How to Settle Credit Card Debt Before Court

by Tom Streissguth
In many cases, credit-card plaintiffs would rather negotiate than go to court.

If you're behind on a credit card payment, your balance may have already gone to a collection agency. If you still can't work it out, chances are good that a complaint and summons will be arriving eventually, and you will be facing a court hearing and a judgment. A lawsuit is not a decision against you, but it does mean you can take steps to settle the debt before answering the complaint before a judge.

File an answer to the complaint that you've received. There is a strict deadline on these answers, which varies among the states. Usually, you will have 20 or 30 days after service of the complaint and summons to submit an answer. If you don't answer the complaint, you are, in effect, admitting to the truth of all the allegations in the complaint. The answer must reply, point by point, to each of the numbered paragraphs in the complaint. Admit only those facts that are indisputable, such as your legal name and address. Deny those facts that might be in dispute, such as the amount of the debt and the date of the last payment.

Contact the plaintiff's attorney with an offer to settle the debt for a monthly or one-time payment you can afford. The name and contact information appear at the end of the complaint. Make your offer in writing. Send it by certified mail and make a copy of the original. This legally proves that you have made a reasonable offer to settle the debt, and establishes the date you delivered this offer to the plaintiff's representative.

Reply to the response you receive. If your offer is accepted, contact the plaintiff's attorney to arrange for payment. The plaintiff may accept payment to the attorney or require payment to the collection agency or creditor. If the company rejects your offer, you can make a counteroffer. If you're not prepared to make a counteroffer, you must appear in court to plead your case. Bring copies of all documents, and prepare to show the court that you've made a reasonable offer to settle.

About the Author

Founder/president of the innovative reference publisher The Archive LLC, Tom Streissguth has been a self-employed business owner, independent bookseller and freelance author in the school/library market. Holding a bachelor's degree from Yale, Streissguth has published more than 100 works of history, biography, current affairs and geography for young readers.

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