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Civil Judgments and Bankruptcy

tax-debt-forgivenessA civil judgment is obtained when you fail to pay a debt that you owe, such as a credit card debt, and the creditor/lender files a civil lawsuit against you in state court for a breach of contract. If you fail to respond to the lawsuit and/or do not have a valid defense, a civil judgment is entered against you. If it is a relatively small judgment amount and you do not have a lot of other debt, then it might be best to simply set up a payment plan to pay it off. However, if the judgment amount is large, is more than you can handle, or you have a lot of other debts, then you might want to consider bankruptcy in order to get a fresh start.

The good news is that bankruptcy will discharge the majority of civil judgments entered against you, but there are a few exceptions. It depends entirely on what the underlying debt was for and whether a lien has been placed on your real property. There are certain types of judgments that cannot be discharged with a bankruptcy.

The most common type of civil judgment is a judgment for unpaid debts, such as a credit card, medical bill, rent, repossession or personal loans, just to name a few. If your judgment is for a debt such as one of these, then it is most likely dischargeable through bankruptcy.

If your judgment is for unpaid child support, alimony, criminal fines, taxes, or student loans, then the judgment will not be dischargeable through bankruptcy. Also, if the debt was acquired through the use of fraud, misrepresentation, or false pretenses then the debt will not be able to be discharged. This is likewise for a debt that was the result of a death or injury from drunk driving or through willful and malicious injury caused by the debtor.

Once a creditor has acquired a civil judgment and you are not paying them, then the creditor can enforce the judgment against you in a couple of ways. They can garnish your wages, levy your bank account, or place a lien on your real property. Filing bankruptcy alone will stop your wages from being garnished or your bank account from being levied, but the creditor might have to file a motion to dissolve the garnishment in state court if your employer requires it in order to stop a wage garnishment. However, bankruptcy alone will not automatically remove a lien that has been placed on your real property. The bankruptcy will only dissolve your personal liability to pay the debt. In order to get the lien removed from your real property, a separate petition in state court is required. You also must wait 1 year after receiving your bankruptcy discharge in order to file this type of action in order to remove the lien.

If a judgment has been entered against you and you are unable to pay it, bankruptcy might be a good option for you, especially if your wages are currently being garnished or your bank account is being levied. Speak with an attorney today by calling the Law Office of David M. Goldman, PLLC (904) 685-1200.

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