If you have a judgment on your credit report, it will be one of the more difficult entries to change in your favor. In fact, since it is a claim decreed by a court, there’s very little opportunity to have it removed from your credit report at all.
What recourse do you have when there is a judgment on your credit report?
Prove that the Judgment Isn’t Against You
This is probably the only legitimate way to have a judgment removed from your credit report. If you’re certain that you are not the party named in the judgment, then you may be able to have it removed from your credit report.
Understand however that it may be more difficult to remove a judgment reported in error than it is to clear up other types of derogatory credit. The fact that the judgment is a legal decree can make the burden of proof higher.
Just as is the case with other types of credit errors, you’ll have to have a paper trail, and one that clearly proves your point. Your name could be similar to that of the actual party who is named in the claim. Also could happen due to an error with the Social Security number of the person in the judgment.
You will have to thoroughly investigate all the details of the judgment before making your case with the credit bureaus. It may even be that the plaintiff incorrectly connected you to the judgment, which can be very complicated to correct.
And since there are three credit bureaus, there’s a possibility that the judgment is included on only one of your credit reports. That would be a strong indication that the judgment actually does not belong to you.
Provide Evidence that the Judgment Was Paid
Paying off a judgment doesn’t make the entry disappear from your credit report. But a paid judgment is always better than an open judgment. If the judgment is legitimately ask you, then your best course of action is to pay it as soon as possible. If you have paid the judgment already, and it is not being reflected on one of your credit reports, you’ll have to furnish evidence to the credit bureau(s).
Warrant of Satisfaction. You may be able to provide evidence of payment with a copy of the canceled check. But the payment itself does not confirm that the judgment has been paid. In almost every case, the credit bureau will rely upon the status of the judgment as reported by the court. The best evidence in this case is a warrant of satisfaction.
That’s a legal document issued by the court confirming that the judgment has been satisfied. That document would be superior to any other evidence you can provide. If the judgment is still open, be sure that you get a warrant of satisfaction upon payment of the judgment. It should be kept in your “very important papers file” in cases ever need it in the future.
The Reporting Period Has Expired
Judgments stay on your credit report for at least seven years, even if they have been paid. If that reporting period has expired, but the judgment is still on your credit report, you’ll have to contact the issuing credit bureau and formally request that the judgment be deleted from your report.
This will of course be easier to do if the judgment has been paid. It may even be worth your time and effort to get the judgment dropped from your report before seven years expires. However there will be no chance of doing that if the judgment is unpaid.
You May Have to go Before the Court
It’s important to understand that you may have to go before the court in the event that the judgment is not against you personally, or even that it was paid in the past. Courts will do little in your favor absent evidence to prove your case. You may need to bring documents proving that either the judgment is not yours, or that it has been paid.
This may require that you make an appearance before the court. Because there are legal steps that they must follow, you may have to be prepared to invest a day or two to go to the court and prove your point.
As inconvenient as this may be, there’s often no choice. It can be very difficult to find a contact within a court who will be both available and sympathetic to your situation when using phone and email alone. Often an in-person visit is the only way to fix the problem.
You May Need Legal Help to Deal with a Difficult Judgment Situation
Since you will be dealing with the courts, you may need legal representation to help you. Much will depend upon the jurisdiction where the judgment was decreed as well as issues specific to your situation.
You may also find that you will need legal help in dealing with either the credit bureaus, or even the plaintiff involved in the judgment. This is especially true if the judgment is showing up on your credit report in error, or if you have paid it off already, and can’t have the correct updated information properly reported. You may even need help getting a warrant of satisfaction, particularly if it is for a judgment that has already been paid, and for which you don’t have the warrant.
Disputing, removing, or updating a judgment entry in a credit report is not the easiest credit repair task to undertake. For that reason, you should get professional help if you even think you might need it.