more inclined to allow you to borrow money.
- Discharge The Judgment – Another option at your disposal is getting the judgment discharged during bankruptcy. The judgment remains on the report for seven years of it’s discharged. It still looks terrible on the credit report.
- Vacate The Judgment – This means you go through the expungement process to get it off your credit report. If you’re allowed to vacate a debt, always get legal assistance. A record of your vacated debt can be sent to the credit bureaus for them to delete it from your record.
- Dispute The Judgment – You also have the option to dispute the judgment listed on the credit report. Though you should dispute inaccurate information, it’s perfectly legal to dispute a judgment that is accurate. If one is doing your credit harm, you need to properly dispute it.
What Does It Mean To Vacate A Judgment?
What does it mean to vacate a judgment? It means the court negates the previously ruled judgment. The court will not do this unless they feel the judge wasn’t fair in their issuance. For example, if you weren’t properly notified of the case, the judge will vacate the judgment. If the original suit was not precisely presented, the judgment couldbe vacated.
Anybody has the right to vacate a judgment so long as they file before the legal statute of limitations runs out. This can vary from one state to the next. For some states, this is less than six months from the original judgment.
There must be some type of ground that enables you to vacate the judgment, but it can be difficult to traverse the court system. Vacating the judgments makes it sound like the judgment never was, and that’s not true.
It’s important you talk to someone who can explain your legal options.
Dispute The Judgement
You need to vacate a judgment to get it deleted from your report. There are certain cases where you can send the credit bureaus a dispute letter about the judgment. They must confirm the authenticity of the information within 30 days of that letter. If unable to do so, they are legally responsible for deleting it.
Success is garnered when the judgment is inaccurate, not recorded legally, unverifiable or questionable. Since this process can be complicated, it’s best to hire someone to dispute the judgment for you. However, if you decide to go it alone, you need to understand the process to dispute the judgment.
For instance, in Carmen Dixon-Rollins v. Experian Information Solutions, the court said credit bureaus need to examine the validity of each adverse item.
Credit bureaus have a duty to authenticate certain situations such as:
- The consumer informed the bureau the original source isn’t reliable.
- The bureau already knows the original source isn’t reliable.
- The incorrect information is doing more harm, and the cost overshadows the investigation’s cost.
In these cases, there are three groups of people who can dispute a judgment:
- People who were able to settle their case before trial.
- People with no recorded judgment (usually the result of default judgments).
- People with invalidated debt from the trustworthy original source.
If your case applies to any of the above, you can start the dispute process.
The first thing you’ll need to do is print each of your credit reports off – TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Be sure to visit AnnualCreditReport.com to get all three of your reports. A judgment record number will be on these reports.
Do an Internet search of the judgment record through the court’s Recorded Documents. If you’re unable to find this, you can show, in the dispute, that there is no record of it. No, a case file and recorded document are not similar. An actual judgment will appear in the court’s recorded documents.
Should you find the judgment record, do a comparison against your credit report. If you notice a discrepancy, you may have a reason to dispute the debt. If the personal records show some discrepancies from the credit bureaus, you may also be able to dispute the judgment.
Be aware that you should not give the credit bureaus a recorded copy of the judgment, as they’ll use the information to update the file not remove it.
Consider using the following letter to help you with your judgment dispute
City, State, Zip
For whom this may concern:
I am disputing the civil judgments listed on my credit report (circle the judgment you want to dispute). I feel that the entity providing this information has given imprecise information, and I would like this information validated.
Be sure to use an option listed below for your dispute letter:
- Please send any documents that show that I am responsible for this debt to the plaintiff listed in the recorded judgment.
- There is no recorded of a judgment on this date from this court.
- The matter was settled out of court, and no judgment was rendered against me. (Demonstrate evidence to this statement.)
If you’re unable to verify the information’s accuracy, I am demanding that the judgment be removed from the report. If verified, I would like the name and address of the plaintiff, to help me with any legal recourse I may take.
Sign your name here.
Make sure to add in documents that state your case. Do not provide them with a certified copy of the court records.
The letter should be sent to all three credit bureaus via certified mail, and a letter should be kept in your records. Each bureau has 30 days to authenticate the debt, or they need to delete it.
If you have no recourse to delete the judgment rendered against you, you must satisfy the judgment for it to be removed after seven years on your report.
Should You Even Try Deleting A Judgment?
That’s a question only you can answer. One way to repair your credit though is to get rid of the inaccurate information. If you don’t think you can do it on your own, then it wouldn’t hurt to hire the services of a legal expert or a credit repair company to assist you.
Time… it may be beneficial to wait seven years and take the steps necessary to rebuild your credit. Just keep an eye on your credit score, make timely payments and don’t default on anything to establish a good credit rating.