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"Ask Your Attorney" Column

About How To Get Rid Of A Judgment

Dear Counselor: When I was younger, I was terrible about paying my bills and a few creditors took me to court, and got judgments against me. I am trying to clean up my act (and my credit), and want to get rid of these judgments. I don't have a lot of money. How do I go about it?

Dear Client: Since you say you were not too responsible in your youth, I will assume you really did owe the money and just didn't pay it. For others, who did not owe the money (but just didn't respond when the complaint was filed), it is possible that they could get the judgment reopened or have it set aside -- but we won't worry about that with you. Obviously, the best way to deal with a judgment is to pay it. If you don't deal with it, interest will continue to be added (in Wisconsin at 12%) to the amount of the judgment, and soon, a whole lot more will be owed. In addition, the judgment creditors could go after your wages through garnishment, or seize property that you own, to collect what is due them. With or without an attorney, you can contact the party who got the judgment, and since you may not have all the funds you would need to pay off all the judgments in full, you could offer each of them less than the full amount. Creditors will often take less if cash is offered. Once you come to settlement terms with the creditor, it is very important that you see to it that you have the creditor agree to fully release and satisfy their judgment. That is done through a sort of receipt called a "Satisfaction of Judgment" which is then filed with the Clerk of Court to show the world that you have taken care of the judgment in full. Good luck, and you can be proud that you are taking the steps needed to get your financial house into proper order.

Sincerely,
John L. Maier, Jr.

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