Home > Managing Debt > I Found a Judgment on My Credit Report. Now What?

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Sometimes, the first time you find out you’ve had a judgment entered against you is when the judgment-holder seeks to enforce it. While due process is supposed to notify all parties to a court action ahead of time, there are many reasons why you may not have gotten that notice. You may have moved from the address where notice was delivered and it did not follow you to your new address. Or someone might have received your notice and simply tossed it away. Or you got the notice, but did not fully understand what it meant.

Looking at your credit report regularly is one way to see if there are any judgments against you. Judgments are listed in the public record section of the credit report. However, credit reports are not always completely accurate or up to date.

If there is any doubt in your mind, you should contact the court where you think the judgment might have been entered. Many courts have online access where you can check your name without leaving your seat. Others require an in-person visit to view the public record of judgments. Here’s a list of the various courts and what can be done to access them. And here’s what you need to know about dealing with a judgment.

When You Didn’t Know About the Lawsuit or Judgment

There are various scenarios that allow you to ask a court to reopen a judgment — for example, if you weren’t notified or served the original papers. However, as the judgment in the case gets older, the likelihood of succeeding under that argument goes down dramatically. The rules and time periods vary greatly from state to state. This is one of those times when it is best to consult with a qualified lawyer who knows the court rule and laws on the subject.

When the Judgment Is From Another State or a Federal Court

Federal court judgments are enforceable in every state, as the jurisdiction of a federal court is national. However, because the required amounts of a federal lawsuit are so much larger, you probably have a greater problem than just the entry of a judgment. You would know if you are being sued in federal court.

State court judgments, however, do not have power beyond that state’s borders. In order to enforce an out-of-state judgment against you in your home state, the judgment has to be domesticated, or registered in the courts of your home state. The requirements for that can vary from state to state and the process for the creditor can be quite expensive and time-consuming. It is not common for out-of-state judgments to be enforced in another state because the process can be daunting and expensive. But the record of that judgment will likely appear on your credit report.

Can a Judgment Be Enforced If You’ve Been Paying?

Many judgments will contain an order of payments. The court’s rules or state statutes may require that you be allowed to pay the judgment in installments. But an installment order does not carry a requirement that you receive a periodic statement like a credit card or loan. Some installment payment orders may require weekly, not monthly, payments. There is usually no grace period on the due dates for payment and no provision for changing the payment terms unless the court orders it. So if you are a day late in making your payment, or even a penny short in paying the full amount required, the judgment creditor may be entitled to ask the court for an order enforcing the judgment. This can mean a wage garnishment, a bank account attachment or a lien on your house.

Even though you may have been making payments on the account to the original creditor, it does not mean that you have been making the payment in the proper amount or paying on time. Or you may have been sending money to the wrong party. The account may have been sold or transferred and the place where you are sending money is the wrong place, which can be money thrown out of the window. Always make sure you know who you are paying, pay the required amount and pay on time. Your contract may require that you pay off the entire balance you owe at once if you default in your payment terms in place, amount or time.

Judgments Can Be Altered

Even if the judgment is final and cannot be reopened, it does not mean that the terms of the judgment cannot be changed. For instance, if the judgment does not allow installment payments, terms for installment payments may be added. Or if the payments are beyond your ability to pay, then they may be lowered to fit your income. Be aware however, since judgments typically allow for interest on the debt to continue running at some rate, too small a payment may be just throwing money away since it never covers the accruing interest. If you have insufficient income or assets to pay a judgment, then you may want to explore bankruptcy as an option. With certain limited exceptions, judgments can be discharged in bankruptcy.

Judgments Can Be Sold

Much like any other account receivable, a judgment can be sold by a creditor to another entity. When judgments are sold, the transfer must be recorded on the court docket or it is not valid. Before you make payments on a judgment, make sure that the payments are going to the right person. That is why it is so important to obtain from the court file the name and address of the judgment creditor. If you pay the wrong person, you won’t get credit for those payments.

Document Your Payments On the Judgment

It is vitally important to keep good records of every payment you make on the judgment. Accounting errors occur and you want to make sure that you get credit for every payment you make. Since interest may still be running on the debt and there will be additional amounts added to your balance for court costs and attorney fees, you must keep track of the balances and the payments. It’s not a bad idea to periodically contact the holder of the judgment to determine your balance if you are paying on it to make sure your numbers jibe with theirs.

Don’t Ignore a Judgment Once You’re Aware of It

Judgments do not have a short lifespan. A judgment in Connecticut, for example, is good for 20 years, and it does not end there. Before the judgment expires, it can be renewed for another 20 years. For many people, 40 years is the length of an adult working life. Again, the duration of a judgment varies greatly from state to state, so consult with an attorney and do not ignore it. While a judgment might stay on your credit report for seven years, it may remain effective long beyond that date. Like zombie debt, a judgment may come back to life when you least expect it.

When You Pay the Judgment in Full, Get a Release

Unless you are making your payments directly to the court, the judge has no way of knowing that you have paid the judgment off. When a judgment is paid in full, the person holding the judgment should file a satisfaction of judgment with the court to show that it is paid in full. When making your final payment, not only should you document that it is your final payment, but you should request a copy of that satisfaction of judgment document and make sure that a copy is filed with the court. Do not assume that anyone else will take this step.

Similarly, if a lien has been filed on any property to secure the judgment payments, you will want an original of a release of judgment so that you can be sure that it is filed with the appropriate authorities. Some states require a filing in the land records in your town or county clerk’s office or with the Secretary of State where the property is located. Again, without proper documentation, the records offices will have no knowledge that the judgment is paid. Although bankruptcy can discharge most judgments, you must take additional steps to get a release of the lien in a bankruptcy case so the record is clear that there is no further claim against your property.

Finally…

When the judgment is paid in full, be sure to get a fresh copy of your credit report to determine that it is being reported on your credit report as paid. Nothing will hurt your creditworthiness more than to have a credit report showing that you have a judgment against you that remains unpaid.

You can get your free annual credit reports on AnnualCreditReport.com. You can also watch for changes by getting your free credit score every month on Credit.com.

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  • Tasha Yanique Spicer

    I have a question, I received had a judgement against my in the amount of 865 dollars for breach of contract but it was reported to Equifax that I owe ten thousand dollars for said breach. I wrote to the collection agency and Equifax along with proof showing that the amount reported was grossly incorrect but they did not correct the issue. Equifax just added a dispute to the file and the collection agency completely ignored my information altogether. I don’t know what else to do to get this information corrected, this has greatly impacted my credit and I’d like some info on how to fix this issue.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      You have two choices when you dispute something that is wrong and it is not corrected. You can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or you can talk with a consumer law attorney with experience in credit report dispute cases. (You can find one through the website of the National Association of Consumer Advocates and the first consultation is usually free.)

  • BARBARA

    I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW IF I AM PAYING A JUDGEMENT AND PAYING ON TIME WHY DOES THE CREDIT COLLETOR PLACE MY PAYMENTS ON MY CREDIT REPORT? I ALSO JUST NOTICED THE ORGINAL CREDITOR WHO SOLD THE DEBIT IS PLACING A NEGATIVE ON MY CREDIT REPORT SAYING I STILL AM NOT PAYING ANY SUGGESTIONS ABOUT WHAT 2 DO. THANKS U FOR ANY HELP U CAN GIVE ME.

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts
    • Guest Kne

      I’m having same issue with Portfolio Recovery. The OC reported as a charge off with a balance and PR reported it with a past due and a judgment was filed, which is not online with public record but the bureau said it was verified. Please advise how to handle

      • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

        Honestly, I am not sure because it’s not adding up – a judgment but no judgment? I’d suggest either filing a complaint with the CFPB or talking with a consumer law attorney with experience in debt collection cases.

  • Rachel

    March 2013 I was served papers at my home for some past due medical bills from various medical facilities using the same collection agency. I called the collection agency on the paper the very next day and spoke to the a supervisor- this is all documented. The supervisor explained to me that as long as I set up a payment agreement with her and continued to make payments I did not need to do anything. Not knowing what I know now I took her word, I knew nothing about judgments. I was in the process of paying off many old debts at this time, just setup payment plans and wasn’t asking any questions. May of 2014 I had applied for some loans and was getting denied, finally I ran one myself and there was the judgment from the collection company that told me I did not need to do anything. I was so upset and I didn’t know what to do, I also was trying to figure out funding for my daughter to go to college. August of 2014 my automatic payment did not come out so I called the collection agency and got the “this number has been disconnected and no longer in service” I tried later that day and from another phone. I looked them up online and there was nothing showing they went out of business. I called one of the original creditors and asked if they knew what I needed to do and they didn’t even know. Finally a few weeks later on the better business bureau web it stated the company ceased operations and all accounts went to the creditors. Not knowing what to do I wrote a letter to the judge that approved the judgment and he set up a court date, we basically discussed my concerns. The attorney for the collection company was there as well. When the judge asked how much I had paid and how much the attorney showed I had paid it was off by over $800. The attorney did not have any records except for a select few that was given to him. I was also asking for the the judgment be set aside because I was lied to, also there were medical bills for my husband prior to us getting married and were from 2000!. The majority of the judgment was for my husband (now ex), I know I am still responsible. This judgment was only applied to me and not my husband at the time. When calling the original creditors to find out balances, they have never received a payment from the collection agency and now if the judge does not release me from this judgment I will have to keep paying on this judgment and pay some of these bills twice!!. I have my bank records for proof of payment to the collection agency but nothing as to where the payments were being applied to. I can not afford an attorney and I do not qualify for legal aid because I make too much money… I have no idea what to do. (sorry for such long email)

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      You said that you appeared before the court–what was the judge’s decision? Where do you live?

      • Rachel

        The judge has not made any decisions yet. I live in Iowa.

        • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

          It sounds to me like you have to wait for the judge’s decision. Short of talking with an attorney which doesn’t sound like an option, I am not sure what else I could recommend.

          • Rachel

            Can the original creditor do anything about it? such as ask the attorney to release the account, then if the account is released back there wouldn’t be anything for a judgment??

          • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

            I’m afraid I don’t know since the matter is now with the courts.

          • http://www.ctbankruptcy.com Eugene Melchionne

            There are several lessons to be learned here. First, do not take anyone’s word for anything. Get everything I writing and communicate I writing. That is the only documentation for any agreement. I will bet anything that the collector would not put in writing what you were told over the phone.

            Second, DO NOT IGNORE COURT PROCEEDINGS OF ANY TYPE. Only bye participating in the process can you be sure of anything. Yo did the correct thing u going to the Court ultimately, but it ma be too little too late. When going to court, insist that the attorney not be the one to testify about hot debt, The only legitimate proof is from the person who ones the debt.

            Third, once the debt has been sold, the original creditor has no input into anything. They will have no records and no ability to say anything about wha you owe. Only the current owner of the debt has any interest. The problem with your case is ® find out who CURRENTLY owns the debt. That might be one of the creditors of the collection agency. If you could locate that entity, you might be able to make a deal that results in a satisfaction of judgment. Their attorney would be able to appear in the lawsuit and file the papers to satisfy the debt. Then the judgment could be released from your credit report.

  • lili

    Judgement has wrong name and court date on it ….
    went to court on said date no name on board asked bailiff if this was updated they said yes… they said to go …went home
    later i see judgement on credit report…
    where do i stand?

    • http://www.credit.com/ Credit.com Credit Experts

      You may want to contact a lawyer to see whether the judgment can be set aside.

  • Bella

    I have a judgement on my credit report from 2009 for a vehicle that my ex-husband was suppose to be responsible for as ordered by a judge and stated on our divorce decree. He was joint on the loan. It states on my credit report that it is scheduled to be removed in 2016. Once removed will it ever come back? I looked online at the court house and the case against me has been closed.Does he have a judgement on his credit as well? Is there anything I can do to have it removed sooner? 6 years of having this has been super stressful. I am in the state of Texas.

    • http://www.Credit.com/ Gerri Detweiler

      If the judgment was ordered under both of your names then it’s unlikely that you are going to be able to get it removed at this late date, but the good news is that it’s due to come off next year if you can hang in there a little longer! In the meantime, make sure you have positive credit references reporting. This article explains why that is so important: The Bad Stuff Is Off My Credit Reports – So Why Didn’t My Scores Go Up?

  • Michael

    I have a judgment on my credit repor, however, the original creditor is no longer on my credit report. Can I get the judgment removed if the is no record of the original creditor ? Thanks

    • Jeanine Skowronski

      Hi, Michael,

      The judgement may be pulled from public record. The debt may no longer be owed to the original creditor, but a debt collector, which is why you may see a difference in the reporting. They generally take seven years to age off of your credit report completely.

      Thank you,

      Jeanine

      • Gene Melchionne

        Of course, if the judgment was paid, then you can have your credit report changed to reflect that.

  • Ericka Gómez

    I had a judgement on 02/20/2014 and it was paid on 05/19/2014 by my then car insurance. The case was closed, it never showed on my credit report until 08/12/2015 just saying Updated: 08/12/2015. I did some research and I’ve found out that courts do not report to the credit bureau. Now, if it was paid within the 90 days and closed, how did it end up on my credit report more than a year later? Can I get it removed? Is this a mistake? Or what?

    I’d really appreciate some advise,

    • Jeanine Skowronski

      Hi, Ericka,

      Public records, including judgements, can wind up getting reported to the credit bureaus. Generally, negative information can take 7 years to age off of a credit report completely, though the effects will lessen over time. Some newer credit scoring models do ignore paid collections.

      Thank you,

      Jeanine

      • Gene Melchionne

        However, if the judgment was paid, you can get a Satisfaction of Judgment form the Court system that entered it showing the judgment is paid and have your credit report corrected to read appropriately.

  • Candy

    I have an old car debt I got judgement against me in 2005. This isn’t on my credit now but I still receive letters saying I owe. The other person on the loan filed bankruptcy for their responsibility. Can I get my wages garnished over this?

    • Jeanine Skowronski

      You can have your wages garnished if the creditor files for (and receives) a judgement from the court against you. As such, it can sometimes be beneficial to try to work out a payment plan with a creditor before that adverse action takes place.

      Thank you,

      Jeanine

      • Gene Melchionne

        It depends on how long your state allows judgments to live. For example in Connecticut, a Superior Corut judgment is good for 20 years and can be renewed for another 20. It may be less in your state and depending on which court entered it. Small claims judgments usually stay valid for less time.

  • YuliB

    I had a judgment against me in 2008. Not only I was not served properly, they simply dropped off the package by the door at the address I have not been living for years (I found out about it by pure accident when one of the neighbors who happened to know me told me about some package several weeks later) but the item they sued me for was not even mine. I had filed an Identity Theft report and two police reports of stolen identity. I have notified all credit bureaus. I also notified the creditor in writing that I had an extensive fraud on my account and the item was not mine. I told them that the default judgment they obtained was illegal. The item was removed from all credit bureaus, and so was the judgment after all.
    My question is, what happened to the judgment after it was removed from my credit report by all 3 bureaus? Would it still show on other public records? (I never contacted the Court that issued it). Can the creditor still go after me?
    Ps. I am in California

    • Jeanine Skowronski

      You may want to consult a consumer attorney to see if there is anything you have to do to get the judgement reversed in the court system.

      Thank you,

      Jeanine

    • http://www.ctbankruptcy.com Eugene Melchionne

      Until a Judge says you don;t have a judgment against you, you still owe that judgment. All of the steps you took were good, but none of them involve the court so you would need to go to the court to have it removed. This is another good example of why it helps to consult with a qualified attorney.

  • InfoNeeded

    My judgement has — by date with my transunion and equifax report, However with my experian report its no judgement listed. what does that mean?

  • Jeanine Skowronski

    You may be able to dispute the information on your credit report using your divorce decree. More info here: https://www.credit.com/credit-repair/dispute-credit-report-error/

    Thanks,

    Jeanine

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