If you live in North Carolina and you have received a Summons and Complaint
from a creditor, then you have been sued.
The person who files a lawsuit is called a plaintiff.
The person who has been sued is called a defendant. The defendant must defend
against the allegations and charges in the lawsuit.
The lawsuit may come by regular or certified mail, or it may be delivered by the Sheriff, who
will sign a certificate proving that you were served, or got a copy, of the lawsuit. If you try to avoid
the service, that doesn't mean you can avoid the lawsuit. Plaintiffs may serve by other methods, some which you may not even
be aware of, such as publication in a newspaper. If they can't find you or get service by mail or personal delivery,
they can still serve you and get a judgment against you.
The complaint does what it sounds like it does; it complains to the court about what you
have or haven't done. For example, you owe a debt and have not paid it. The summons summons you, or calls for
you, to file an answer. For instance, that you admit, or that you deny, that you owe the money to the
You may be able to defend against the lawsuit. You may have proof that you already paid the
debt, they may have sued the wrong person, or numerous other defenses that you might be able to put into your answer to fight
the lawsuit. Even if you owe the creditors something, it may be that the creditor can't prove you owe the money or that particular
amount of money, or the creditor may have violated collection laws which you can sue them for. It is advisable for you to
talk to a lawyer about your defenses and your particular situation.
If you have been sued, you should discuss the lawsuit with an attorney. If you need a little
time to make an appointment and speak to the attorney and don't want to worry about a looming deadline, you may be entitled
to an extention of time to file an answer.
Mecklenburg County North Carolina has a form you can use for this and norally allows a 30 day
extention --click here: Form for Extention of Time To Answer . You should take 3 copies to the Clerk of Court, they will sign the Order, stamp all copies, keep the original
and give you back two. You will need to send one of the two copies to the attorney/creditor who sued you.
If you file an answer but don't win the lawsuit, a Judgment will be entered
If you don't file an answer at all, a Judgment will be entered against you by default, and it
will go against your property.
Judgments are very serious, and may be held against you and enforced for up to twenty (20) years
in North Carolina. Judgments become liens on any real property (such as land, your house, condo, building, etc.) and may even
allow the creditor to foreclose on the real property. Even if you don't own a house or land, creditors may be able to take
any other property you have, including your money in banks, your cars or any other property you own.
The process of enforcement of the judgment is called "Execution of Judgment". State law
does protect some of your property from your creditors with exemption laws which allow you to claim some
of your property as exempt, or protected, from your creditors.
Even if a judgment isn't showing up on your credit report, it may still be valid. Judgments
will usually drop off a credit report in seven (7) years, but they are valid for ten years and can be renewed for an additional
ten (10) years for the twenty (20) year period.
If you try to sell a house with a judgment lien against it, you may have to pay the judgment
off before you can sell. If you have a judgment against you, and you later want to buy a house, you may find that you have
to pay off the judgment before a lender will loan you money to buy the house or land.
If a lawsuit has not been filed yet, the creditor can't sue for debts you filed bankruptcy on.
If you file for bankruptcy after you have been sued but before a judgment is entered against you, the bankruptcy will stop the lawsuit and prevent a
judgment from being entered against you.
I recommend that if you plan to file for bankruptcy, it is usually better to file before the
judgment is entered. Additional steps may be required to try remove the lien from your property, and you might pay more
for a lawyer to do the additional work.
If you already have a judgment lien against you, you may still be helped by filing for
bankruptcy. Bankruptcy may avoid, or remove, a judgment from property, and discharge all or part of the debt to the
creditor. However it may not - it depends on the circumstances, the amount of the debt and the value of the
property. You may not be able to remove the judgment lien, or you might just be able to remove part.
It is a good idea to try to avoid having a judgment against you in the first place and seek
legal advice from a good bankruptcy attorney early on. Be aware that you may not be able to hire an attorney at the
last minute who can prepare your bankruptcy documents before a judgment is entered against you so don't wait until you
have an emergency to try to seek legal help.
Each situation varies, so it is important that you speak to an experienced bankruptcy lawyer
to discuss your particular problem. Try to do this before you have judgments against you so you don't add to your financial