Judgments and Garnishments

A judgment refers to a decision by a court that has been entered into the public record. Before a judgment can be issued, a lawsuit must be filed against you. If you do not file an answer to the lawsuit within the time period required by law (usually 20 to 30 days after service of the lawsuit on you), the plaintiff can ask the judge to issue a “default judgment.”

You can also negotiate a “consent judgment” with the plaintiff – in a collection case, a consent judgment usually includes payment terms. You can also file an Answer to the lawsuit and go to trial. The decision by the judge or jury – whether favorable or unfavorable – will be set out in a judgment.

If a judgment has been issued against you in a collection case, your creditor becomes a secured creditor instead of an unsecured creditor. Secured creditors have more rights than unsecured creditors. In most States, a judgment creditor can satisfy its judgment by garnishment against your bank account or your wages, although in some States, the judgment creditor must take additional steps to have the right to take your property away from you.  A judgment creditor can also place a lien against any real estate that you own in the public record. This lien will encumber your property and will need to be paid before you can sell your real property.