If you don’t have money to settle, then it is critical that you show up in court at the appointment date and time. People often make the huge mistake of not showing up because they think they’d loose anyway or because they can’t afford an attorney. Even if you are frightened….or you’re sick with a 102 degree fever, show up anyway. You are not being put on trial and there will be no jury. It will not be like the Judge Judy Show where the judge will be screaming at you and insulting you. It’s almost a step above going to traffic court…it will be over very fast. Creditors LOVE when you don’t show up in court….be sure to disappoint them by being on time and prepared.
If you don’t show up, the other side will get a default judgment and they will get this on THEIR terms. They will tack on all sorts of add-on fees and the amount of the judgment could end up being two or three times the actual amount of the debt. Even worse, the court could authorize maximum wage garnishment if you don’t show up to make your case to the judge, which can be as high as 25% of your wages.
Bring complete documentation of your income and living expenses to court. Pay stubs and copies of bills. Even if you loose, you can use this to negotiate much more favorable repayment terms. If you stay home on the date of the court, your creditor will decide for you how much you can afford to pay –
On the day of the court, DO NOT sign any document from your creditor’s attorney that you do not understand. The other side’s attorney will probably shove a clipboard in your face with a document to sign. It will most likely be a “Consent Judgment” form disguised as a friendly payment plan. They’ll smile at your and say we can avoid court if you just agree to this payment plan. DO NOT SIGN THIS!. If you sign this and you’re just one day late on payment, then this agreement gives them direct power to freeze your checking account and garnish your wages. Tell them that you will not sign any document without having an attorney looking over it.
You will also need to file a responsde to the court. Failure to file an answer may also result in a default judgment against you. Hire an attorney if you can afford one to do this. If you can’t afford one, then file a general denial with the court in this format:
Mark “Deny” with this explanation:
– I cannot affirm or deny this debt until validation has been made for this claim in the form of the original application with my signature. I cannot respond until this documentation has been submitted to me by the other party.