Your consumer credit score, as noted in a credit report, can have serious negative effects on your ability to secure a loan, obtain housing, or even get a job. Judgments recorded on your credit report for any unpaid or late debts will lower your consumer credit score. As a result, it's important to understand the process for getting a judgment removed from your credit report, so that you may eventually move on from this burden and repair you consumer credit score.
Basis for Getting a Judgment Removed
In the United States, there are three major agencies that collect credit information: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Each agency will sometimes collect credit information that's inconsistent with the findings of the other agencies or that's simply incorrect. As such, you should be aware of each of these agencies and the particular credit report they've generated for you. For example, with one agency you might have an accurate credit report, whereas for the two others, they may be misreporting some aspects of your credit information. If you believe that any judgment noted on your credit report is wrong, you should dispute that judgment.
You may dispute a judgment on your credit report based on the following arguments:
The Debt Was Paid.
The credit agencies will remove the judgment from your credit report if you can show that you did, in fact, pay your debt on time. If you paid your debt after the judgment was already established on your credit report, the agency won't remove the judgment, but it will - at the very least - mark your debt as paid, which is helpful though not ideal.
The Debt Belongs to Someone Else.
Sometimes, the credit agency will claim that you have a debt, when it actually is someone else's debt (that person may have the same name as you, leading to the confusion). You'll have to file some paperwork to prove you're not the one who owes the debt: this may include your social security information, birth certificate information, bills, etc.
The Period Has Expired.
Most judgments remain on credit reports for seven years and six months. If this period of time has passed, you should contact the credit agencies and make sure they remove the judgment. The seven year and six month time period is not absolute, however. People have occasionally been able to get a judgment removed before the seven year-six month period when the judgment has been on their credit report for a significant amount of time. Because credit agencies sometimes do grant such requests for removal, it may be worth your effort to try.
Who Should You Contact?
Generally, you should contact the three credit agencies - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion - either by certified mail or by phone, to dispute the judgment. Credit agencies are required by law to investigate any disputes within a thirty day time period.
As the credit agencies report publically available court judgment information, disputing a judgment with the court (and getting an inconsistency resolved) won't necessarily lead to the removal of a judgment on your credit report. However, if a credit agency is being particularly difficult, it may be worthwhile for you to bring your dispute to the court so that you may clarify any inconsistencies prior to speaking with the credit agencies. For example, you may suspect that a judgment was mistakenly reported against you by the credit agencies, when in fact the judgment was made by the court against a similarly-named person. Going to the court first would allow you to clarify the information and give you some leverage in your interactions with the credit agencies.
If you realize that a judgment has been fairly made against you, but you pay it off, then the creditor is required by law to file an Acknowledgement of Satisfaction of Judgment. You can also file a declaration of that satisfaction of judgment to the court, and the court will report that your judgment has been satisfied. Keep in mind that a satisfaction of judgment won't remove said judgment from your credit report. The credit report will simply show that the debt has been paid. In order to update the report, you'll have to mail certified copies of the Acknowledgement to the credit agencies.
To learn more about your legal options, you should consult with a qualified credit repair attorney.