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Can I be held in contempt of court for not paying my judgement (old credit card debt)?

Bentonville, AR |

I have got a letter from a lawyer in little rock saying that I will be in contempt of court if I dont pay this judgement (old credit card debt). I am unemployed and have no money. What do I do?

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Attorney answers 3


Contempt of court is almost never the result of mere nonpayment. If that were the case, it would mean that this country had debtors prisons. Failure to answer post judgment discovery can be contempt, and you could be jailed, probably only briefly.


A Final Judgment on a credit card debt is not an order to pay money, it is a declaration as to whether or not there is a debt, and if so how much is owed.

It is NOT enforcable as would a divorce decree requiring payment of alimony or child support.

On a civil case, you can NOT be held in contempt for failure to pay the judgment. You can be held in contempt if you do not appear at a deposition when subpoenaed, or if you disobey a Court order instructing you to respond to interrogatories or requests for production. So, as long as you respond timely and truthfully to requests for information, you should not have a problem.

Now, here is the other side of the coin. If the lawyer's letter says what you say--in other words, you are not misinterpreting it, or taking the words the wrong way--then the lawyer may have violated the Federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act the card was a personal account and not a business account. A debt collector of a consumer debt can not threaten to take action that is not lawful. You would have a claim against the lawyer, not the judgment creditor.

I suggest you consult with an attorney familiar with consumer collection laws to determine whether you have such a claim, and do so quickly, as the FDCPA has a 1 year statute of limitations. Also, Arkansas may have its own laws of similar nature.

I hope you found this response helpful.

Good luck.

This response shall not be considered to be the rendering of legal advise but instead a general response to a general question, nor shall this response be considered as a communication made to initiate an attorney-client relationship, nor shall this response create any obligation on the part of the attorney to respond to further inquiry from the person presenting the question. The laws of the states are different, even on general areas, and while Avvo is a wonderful resource to get a quick response to a quick and specific inquiry, nothing can substitute for a consultation with an attorney familiar with the area of law in the jurisdiction in which the legal matter will be decided.


The short answer is to have an attorney read the actual letter that you received and then talk to them about the meaning of the letter and your options. They can then give you additional advice without having to guess what it is referring to.