If a credit card company has been unable to recover the money that they lent you, there is a certain period of time (known as the statute of limitations) during which they can bring a lawsuit against you.
If they obtain a judgment from a court of law, they can use a number of methods in accordance with state law to try and collect on the judgment. These methods might include garnishing your wages, filing a lien against your real estate, executing against personal property, and more.
There are several periods of time to be concerned with when it comes to credit card judgments-- the statute of limitations in each state, laws about judgment expiration and renewal in each state, and the length of time a judgment remains on your credit report.
In this article, we'll explore what you need to know about the period of time in which debt collectors can file a lawsuit against you, how long they can act to recoup their funds if they do successfully win that lawsuit, and how a judgment against you can impact your credit.
What Is a Credit Card Judgment?
Credit card companies can file a lawsuit in order to try and get a credit card debt judgment against you if you're account is in default.
If the judgment is awarded to them, then they can use a wide variety of collection methods against you in order to get the money they are owed.
A judgment is an order that is entered by a court of law. This order indicates the findings of the court.
When you borrow money from a credit card company, you are legally obligated to pay the debt back to the creditor. This is the case when you have a credit card account, receive financing for a large purchase, or get a line of credit from a bank.
When a creditor receives a judgment, they are extended the right to use collection methods above and beyond what is allowed without a judgment in order to collect their debt.
How Is a Judgment Obtained By a Credit Card Company?
The first step in obtaining a judgment is to file a lawsuit against a borrower. They do this in a civil court and will file a document known as a complaint. This complaint will also be delivered to you.
There are a handful of ways that credit card companies can achieve judgments after they have filed their lawsuit, including:
- Winning at trial: If the case proceeds to trial and the credit card company is able to prove that you owe them money (and, on the other hand, you are not able to prove that you don't owe them money,) the court will issue a judgment in the credit card company's favor.
- Getting a default judgment: You will lose the right to challenge the lawsuit if you don't file an answer to the complaint during a set time period. The creditor can be awarded a default judgment if they are able to present sufficient evidence to prove that you owe them money.
- Getting a judgment as part of a settlement: You can also enter into a settlement before a judgment is issued by the court. This means that you are agreeing to certain terms with the creditor. Judgment orders are sometimes negotiated as a part of the settlement.
- Winning a motion for summary judgment: Creditors can sometimes win a judgment against you without actually taking the case to court. By filing a motion for summary judgment, creditors attempt to persuade the judge that there are no disputable facts in the case. If a judge agrees that the creditor is entitled to a judgment, they can enter a judgment against you without the case ever going to trial.
What Tactics Can a Credit Card Use to Collect When They Obtain a Judgment?
There are a number of methods that credit card companies can use once they obtain a judgment in order to try and collect the debt they are owed. Without a judgment, credit card companies can not use these tactics.
The following methods may be allowed under state law:
- Levying your bank account
- Garnishing your wages
- Filing a lien against your real estate
- Executing against personal property
How Long Does a Credit Card Judgment Last? [All 50 States + D.C.]
If a credit card company has obtained a judgment against you, how long that judgment will last before expiration depends on state law. When a judgment expires and is no longer renewable or revivable, it means that the creditor can no longer use the methods afforded to them under the judgment to collect on the debt.
Let's look at the laws in all 50 states. However, it's important to note that laws are subject to change, and certain exceptions may apply. If you have questions about how long a credit card judgment lasts, it's a good idea to get in touch with an attorney in your state.
- Alabama: Judgments in Alabama are valid for ten years, though it is possible for them to be revived up until the twenty-year mark.
- Alaska: Judgments in Alaska are considered valid until they have been discharged or satisfied. That being said, the judgment holder must file a motion and prove that they have sufficient cause for not obtaining a writ of execution after five years have gone by.
- Arizona: Judgment holders are allowed to have a writ of execution issued for ten years, either after the entry of the judgment or any renewal.
- Arkansas: Creditors have ten years to act upon judgments. The statute of limitations is tolled by any writ of execution on the judgment or any payments made toward it.
- California: The expiration for a judgment and any liens that resulted from the judgment's execution is ten years after the judgment has been entered.
- Colorado: Creditors have twenty years to revive a judgment in Colorado. Unless revived, a lien of judgment will expire six years after the judgment's entry.
- Connecticut: After the judgment was rendered, judgment liens expire after twenty years. That is, unless an action to foreclose is commenced by the party that is claiming the lien.
- Delaware: After ten years, judgment liens in Delaware expire unless it has been renewed for another ten years.
- District of Columbia: Judgments are enforceable in Washington D.C. for twelve years. Revival orders can extend the expiration date for another twelve years.
- Florida: Judgment liens on personal property or real property expire in Florida after twenty years.
- Georgia: Once seven years go by after a judgment is granted, it becomes unenforceable and dormant. It is possible, however, for the judgment to be revived through an additional entry if done before seven years have gone by after the judgment was first granted.
- Hawaii: Once ten years have gone by after the initial judgment was made, it is presumed to be discharged and paid in Hawaii. The judgment can, however, be renewed for another ten years if it is sought within the initial ten-year period. Judgments cannot last longer than twenty years after the initial judgment.
- Idaho: Liens that exist due to judgments will expire after ten years unless renewed for another ten years.
- Illinois: Real estate liens that result from judgments last for seven years, starting from either the initial entry or a revival. Creditors can revive a judgment within the first twenty years after the judgment was first entered.
- Indiana: Once twenty years have passed, judgments are presumed to be satisfied in the state of Indiana. However, if nonpayment can be proven, this presumption is rebuttable. Liens on real estate that result from judgments can be executed for ten years.
- Iowa: In Iowa, judgments are considered to be valid for twenty years.
- Kansas: If execution proceedings or a renewal affidavit is not begun by the judgment holder within five years, a judgment becomes dormant in Kansas.
- Kentucky: Judgment holders must take action upon a judgment within fifteen years starting from the last execution date.
- Louisiana: Judgments typically expire in Louisiana after ten years. Judgment holders can file a motion with the court to revive the judgment if they do so before the original judgment expires.
- Maine: From the date of the filing of the writ of execution, judgment liens continue for twenty years in Maine. Judgment holders are allowed to renew a lien one time for an additional twenty-year period.
- Maryland: Judgments in Maryland are valid for twelve years. However, they can be renewed if the judgment holder files a notice with the court clerk.
- Massachusetts: Once twenty years have passed, a judgment is presumed to be satisfied and paid. That being said, the presumption is rebuttable under Massachusetts law.
- Michigan: Judgment liens expire in Michigan once five years have passed since it was first recorded. They can, however, be rerecorded for another period of five years one time. This must happen at least 120 days before the initial judgment expires.
- Minnesota: Starting from the date of entry, a judgment can be enforced for ten years.
- Mississippi: Judgment holders must bring an action within seven years after it was first entered or most recently renewed. Renewals are only possible when the initial judgment has not yet expired.
- Missouri: There is a ten-year period for judgments in Missouri. They can be revived through a court order within ten years of the last revival or the initial entry.
- Montana: Judgment holders have ten years to take action upon a judgment. They have the option to obtain a new judgment by filing a separate action before the ten years run out.
- Nebraska: Judgment holders have five years to act on a judgment. If they don't act within this period, the judgment becomes dormant. Judgments that have become dormant can be revived but only within ten years of the dormancy date.
- Nevada: There is a six-year period when judgments are valid. If a petition is filed within this six-year period, it can be renewed.
- New Hampshire: There is a twenty-year period in which judgment holders can take action in New Hampshire.
- New Jersey: There is a twenty-year period in which judgments are valid in New Jersey. However, they can be renewed by filing a notice with the court clerk within that twenty-year period.
- New Mexico: Judgment liens on real estate expire after fourteen years in New Mexico.
- New York: There is a ten-year period in which judgments are valid in New York. This judgment can be renewed so long as the action is taken within the year before the ten years are up. After twenty years, the judgment is presumed to be paid and satisfied, barring a few exceptions.
- North Carolina: In North Carolina, a judgment is a real property lien that expires after ten years. It is possible to bring, as an independent action, a motion to revive a judgment that has gone dormant.
- North Dakota: There is a ten-year period during which judgments as liens on real property can be executed. They can be renewed within ninety days of the initial expiration.
- Ohio: After five years, judgments become dormant in Ohio. Judgments can be revived within ten years of the dormancy date.
- Oklahoma: In Oklahoma, judgments must be executed upon or renewed within five years unless they become unenforceable.
- Oregon: Judgment remedies typically expire once ten years have passed in Oklahoma. A certificate of extension can be filed, however, to extend them for another ten years.
- Pennsylvania: Judgments create a real property lien for a five-year period. Judgment holders have five years from the date of the judgment to revive the judgment lien. Executions made against personal property are required to be issued within a twenty-year period.
- Rhode Island: After twenty years have passed since the date of the judgment, liens executed against real property are considered to be discharged.
- South Carolina: There is a ten-year period during which a final judgment creates a lien upon real estate.
- South Dakota: For a period of ten years, judgments become a real property lien. An additional ten-year period can occur due to renewal.
- Tennessee: There is a ten-year period where judgments are enforceable. Judgments can be renewed during that initial ten-year period by filing a motion.
- Texas: Judgments that aren't executed within ten years are considered unenforceable and dormant. After the judgment becomes dormant, judgment holders have two years to revive them.
- Utah: Judgments in Utah create a lien upon real property that last for an eight-year period. This can be extended for another eight years if there is a motion to renew the judgment.
- Vermont: Judgments in VT are real property liens that are effective for eight years. They can be revived or renewed within this eight-year period.
- Virginia: Judgments in Virginia come in the form of real estate liens. They are enforceable for twenty years. A motion can be made by the creditor to extend during those twenty years to prevent expiration.
- Washington: Starting from the date of entry, judgments expire after ten years. They can be extended by filing within ninety days of the expiration in order to push the expiration back another ten years.
- West Virginia: Judgments in West Virginia create a lien on real estate. Starting from the date of entry, this lasts for ten years, and it can be renewed for ten more years.
- Wisconsin: Judgments in Wisconsin create a lien on real property for a period of ten years. Judgment holders can renew but must first get permission from the court. They then need to refile an action within twenty years.
- Wyoming: If a judgment isn't executed within twenty years, it becomes dormant. Judgment holders can typically revive a dormant judgment within a ten-year period.
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What Is the Statute of Limitations on Credit Card Debt?
It's worth noting that there is a statute of limitations for credit card debt in each state, which sets a limit on how long lenders and collection agencies have to sue an individual over debt.
Basically, there is only a limited period of time in which debt collectors can file a lawsuit against you. How long this time frame is depends on both the specific type of debt and the state, you live in. However, in many cases, it ranges from three to six years.
Debt collectors no longer have the right to sue you in an attempt to collect on the debt after the statute of limitation has passed.
Even though you can't be sued after the statute of limitations has passed, that doesn't mean that you're entirely off the hook. They can continue to try and collect on the debt, but they must stay within the bounds of the law in these attempts.
Credit card debt is considered an "open-ended account" as opposed to a written contract, oral contract, or promissory note. The type of debt and the state you live in determines the statute of limitations.
Has your credit report seen better days? This article looks at four simple ways to remove derogatory marks on your credit.
The Statute of Limitations on Credit Card Debt in All 50 States + D.C.
The following states have a three-year statute of limitations for open-ended accounts:
- Washington D.C.
- New Hampshire
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
The following states have a four-year statute of limitations on open-ended accounts:
- New Mexico
The following states have a five-year statute of limitations on open-ended accounts:
- West Virginia
The following states have a six-year statute of limitations on open-ended accounts:
- New Jersey
- North Dakota
Rhode Island is an outlier, with a ten-year statute of limitations on open-ended accounts.
Do you have a debt currently in collections? To avoid an outcome where a judgment is made against you, consider striking a deal with the debt collector.
How Long Does a Credit Card Judgment Stay on Your Credit Report?
If a lender has successfully taken you to court in order to try and recover funds that they lent to you, it historically would have appeared on your credit report. The reason this information used to show up on your credit report is that potential lenders want to know that it could be risky to loan you money.
In the past, even if you paid back the money you owed or they recouped their money through other means (aka, the judgment has been "satisfied"), it would still appear on your credit report.
Judgments used to stay on your credit report for seven years starting from the filing date until the credit bureaus stopped recording judgments in April 2018.
However, all of this changed once the credit bureaus decided to stop reporting judgments as of April 2018. This means that judgments no longer impact your credit score and do not appear on your credit report.
That being said, there are a few ways that judgments (which are public records, by the way) can still impact your finances:
- If the judgment is discharged through the bankruptcy process, lenders will be able to see the record of the bankruptcy on your credit report for seven to ten years.
- Lenders might use other resources in order to determine whether there are judgments against you when they are going over your application. This means that the judgment could impact your ability to borrow money or achieve other financial goals even though it isn't on your credit report.
Are you on a mission to improve your credit? Check out our posts about credit repair hacks to increase your credit score, bank overdrafts and credit scores, repairing credit after identity theft, and removing charge-offs from your credit report.
Getting a Handle on Your Debt and Credit
Even though having a judgment against you won't show up on your credit report, it's really not a situation you want to be in. Creditors can garnish your wages, file a lien against your real estate, execute against your personal property, or levy your bank account, for example, in order to recoup their funds if they win a judgment against you.
- How long judgments are valid depends on the state you live in. The statute of limitations for credit card debt also varies depending on the state.
If you are behind on your credit card debt, it's best to try and get on top of it right away. You might find that you can reach an agreement with the creditor using a hardship letter if you have a strong argument for why you are behind on your debt. Though it can be tempting to avoid thinking about your debt after your first 30-day late payment mark, it's really best to avoid an outcome where the credit card company is able to garnish your wages or otherwise threaten you financially.
Are you ready to improve your credit score and get on top of your debt? Make sure you check out the rest of our blog for more useful resources and informative articles.