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Many of my clients are people who got behind on credit card payments. It’s usually not their fault. They have lost a job, or someone got sick, or they got divorced. What happens if you do not pay?
First of all, it’s important to understand that you cannot go to jail for debt in America. Not even if it’s IRS debt…unless you failed to file returns or filed fraudulent returns. Credit card companies can only pursue civil remedies. That means they can harass you….within certain limits and under certain conditions…or they can sue you. That’s it.
Harassment is limited by the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act and by state laws that bind creditors. For example, once you tell a creditor that you are not going to pay….ever…and demand that they stop calling….they are now constrained in their telephone contact. They must now sue you.
How do you know you have been sued? Because you or someone authorized in your home has accepted service of actual papers. Without service, a creditor cannot get a judgment. What if you ignore the suit? You still cannot go to jail. You will lose and a judgment is entered against you.
Most credit card companies will not sue you. It’s not worth their time and money. They sell the account to collection companies or law firms for pennies on the dollar, and it is they who might sue you. If you are judgment proof…meaning you have no assets that can be taken, then the judgment serves the creditor no purpose. A competent lawyer can help you understand your judgment exposure.
If a judgment is rendered against you, and you then ignore demands to produce documents…now you have criminal
exposure. You can be held in contempt until you cooperate. So it’s a bad idea to not discuss a lawsuit with a lawyer. Even if you think you are stone that does not have blood.