my son is 25 and had been unemployed for three years. He has a credit card from a bank that he owed $1,200. and he did not pay. Then he ignored the letter saying the debt was sold to a debt collector and was being sued for it plus interest. Not having any money or knowing what to do he ignored that too. Now there is a judgment against him and he cannot even open a bank account. He is now employed and trying to get his life together. He called the company that wn the judgement against him and tried to settle the debt. They said only for $4,000. and change and the judgement won't be lifted until paid in full. He has no savings and feels like bankruptcy is his only option to starting all over again. Do you think getting a letter from a lawyer asking for a smaller settlement ( no more than $1500. would get him anywhere? Or should he just declare bankruptcy so he can get a bank account and start life again.
2 Answers from Attorneys
It might be worth retaining an attorney to negotiate a settlement. If he does so, he should negotiate the fee with the attorney so it won't be as expensive as the debt they're trying to collect. He probably should avoid bankruptcy if that's the only debt he owes. A bankruptcy stays on the credit report for a very long time.
The concept of settling debts is a good one but in practice it does not work that well. The company you're settling with might continue collections activity anyway, sometimes a year or two later. It might sell the debt, after being settled, to a third party who will pursue it. All illegal but then you need an FDCPA (or California equivalent, the Rosenthal Act) attorney to pursue the collectors.
The above is fine, but usually a settled debt that is sold, is sold to these shady companies who will call and harass just to squeeze money out of the debtor, but who will not give out their location and insist on payment over the phone. It's all a mess.
My point is, settling debt is uncertain and a hassle. The lawyer must be paid to do the work, and there is no guarantee that the debt can either be settled or that it'll go away once settled.
Assuming you qualify, bankruptcy is guaranteed to wipe the debt away. While there may be some shenanigans by creditors, it's much less prevalent.
The answer from my perspective is clear, file the bankruptcy. The only caveat is, once you file, you can't do another Chapter 7 for 8 years. So if your son gets in more trouble, that's a long waiting period to file another one. This should be considered.
Of course, I don't know all the facts of the case. You should seek an attorney, see what they say once they've had a chance to interview your son.
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