What is a civil judgment?
A civil judgment is a court decision made in a noncriminal case, such as a lawsuit. Civil lawsuits are frequently related to disputes over money. Common civil judgments against college students include missed rent payments or unpaid tuition. It is important to make sure all of your bills are paid because judgments are reported to the credit bureaus. Any civil judgment can have a seriously negative impact on your credit score, which can make it difficult to get loans, rent apartments, and even get jobs. Your wages also could be garnished, meaning the court will take a portion of every paycheck until the judgment is paid.
How do I know if I have a judgment?
The court will attempt to notify you about a lawsuit before it issues a civil judgment. If you receive this notification and are current on the disputed claim, it is important you appear in court with any documentation you may have that shows you do not owe the money. The court may side with you and excuse the debt, or it may reduce the amount you owe. If you miss the court date, the person or company suing you will automatically win the lawsuit. It can be easy to miss a court appearance if the plaintiff – the person or company that files the suit – does not have your current address because you may not receive the notification. To make sure there are no judgments on your credit report, get free copies from each of the three credit bureaus – Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax – once per year by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
How do I fix it?
If you do find a civil judgment on your credit report, it is important to resolve it to begin repairing your credit standing. In many instances, the credit report will provide information about the case, including the court that issued the ruling and the case number. Use this information to contact the court to make payment arrangements. Civil judgments are public records, so you can search for your name for free on most county websites. Judgments remain on your credit report for seven years, but if they are marked as satisfied – meaning paid – your credit will begin to recover. If there is a judgment on your credit report you feel is fraudulent or incorrect, contact each of the three credit bureaus to file disputes. If a judgment is found to be inaccurate, it will be removed from your credit report.