How best to negotiate a judgement amount?

Have a judgment against me and I need it cleared up to get approved on a home. The original debt was for $1100. The attorney had asked for $3200 at first; I told him Ionly could pay $1000. He then dropped it down to $2400. Told him I couldn’t exceed $1100. He said he could go down to $2200. What are my options and what could I say to get this amount to be reduced closer to my $1100?

Asked on October 6, 2011 under Bankruptcy Law, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

First of all, as you probably know, but to reinforce since it's important, if there is already a judgment against you, unless there are good grounds to appeal it or seek to vacate it (e.g. you never received proper notice; it's based on demonstrably false evidence; etc.) you have no "legal" options--that is, the creditor may insist on being paid the judgment amount, and you have no way to force them to take less. Therefore, it's all about the negotiation and getting them to voluntarily take less.

(That said, if there is a judgment against you, it's for a sum certain--you only owe what the judgment amount is. The attorney can't ask for more than the judgment, so check the judgment itself to see what you owe.)

In terms of negotiating, you seem to be doing a good job. There is no "magic bullet" about how to negotiate--generally, you try to demonstrate (i.e. with payroll stubs, bank account statments, evidence of other debts you have to pay, etc.) that you can only pay so much money, and hope the other side will understand that they're better off voluntarily taking that amount, rather than holding out for more but being unable to get it. Do not mention that you want  to be approved on a home--doing so will  give the other side leverage over you, as well as undercut your claim of financial hardship (if you can afford a home, why can't you pay your debt?).


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