Based on the information you provided, assuming that you are the only person responsible for the debt and that your husband isn't also included, it sounds like at this point there's very little that they can do to collect on it. They can't garnish your husband's wages for a debt that you owe, your homestead is not at risk, and you have few assets. Given those facts, my best advice to you is to be completely honest with them about your financial picture because there once they are comfortable that you are uncollectible they will likely leave you alone, at least for a while. Keep in mind, however, that they will most likely obtain a judgment against you, and a judgment can be collected on in Florida for basically what amounts to 20 years which means that when the kids are in school and you go back to work etc. your income could be garnished.
I offer a free consultation in my Jacksonville office and would be happy to speak with you about the issue should you wish to seek further advice.
I handle these cases in Pennsylvania. The company that filed the complaint likely does not have the documents necessary to win the case and consequently the claim can be dismissed forever without any payment from you. Often, when faced with this possibility of dismissal, they will simply withdraw the case without prejudice--meaning that if they ever do find the documents--within the statute of limitation period in your state , they can re-file. In the meantime the lawsuit is gone and I have never seen these companies ever re-file.
YOu should challenge this lawsuit. I understand you know about this debt but the other side has obligations--they need to have the right documents and it is unlikely they do. YOu need to secure counsel to assist you. Within the next few days you will probably similar letters offering to represent you. I think fees in Florida on such cases are much higher. Here in Pittsburgh the typical fee is $500.00. My fee for such a case is $375.00 and like the other attorneys here who handle these cases, if the case is not dismissed or at least withdrawn, the full amount of the fee is returned to you. That might sound like a good deal for the client and risky for the lawyer--not really---I've never had to return any fee. THe reason for this is not that I am doing anything special; it's simply that the other side just does not have the documents necessary to support these lawsuits. Check out the lawyers who send you letters and also look for a lawyer --who handles these junk debt lawsuit cases--near through the website for the national association of consumer lawyers. YOu want to find someone who handles these cases but you want someone who will not charge a significant sum.
To answer another part of your question, they can gain something. This is there business model. They know they don't have the documents to support these cases. Once suit is filed some people say "well I guess I owe it" and call the attorney and make arrangement for payments--which is actually more likely now that a lawsuit is filed. A larger group does nothing and a default judgment for the whole amount is entered. In Pennsylvania wages cannot be garnished to pay a judgment--I don't know about Florida. In Pennsylvania the preferred method of collection is the freezing and seizing of bank accounts. This can cause havoc if you have sent out a check for the mortgage, light bill, etc and all the checks start to bounce because the account has been seized. Do not ignore the lawsuit and get representation.
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I agree with the other responses in that you have several options, which include defending against teh claim. If they see you're fighting them. You could opt to defend against their efforts to collect. Of course, there's the option of filing bankruptcy. Which strategy (or combination of strategies) best fits into your situation? That question is best answered by an experienced attorney who can actually meet with you to understand your case, your objectives, and customize the best strategy for you. There's only so much we can do through an online forum.