The Collection Process
When you cannot afford to pay all of your bills, you should make sure to pay for your
current necessities first.
These would be such things as your rent or mortgage, your electric bill and your car payment. If you do not pay your rent or mortgage, for example, you could be evicted or lose your home. Try to make small payments on each of your other bills each month.
If you do not pay your bills, you can be sued for each of them. If that happens, for each case, the sheriff will serve you with a warrant in debt or a Complaint. Probably, you will be served with warrants in debt. If you believe that you owe the money you are sued for, you may decide not to appear in court when you are sued. But remember, if you do not appear, or even if you do appear and the judge believes you owe the money, the judge will enter a judgment against you. A judgment continues to accrue interest until it is paid in full. Generally, that rate is the standard judgment rate, currently 6% per year. If you had signed a contract agreeing to pay a higher rate of interest, that rate of interest would apply.
There are also several steps the creditor can take to collect after getting a judgment against you.
These things are listed below. You cannot, however, be put in jail for not paying a bill. First, a creditor could try to garnish employment wages. A regular judgment creditor can only take a maximum of 25% of your wages after taxes. You must be left with at least 40 times minimum wage after taxes ($206.00) each week. Social Security benefits and some other public benefits cannot be garnished by regular creditors. Those can be garnished for child or spousal support, or for some debts due to the government.
Second, a creditor could try to levy on personal on personal property you own. Most personal property such as furniture, most cars, and clothes are exempt from garnishment. If you do not own any property more than this, a creditor could not levy on your personal property. In additional to the individual personal property exempt from garnishment, you can claim an additional $5,000.00 exemption by preparing and filing a homestead deed.
Also, a creditor could try to garnish your bank accounts. A creditor can obtain all the money in your bank account up to the amount of the judgment, plus interest and court costs. If the bank freezes an account that has only Social Security benefits deposited, you can get that money back by filing an exemption claim with the court, and should go the court and file right away. In additional, it will be helpful to call your bank immediately.
A creditor could also place a lien against your real estate. A judgment creditor can even bring a separate lawsuit to force the sale of your property to pay its judgment. This very rarely happens, however. Usually the judgment creditor just places a lien against your real estate by docketing the judgment in the Circuit Court of the county where you own land. If and when you try to sell the property, the buyer makes sure you pay the judgment off at the time the property is sold so that he or she may obtain clear title.
You could be summoned into court to answer DEBTORS’ INTERROGATORIES about what property and income you have.
If you receive a summons to appear, then you do have to go to court. If you do not appear, the court can hold you in contempt and even jail you for failure to appear. If you are served with any papers about Court and are unsure what they say or whether you must attend, you should plan to appear in Court.
Even if someone obtains a judgment against you, you can continue to make payments on the bill, as you are able to do so. Remember, however, that your current necessities, such as your mortgage, electricity, and transportation costs are more important and should be paid first.