Once upon a time, Cinderella had a money judgment entered against her. She thought nothing of it at the time because she could no more pay her debt than go to the ball. Then along came her Fairy Godmother and next thing you know, Cinderella had won the Prince Charming lottery.
Right in the middle of happily ever after, a creditor garnished Cinderella’s newfound wealth. Her brand new great big mound of money was swept clean from her account, just like that—poof!—it was gone. “Surely you would not take my good fortune from me!” Cinderella protested.
“The judgment is good for 20 years,” replied the creditor. And thus Cinderella went from rags to riches and back to rags again.
A Money Judgment is just a piece of paper, EXCEPT a creditor may watch your bank account over the next 20 YEARS. If your credit score goes up, that creditor might reappear. With a Money Judgment, he may get your car, your real estate (except homestead), or garnish your bank account without prior notice to you, freezing any good fortune you come into.
Everybody should pay their debts; however, certain incomes are exempt to prevent a choice between paying the electric bill or buying food. Exempt incomes include:
- Income that provides more than one-half the support for dependant or minor children
- Social Security benefits
- Pension (IRA, 401K)
The key to an exemption is that you have to claim it. Just because you are eligible for a collection exemption does not mean you automatically receive it. Exemptions have to be filed within 20 days of the Notice of Garnishment that you receive after your account has been frozen.
A Judgment is bad, but ignoring it is worse. Seek competent legal advice to learn more about collection exemptions. (You do not need an appointment to pick up a pamphlet at Legal Aid about collection exemptions and how to claim them.)