Debt revived do I have to appear in court?

Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “I owed debts to a creditor. Although the statute of limitations had expired the creditor was able to successfully revive the debt. What does this mean for me and will I have to appear in court to deal with this debt issue?”

State laws determine the amount of time or statute of limitations for debt collection. Whether the debt agreement is oral or written, the creditor only has a specified amount of time to collect the debt. For example, in the state of Georgia, the statute of limitations for a written contract is six years. Oral contracts have a four year statute of limitations. Debtors, however, may take certain actions which may restart the statute of limitations for debt collection and allow creditors to collect payment for debts which were previously time-barred.

Reviving Old Debt

Although creditors are limited in their legal remedies for debt repayment after the statute of limitations, creditors are allowed to contact debtors about time-barred debts. Often they will do this to see if they can get the debtor to make voluntary debt payments.

Unfortunately, many debtors do not understand the laws and may not realize that the statute of limitations may be restarted for certain old debts. Although state laws vary, in some cases, for example, all a debtor may have to do to restart the statute of limitations is to admit the debt is theirs, complete forms sent by the collectors, or make a partial payment.

In Georgia, for example, a debtor may extend the statute of limitations by giving written acknowledgment or a new promise to the creditor which “sufficiently identifies the debt or affords a means of identification with reasonable certainty.”

Although a new contract is not established, the old promise or contract is revived, and the duration of the statute of limitations is governed by the nature of the original debt obligation.

How do I avoid reviving old debt?

So what do you do to avoid reviving old debt? The best course of action (before you make any payments or discuss your debt with anyone) is to understand the laws of your state and how debts can be revived. Information can be found by contacting the attorney general’s office in your state or the department of consumer affairs.

You can also ask the creditor whether the debt is time-barred, which the creditor is required by law to either decline to answer or answer truthfully. You can also request information about the date of the last payment. Specifically, you are “disputing” the debt and you would like to “verify” it.

What if I am sued after the statute of limitations?

You mentioned your debt was revived so this does not apply in your case, but some debtors may be sued for debt which is too old to collect. If this is the case you must take the initiative and raise the defense that the debt is beyond the statute of limitations.

In some cases, you may also be able to file a countersuit under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, arguing the debt collector has violated the law by suing you for time-barred debt.

Repaying revived debt

Now back to your question about revived debt and debt repayment. If the debt you owe has been revived you have the same options you had before: refuse to repay the debt, repay part of the debt, or repay all of the debt. The creditor will also have the same options they had before: write-off the debt, continue to attempt to collect the debt, or file suit against you in court.

If they file suit against you, you need to respond to the summons or the judge will simply find in their favor and issue a default judgment. You can either respond on your own or hire a lawyer. If the case proceeds all the way to court there will eventually be a court date where you are required to appear in court and argue your case.

Stop creditor harassment

Finally, if your debt has been sold to a third-party debt collector and you are tired of the harassing phone calls you may have the right to ask debt collectors in writing to stop contacting you. This is not a reaffirmation of the debt, but simply a right under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.

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