Judgments can have a huge, lasting impact on your credit score, giving you major difficulty in obtaining credit cards or loans.
Perhaps you received a judgment from a lawsuit concerning old debt or even a former eviction. Whatever the reason, they cause long-lasting damage, even years after the incident occurred.
Luckily, it is possible to have them removed before the usual end date. Find out everything you need to know about judgments, how they affect your credit, and how you can get them removed even before they expire.
What is a judgment?
A civil judgment refers to a ruling made by a court during a lawsuit. In many cases, people have judgments because of unpaid collections or other financial obligations. These judgments show up on your credit report as a public record placed there by the credit bureaus.
Public records can be seen by anyone and are collected by the credit bureaus in order to show future lenders your credit history. It’s basically a decision by the court describing the result of the lawsuit.
How does a judgment affect your credit score?
A judgment is one of the most damaging things to have on your credit report. Unlike collections, which involve a dispute between two private parties and are almost always handled privately, a judgment occurs when there is a court-ordered mandate to repay a debt.
This can occur in situations such as failure to pay child support, alimony, or civil and small claims lawsuits.
If you have a judgment on your credit reports, your score will be lower and potential creditors will be hesitant to loan you money because they can’t trust that you’ll repay the debt. Even if you are lucky enough to get a new credit card or loan, you can expect some of the highest interest rates on the market.
Want to Remove Judgments from Your Credit Report?
How long does a judgment stay on your credit report?
A judgment remains on your credit report for seven years from the date it was filed. That means it will negatively affect your credit for seven years; however, the negative impact weighs less and less as time goes on.
If you’re still unhappy about having to wait that long, it is possible to have judgments removed from your credit report.
If you can get it removed, you won’t have to wait up to seven years before being able to get a mortgage, car loan, or any other type of credit again. Keep reading for my story below to see how I got my judgment deleted from my credit reports.
What are the different types of judgments?
While all judgments are listed in the Public Records section of your report, there are a few different types to be aware of.
Each one results from how you handle the initial judgment and can impact your credit in different ways. Read through each description carefully so you know which situation could apply to you.
An unsatisfied judgment does the most damage to your credit. It means that you have not addressed the result of the lawsuit whatsoever and the debt you owe has neither been paid nor settled.
The judgment creditor (who sued you to get the funds) has the right to forcibly collect the money if you refuse to pay or work out a settlement in a timely manner.
Otherwise, the judgment stays on for the full seven years. You might receive notice from the creditor at some point, or it may go untouched until it drops off; there’s just no way to know. In some states, you may run the risk of having a judgment re-filed, which we’ll discuss shortly.
Satisfied judgments are those that have either been paid or settled, rather than remaining unsatisfied. It’s ideal to get your judgment satisfied as soon as possible because it’s another type of debt that accrues interest. The amount you owe can quickly balloon.
So how can you satisfy a judgment? There are a few different ways. First, you can pay the judgment in full. If that’s not possible, you can also negotiate a settlement, similar to any other way you would for any other type of debt.
In extreme circumstances, you can get the judgment discharged by filing for bankruptcy. Finally, you can do nothing and eventually have the judgment collected forcefully, usually involving wage garnishment.
Once one of these options has been completed, your judgment will switch from unsatisfied to satisfied on your public record and credit report.
While a satisfied judgment is better for your credit than an unsatisfied one, it still stays on your report for seven years from the date it was filed. Many people think that once it’s paid, it will be removed from their report; however, that is not the case.
A vacated judgment is essentially one that is dismissed through an appeal. Once vacated, the judgment should no longer appear on your reports; if it does, you can have it disputed as incorrect reporting from the credit reporting agencies.
In fact, this is the best way to get a judgment removed before the seven-year time limit. There are several ways to get your judgment vacated.
The first way is to file a motion appealing the original ruling. It’s quite common to successfully appeal the verdict if the plaintiff didn’t follow the proper legal procedure in the original lawsuit.
Procedural reasons might include not receiving a summons to court or receiving a judgment without a hearing.
Most motions for appeal must be completed in person, which means if you no longer live in the jurisdiction where the lawsuit took place, you’ll need to travel there to submit your paperwork and potentially attend another hearing.
If you win the appeal, you’re entitled to a court document stating the dismissal of your case. You can send a copy to the credit reporting agencies to expedite the removal process of the original judgment from your credit reports.
If it’s not removed, you should file a dispute, either on your own or through a credit repair company. A vacated judgment should never be listed on your credit report, but it’s up to you to make sure that all the information is updated accurately.
Judgments are typically removed after seven years, but unfortunately, that’s not always the end of the story. Depending on the state in which you live, the judgment may be renewed, which means it can reappear on your credit report for another seven years.
In some states, judgments can be renewed indefinitely, meaning they’ll keep showing up for years and years beyond the original filing date.
Check out the laws in the state where you live to find out whether or not your judgment can be revived. From there you can figure out the best course of action to satisfy your judgment and have it removed for good.
How do I know who to pay to satisfy my judgment?
When trying to switch your judgment from unsatisfied to satisfied, it’s oftentimes difficult to know how to make your payment, especially if it’s been a long time since the original hearing.
Debt is often sold and resold around to different creditors, so you have to track down the current owner of the judgment debt. You should be able to do this by examining your credit report and seeing if the judgments current owner is listed.
In most cases, the information should be there because collections agencies typically use every means possible to get the debt repaid, including reporting to the credit bureaus.
The information should also include exactly how much you currently owe since you’ve likely racked up interest and fees if a significant amount of time has elapsed since the original hearing.
What should I do next time if a debt collector sues me?
If you get sued, you will need to either pay the debt quickly or else appear before a judge in court. The worst thing you can do is ignore the lawsuit. However, that’s precisely what most people do, so usually, the creditor wins by default as the defendant doesn’t show up for court.
If you don’t show up or if you lose your case in court, a civil judgment will be issued against you. Typically you will be penalized by having a tax lien placed upon your house (if you own your house), or having your wages garnished.
In some cases, you may even be forced to forfeit your belongings. These side effects are even more severe than the damage done to your credit score, so you really need to address the lawsuit, get legal help, and show up in court. Otherwise, you have a long, hard road to financial recovery ahead of you.
It never hurts to talk to a legal professional ahead of time to explore your options. At the very least, you need to attend your hearing, so you don’t automatically give up your rights to a fair trial.
How can I delete a judgment from my credit report?
Ready to get your judgment deleted before it expires? Here are three steps you can start today.
Step 1: Get the Court to Validate the Judgment
Start off by contacting the court directly. This means you need to actually write a validation request letter to the court that issued the judgment. The purpose is to have them verify that the judgment — and all the relevant details listed on your credit report — are accurate.
If the court can’t do this, or simply doesn’t bother, as is often the case, you can request to have the listing removed by the credit reporting agencies. Just be sure to keep copies of all your correspondence sent and received so you can back up your case.
Step 2: Confirm Any Information from the Court
In the event that you do receive information back from the court verifying the details of your judgment, take the time to make sure that it’s all accurate.
All of this information goes through so many different touchpoints that there’s a good chance some of it was reported inaccurately.
Make sure everything is error-free, including your name, balance, account numbers, dates associated with the account and judgment, and your account and payment statuses.
If you find anything that’s incorrect, you can send a dispute letter to the credit bureaus and request that the judgment entry be updated or removed altogether.
Step 3: Get Professional Help
If disputing a judgment seems like a long and tedious process, you’re unfortunately right. That’s why many people opt to hire a professional firm to do the dirty work for them.
There are plenty of reputable companies that have high success rates in getting serious entries removed.
A Quick Story from One of Our Readers
Read the story below from one of our readers (and check out the photos for proof) to see how you can remove judgments from your credit report.
How I Learned About Credit the Hard Way
Despite the serious consequences associated with civil judgments, there is hope to be had. I lost my job a while ago and it took me a long time to find a new one.
I lost my income stream and resorted to paying my bills with credit cards and other loans. The credit card spending quickly caught up to me and I found myself over my head.
While I tried to get caught up on my credit card debts, I wound up getting further and further behind on all my other bills. Eventually, I got sued and had several default judgments against me. The only way out I could see was bankruptcy.
Initially, after I filed for bankruptcy, I figured I could get by without having good credit. But I quickly found out that I was wrong. Almost everything I wanted to buy depended on me having good credit. After getting turned down several times, I decided I needed help.
How I took control of my credit
I was talking to a friend one day, and he told me to check out Lexington Law. I called the number he gave me: 1 (800) 220-0084 and spoke to a credit professional who was very friendly and understanding of my situation. It turned out to be one of the best financial decisions I’ve ever made.
Lexington Law has helped me challenge unfairly reported items on my credit reports, and since I signing up, my credit score has gradually improved. When working with them, I regularly received letters telling me that new things had been removed from my credit report.
They helped me challenge questionable items on my credit reports and as a result my credit score has gradually improved.
Judgments Deleted from My Credit Report:
My credit scores have drastically improved since there are no longer any negative accounts on my credit report.
What Others Are Saying
— M.W., Lexington client
— L.S., Lexington client
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