Depending on the laws in your state, a creditor with a court judgment against you may have the right to attach a lien to your personal property, seize your bank accounts and garnish your wages. Creditors lack the right simply to "file" judgments. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, your creditor must sue you and win to have a judgment issued against you. Although creditors must serve you formal notice of a lawsuit, some states allow plaintiffs to serve notice to your last known address – and then grant the creditor a judgment by default when you do not appear in court. You can find out if a creditor has a judgment against you by reviewing your credit report and checking public records.
Consider also: What Is a Judgment on a Credit Report?
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Check Your Credit Reports
Because creditors can get court judgments in areas outside where you are currently living, your best bet for finding out about a judgment is a credit report. Credit bureaus monitor public records in all states and any judgments against you will appear in the "Public Information" section of your credit report. You can request a free copy of your credit report online from each credit bureau by visiting the AnnualCreditReport website, which is the only one approved by the Federal Trade Commission to provide consumers with free annual credit reports. If you are not comfortable requesting your free credit report online, you can make your request over the phone by calling 1-877-322-8228.
If you have already received your free annual credit reports within the past 12 months, you may still be entitled to free reports for other reasons. According to the Federal Trade Commission, federal law allows you to request free reports if you have suffered an adverse action, such as being denied a job, a credit card, or an apartment lease, due to entries on your credit report. You may also be entitled to a free report if you are unemployed and looking for a job.
Consider also: How to Get Your Free Credit Report
Research PACER Records
PACER is the government's Public Access to Court Electronic Records database and provides you with immediate access to court records nationwide. Not all courts upload their records to PACER, which means that the absence of a case on PACER doesn't mean that your record is judgment-free. However, if your court participates in the program, you can access information about any cases filed against you by searching national records using your name or searching your local court district's online database through the PACER system. You will need to open an account on PACER to use the system.
Consider also: What Is a Notice of Entry & Docketing of Judgment?
Contact Your County Courthouse
Visit your county courthouse's court records department. Inform the clerk at the counter that you are trying to find out if there are any current judgments against you. The clerk will then access the information by computer and can provide you with copies of any documents noting the existence of a judgment.
If you aren't comfortable talking to the clerk about your judgment, some courts offer public access terminals. These public access terminals allow you to research court information in private. In addition, some court systems offer online databases that you can search from home.
Your county courthouse will only have information about cases filed within its jurisdiction. If the judgment was filed in another jurisdiction, your county courthouse won't have any record of it. You'll have to check the court records in the area or areas where you suspect a case was filed.