Excellent question that I have answered in the first video on my firm's home page, linked below. I also suggest reviewing some of the related articles on my web site and other short videos, as they will help you answer your next question of which option suits you best.
Please note that the deadline to respond in court to the lawsuit expires from the date you were served. It has nothing to do with the date stamped by the court on the papers or any future hearing dates. Below is link to my blog that explains the deadline to respond in court.
Robert Stempler (please see DISCLAIMER below)
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Here are a few options (assuming you have no grounds to challenge the debt):
Negotiate with the credit card company for either a lump sum payment (cheaper, but you need cash to pay it) or a monthly payment plan (they may ask for a stipulated judgment, which they will file if you are late on a payment).
Do nothing and allow them to get a default judgment. Once your creditor has a judgment against you, it has to a variety of methods of collecting on the debt like garnishing your wages or bank accounts or attaching non-exempt property. I don't practice in CA, but I would guess that their obtaining a judgment will lead in one way or another to a judgment lien on any real property you may own.
Talk with a local bankruptcy attorney about filing bankruptcy. Depending on your financial situation, bankruptcy might be a good way for you to get out of debt. Your money might be better spent discharging debt rather than servicing it. The bankruptcy would stop the lawsuit and avoid the future ramifications of a judgment.
My answer is for only informational purposes and is not legal advice. I am licensed to practice law in Oregon and I recommend contacting a local attorney for the best help with your legal questions.
I assume you were sued in state superior court. As such, you have 30 days to respond to the summons and complaint. If you fail to timely respond, a default judgment will be quickly entered against you. This is the worse outcome. If you respond, the judgment can be delayed, and you usually would also have the opportunity to negotiate a more favorable outcome.
In the event you absolutely cannot afford an attorney to defend you, you can represent yourself "in pro per". You would file either an Answer or a General Denial, and pay the first appearance filing fee.
The form for the Answer is (Judicial Council Form PLD-C-010):
The form for the General Denial is (Judicial Council Form PLD-050):
If you cannot afford the first appearance filing fee, you may apply for a fee waiver. See:
The information presented here is general in nature and is not intended, nor should be construed, as legal advice. This posting does not create any attorney-client relationship with the author (who is only admitted to practice law in the State of California). For specific advice about your particular situation, consult your own attorney.