I remember it like it was yesterday. There was a knock at my door and some stranger was standing there and they knew my name. Despite my stranger danger radar, I opened the door and was promptly served papers to show up in court at a future date. Things just got real.
Receiving a Summons
I’d never had this happen before and then when it did, I was completely unprepared. The irony was that I had whittled away thousands and thousands of dollars of debt when this happened and I was pretty close to paying off my debt. Having never experienced anything like this – I was freaked out.
Receiving a summons will typically happen because your creditor has been trying to reach you and you’ve been unresponsive for whatever reason. This post is not about judging what you did or didn’t do, but to address where you’re at now.
Once you’ve received your summons, read through it carefully and make sure that the information and the complaint against you make sense. Is this actually a bill that you owe? Does the amount stated match what you actually owe?
[For additional information, check out How to Answer a Civil Summons for Credit Card Debt.]
Once you’ve double-checked all of the details it’s time to go to court. Be aware that it’s likely that you will have a court date that is several months from the time that you were served. If that is the case, make sure to schedule a reminder two weeks before your court date, then an additional reminder a week later.
Your Court Date
When it’s time to go to court, plan on arriving early. If it’s not clear what courtroom your case will be heard in, just speak to the individuals working at the front desk.
Once you arrive in the initial sitting area, you will notice other defendants as well as lawyers waiting to get started.
You should remember, the lawyer is representing the best interests of the company that you owe money to. Make sure to ask as many questions as possible. The judge, who instructed the group of people sitting in the room with me, made a point of telling us to ask as many questions as possible and what our rights were during the proceedings.
At this point you’re feeling the nerves, but also may be a little mentally tired. I had to show up at 8:00 a.m. and I was already exhausted because I had a hard time sleeping the night before. Yep, I was pretty nervous.
Once it was time to speak with the lawyer representing the credit card company that I owed, the conversation was pretty straightforward.
The goal was to agree on a mutually beneficial plan that would benefit both myself and the company. Make sure that you don’t agree to any payment plan that you cannot realistically meet the terms.
If you know that you’re unable to pay $500 a month, don’t agree to an unreasonable monthly payment. I also asked about prepayment penalties. I wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t be penalized if I ended up paying more on the debt than the agreed upon amount.
What You Agree On
Finally, if possible, try to get an agreement that freezes your interest payments. It can be really frustrating to pay on a bill and still have it accrue interest. Please note, it’s possible that this option might not be available to you.
If you find yourself in this situation, don’t beat yourself up. Being hard on yourself won’t change your current situation. Do learn from the experience so that you don’t end up having to visit the court sometime in the future.
I’ve spent a large number of years paying off a huge amount of debt. One of the tough lessons that I’ve learned is that you can’t ignore your debts, or have ostrich syndrome. I found that whenever I was overwhelmed by my finances I would sometimes shut down mentally. Nowadays, I spend a lot of time paying attention to my mental health as it relates to my finances. The more I stress, the more likely it is that I will shut down.
Fortunately, I’m at the tail end of a huge point in my financial journey and I find that I’ve developed better coping skills to manage my debt and the conversations that I need to have with my creditors.
If you need help with a debt settlement negotiation, Debt.com can hook you up with accredited debt settlement attorneys.Get Started
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