It seems like a lot of people are shocked to learn that they have been sued or that judgments have been registered against them.  I remember speaking to a new client recently and it was unclear how much she owed and from what she was saying her total debts were less than $5,000, an amount clearly not worth filing bankruptcy over.  While we were talking I checked the Nebraska court’s online records to see if any judgments were filed against her, and to her great surprise a $30,000 judgment lien had been filed against her residence!  Needless to say, she and her hubby had a fun chat that evening.

When debt problems get bad, sometimes we stop opening the mail. People move from town to town seeking better jobs, housing or schools, and it is common for creditors to serve notice of lawsuits on former addresses.  One client was shocked when I informed her a judgment had been issued against her after the Sheriff served notice on her 10-year old daughter who forgot to give her mother the paperwork when she arrived home for work.  Clients commonly have no clue who they owe or if they have been sued, but they have a nagging sense they owe a lot and they need help. Figuring out who you owe and how much you owe is the first step in crafting a plan to get out of debt.

A new system developed by the Nebraska Court Administrators office allows anyone to search for lawsuits and judgments online for a small fee (currently set at $15).  Here is the link to the Nebraska Justice Search system.  This same information is generally available at the local county courthouse for free.

How do I pay a judgment I find online?  

If you discover that you owe a judgment, there are several ways to pay it.

  • Pay Online:  Another new service offered by the courts is to pay the judgment or fine online by going to this link.  Payment can be made by credit cards, debit cards or with e-checks.
  • Pay the Clerk of the Court:  Don’t like sending money over the internet?  No problem, just send a check or money order to the Clerk of the Court.  Many courts also accept cash payments made in person.  To find out how much you owe on the judgment, including interest, call the Clerk of the Court.  Here is a link to each County Court Clerk in Nebraska.
  • Pay the Creditor’s Attorney:   Sometimes you cannot pay the full balance all at once or perhaps you want to negotiate the balance owed.  The court record will have the name and phone number of the attorney who sued you. Call them and make payment arrangements if necessary.  Remember that when you send payment to their attorney you are also giving them information about where you bank or work, and unless you are paying the balance in full you are giving them clues as to where to send a garnishment. Be careful in what you share with the creditor’s attorney.  Email seems to be a great way to bypass the secretary to negotiate directly the attorney. Here is the link to get the email address of the creditor’s attorney.  Remember that you should never send money to a creditor when negotiating a debt until they send you something in writing agreeing to the settlement.

If a judgment has been entered against you it is important to get a Satisfaction of Judgment filed in the court record after payment.  Once the judgment is paid or settled, you want the public records to show the debt is satisfied so that you may update your credit report.

Image courtesy of Flickr and lemonjenny.