How to Avoid Paying a Judgment

You can avoid paying a court judgment by filing an appeal--and winning. The Superior Court of California defines a judgment as a final decision in a court case by judge. Example: A credit card company files suit against you for a credit card debt you allegedly failed to pay. The judge hears arguments from you and the credit card company before ruling in favor of the card company. The card company is granted a judgment for $2,500 and can seek garnishment of your bank account or wages if you fail to pay. The Superior Court of California reports you will probably need the help of a lawyer to avoid paying--and even then your chances may be slim.

Decide whether appealing the judge's order is worth your time and expense. Will you simply be wasting time and money trying to avoid a debt that is legally yours? After all, you could spend several hundred dollars on legal fees and still owe the money. Weigh the pros and cons of waging what could be a losing battle.

Contact the credit card company or debt collector about a settlement. The original creditor or debt collector seems to have all the leverage after winning in court. But winning the judgment and actually collecting the money are two different things. Contact the attorney for the original creditor or debt collector. Offer a lump sum that you can pay immediately to settle the case and satisfy the judgment. Start with an unreasonably low offer of 20 percent of the balance and keep negotiating until you have a deal. Any savings is better than paying the full amount.

Schedule a free consultation with an attorney if you are not able to negotiate a settlement. Describe your case and ask how much the lawyer would charge to represent you. Hire the lawyer.

Authorize the lawyer to make a second attempt at a settlement by calling the opposing attorney directly. The call from your attorney will indicate that you are serious about putting up a fight, and perhaps the other side will agree to settle rather than go through more court proceedings.

Order your lawyer to file an appeal in court if a second try for a settlement fails. Leave it to the attorney to find legal grounds for appealing the judgment.

Attend the hearing when your appeal is heard.


  • You don't have to hire a lawyer to fight a judgment. At this point, however, the stakes are high, with wage or bank garnishment a real possibility. That's why it is best to hire an attorney. If you can't afford an attorney you can represent yourself. Check with your County Clerk about the process in your state for filing a "Motion To Vacate Judgment." The judge will consider your request to throw out the judgment or leave it in place. Without the help of a lawyer, however, you may not be able to make a compelling case for your request.