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What is a Debt Collection Attorney?

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In a Nutshell

If you're having trouble finding a debt collection attorney to help you with a lawsuit, you might want to consider filing for bankruptcy relief. You can file bankruptcy without an attorney to get rid of debts.

Written by Attorney Jonathan Petts
Updated March 31, 2021

Find A Debt Collection Attorney To Help Fight Collection Lawsuits

Being in debt over your head can be overwhelming. Finding a debt collection attorney to help can also be difficult.

If you are facing a debt collection lawsuit, you may wonder if you need a debt collection attorney.

Like many legal matters, you can represent yourself in a collection lawsuit. However, many people try to find a debt collection attorney to help.

A debt collection attorney is very helpful if you can afford to hire one. However, there are no guarantees the debt collection attorney can prevent a judgment from being granted.

If you decide to hire a debt collection attorney, you need to ask who the debt collection attorney represents. A debt collection attorney may represent creditors and borrowers. You want to search for a debt collection attorney that only represents borrowers.

Also, you may want to consider a consumer protection attorney if you feel that a creditor is unlawfully harassing you.

What is a Debt Collection Lawsuit?

A debt collection lawsuit is filed by a creditor when you do not pay the debt you owe. A creditor can file a lawsuit seeking a judgment against you.

If you or your debt collection attorney do not respond to the lawsuit, the creditor can obtain a default judgment.

A personal judgment is filed at the county courthouse. If you suspect a judgment may have been filed, a debt collection attorney can check for you.

You can also check yourself by going to the courthouse and asking for assistance. The clerk’s office can tell you how to check for judgments in your name.

The length of time a judgment stays on record varies by state. The judgment is also noted on your credit report.

Most judgments remain on your credit report for 10 years. The time a judgment remains in force varies by state.

What Happens After the Creditor Obtains a Judgment?

The creditor can take further action to collect the judgment after it obtains a judgment. A debt collection attorney can try to help you fight these actions.

Some states permit creditors to attach judgments to personal property. However, most judgments attach to real estate. You cannot sell your real estate without paying the judgment.

Judgments may be collected by wage garnishment in some states. A debt collection attorney might be able to help you. However, it can be costly to fight a wage garnishment.

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Judgments Can Be Included In a Bankruptcy Case

If you could not afford a debt collection attorney, you may have judgments against you. Even if you could afford a debt collection attorney, the creditor would probably win if the debt is valid.

A debt collection attorney can sometimes help if you do not owe the debt. The debt collection attorney can file a response to the lawsuit. However, there is no guarantee you will win.

Instead of hiring a debt collection attorney, you may want to explore bankruptcy options. For less than you pay to hire a debt collection attorney, you can file bankruptcy without a debt collection attorney.

When you file for bankruptcy relief, you include all debts in the bankruptcy filing. Most unsecured debts are eligible for a discharge, including judgments.

Judgments are handled differently in Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases.

Judgments in Chapter 7 Bankruptcy Cases

A judgment in a Chapter 7 bankruptcy case is an unsecured debt. Most unsecured debts are discharged in a Chapter 7 case.

You must serve notice of the bankruptcy case to the judgment creditor and its attorney on record. You can find this information at the Clerk of Court’s office where the judgment is filed. If you hired a debt collection attorney, that attorney can provide the information to you.

The judgment creditor can object to your discharge. However, it is difficult for the creditor to win the objection without evidence of fraud or other wrongdoing.

In a typical Chapter 7, the judgment is discharged when your case is closed. The creditor cannot take any action to collect a discharged debt.

In other words, you can get rid of a judgment by filing a Chapter 7 case. You may or may not get rid of a judgment by hiring a debt collection attorney.

Judgments in Chapter 13 Bankruptcy Cases

If you could not afford to hire a debt collection attorney, you might need to file a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case. Some debtors do not qualify for Chapter 7 because of income requirements.

In a Chapter 13 bankruptcy case, you include the judgment creditor. You must serve the creditor and its attorney with a copy of the bankruptcy notice.

When you file your Chapter 13 plan, you propose to pay your unsecured creditors a percentage of the debt you owe. The creditors only receive a portion of the money owed on the account.

Creditors with judgments are considered unsecured creditors unless they have a valid lien on otherwise nonexempt property. The judgment debt is included in your unsecured debts.

When you complete your Chapter 13 bankruptcy repayment plan, the remaining balance on the judgment debt is discharged.

Because the debt is discharged, you do not have to pay the remaining balance owed to the judgment creditor. The judgment creditor cannot take any action to collect this debt.

Canceling a Judgment After Completing Bankruptcy

Most states do not have an automatic procedure for canceling judgments that are discharged in bankruptcy.

Therefore, the judgment remains on record even though the debt was discharged through bankruptcy. If you want to purchase or sell real estate, the judgment lien being on record could be a problem.

Most county clerk’s offices have a procedure for canceling the judgment when it is discharged in bankruptcy. You need to check with your county clerk of court to determine the procedure.

Because some clerk of court offices require a signed order from a bankruptcy judge to cancel the judgment, you should ask about this before your bankruptcy case is closed. You may need to file a simple motion asking for a judge’s order canceling the judgment debt.

You also need to check your credit report to ensure it states the judgment was included in bankruptcy. You can get free copies of your credit reports every 12 months online.

In some cases, you may not be able to cancel the judgment at the county offices. Therefore, keep copies of your Order of Discharge to give to anyone who questions the judgment.

Do You Have Questions About Filing for Bankruptcy Relief?

Filing for bankruptcy relief gets rid of most of your debts. You can get rid of judgments, credit card debt, medical bills, personal loans, and other debts.

You do not need to struggle any longer trying to pay debts you cannot afford to pay. You can use your money to provide for yourself and your family.

Best of all, you do not have to hire an attorney to file for bankruptcy relief. You can represent yourself when filing a bankruptcy case.

Our office assists people who need to file for bankruptcy relief, but who cannot afford to pay an attorney. We help you with the bankruptcy forms, and an attorney reviews the forms before you file them with the court.

You can get the debt relief you need even if you are on a fixed or low income.

If you need a fresh start, start Upsolve’s free bankruptcy process. You’ll be glad you did.

Written By:

Attorney Jonathan Petts


Jonathan Petts has over 10 years of experience in bankruptcy and is co-founder and Board Chair of Upsolve. Attorney Petts has an LLM in Bankruptcy from St. John's University, clerked for two federal bankruptcy judges, and worked at two top New York City law firms specializing in... read more about Attorney Jonathan Petts

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