If you are a debtor in Texas who has lost a judgment and can’t pay, don’t lose hope. The Law Offices of Seth Kretzer have extensive experience working with both debtors and creditors. In this article, we show you how we can help you get out of paying a judgment.
How to Get Out of Paying a Judgment in Texas
It has been said that “90% of life is showing up.” The same holds true for getting out of paying a debt in Texas. A study from the Federal Trade Commission has shown that between 60% and 95% of consumers who are sued for debt fail to participate in the lawsuits. When debtors don’t show up and don’t hire a lawyer to defend them, creditors have it easy, often filing for default or “automatic” judgments.
Experts advise that consumers can disrupt this pattern by challenging lawsuits against them. Just say to the creditors, “prove it.” The burden of proof is on the creditor, and if they don’t have the evidence or cannot prove their case, there is a chance the case may be dismissed.
Often, the creditor is a “debt-buyer,” and several levels removed from the original lender, and may not have the paperwork to show that it legally owns the debt. Therefore, challenging a lawsuit is one example of how to get out of paying a judgment in Texas.
1. Vacate the Judgment
If a judgment has been entered against a debtor in Texas, a motion for new trial is the best way to vacate that judgment. The motion must be filed within a short period of time – within no more than thirty (30) days.
If you contested the case (answered the lawsuit) and the court entered a judgment against you, vacating the judgment will be very unlikely. If, however, a default judgment was entered against you, such as for not showing up to the hearing, you may be able to have the judgment set aside either because you did not receive notice of the court appearance, or for excusable neglect or other “good cause.
Texas Civil Procedure Rule 320 states how the vacating of a judgment occurs, and the Texas Supreme Court has held that a trial judge may set aside a default judgment if doing so is “in the interest of justice and fairness.”
If your motion is successful, the judgment is vacated, and you then have a chance to contest the case against you. When you can contest the case, you have a lot more options in terms of how to resolve the case. Settlements of contested cases are usually far more favorable to debtors than settlements of judgments. If you can’t settle before your court appearance, you may even be able to win the case.
2. Discharge Through Bankruptcy
If all else fails, most judgments can be discharged in bankruptcy.
Fortunately, filing for bankruptcy can stop wage garnishment and wipe out your obligation to pay back discharged debts. If a lawsuit is still pending, the bankruptcy creates an automatic stay, or pause, which will stop it from moving forward. However, even if the lawsuit has already resulted in a judgment against you, a discharge will still likely eliminate your liability in most cases.
Most debts are consumer debts, which are subject to discharge through bankruptcy. A few types of debts can’t be discharged in bankruptcy. Some of the most common types of non-dischargeable judgments include those related to or arising out of:
- domestic support obligations such as child support and alimony;
- criminal penalties, fines, and restitution;
- certain taxes;
- student loans;
- debts acquired by fraud, misrepresentation, or false pretenses;
- willful and malicious injury caused by the debtor;
- death or injury caused by debtor’s drunk driving.
3. Claim Your Property as Exempt
Some items of property are exempt from liens or seizure under the Texas Constitution, the Texas Code, and other laws. Making sure certain property is properly declared as exempt will shield it from judgment. A judgment liens lawyer in Houston can help with this process.
Types of exempt property include:
- The primary residence of a debtor (the “homestead exemption”);
- The entire value of one motor vehicle (the “motor vehicle exemption”);
- Cemetery plots purchased and intended for family use;
- Up to $50,000 of personal property for an individual;
- Up to $100,000 in personal property for a Texas family;
- Personal property can include firearms, athletic and sporting equipment, home furnishings, jewelry, bibles and other books containing religious writings, animals and livestock, clothing and food (“personal property exemptions”);
- Funds in college savings plans;
- Retirement plans and accounts.
4. Settle Your Judgment for Less
Even if it has already been made, your judgment can be settled less. Your Texas attorney knows the steps to take to negotiate with creditors, including assessing the amount due in the court order, determining with your help what amount can actually be paid, making contact with the creditor or creditor’s attorney to propose an offer, negotiating, drafting a fair settlement agreement, and ultimately, getting you to a Satisfaction of Judgment.
Post-judgment Attorney Seth Kretzer Can Help
If you are trying to settle a judgment, you will need a lawyer with specific experience on judgments in Texas and who has the right knowledge and resources to help you. Contact the Law Offices of Seth Kretzer online today to schedule a consultation regarding your case.
Seth Kretzer has the experience to pursue justice for your case. He has worked with several Texas judgment settlement cases and understands the best options for securing a positive outcome on your behalf!