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5 Things You Need to Know about Judgments and Your Credit

Like so many things within the world of credit reporting and credit scoring, the subject of judgments and their impact on your credit is often very misunderstood. There are simply too many myths around judgments, which compounds the problem.

If you feel confused about how judgments impact credit reports and credit scores then here’s some clarity on the issue.

1. How Do Judgments End Up on Credit Reports?

If you are sued in court and the court or the jury rules against you then a judgment is filed in the adverse party’s favor. The judgment is actually filed against you by the court, not by the party who initially sued you. Once a judgment is filed against you it may not be long before it finds its way onto your credit reports.

However, the manner in which judgments end up on credit reports is quite a bit different than the way in which other accounts find their way onto your credit reports.

The majority of accounts which end up on a consumer’s credit report – i.e. mortgages, credit cards, collection accounts, etc. – are reported to the credit bureau by lenders or collection agencies, aka “data furnishers.”

Courthouses and court clerks are not data furnishers. They do not report information about judgments (or any other public record) to the credit bureaus. Instead, the credit bureaus proactively seek out information regarding judgments through the use of public record vendors like PACER and LexisNexis.

Once a credit bureau has acquired information about a newly filed judgment they will include the judgment on the consumer’s credit file.

2. Unsatisfied Judgments and Credit Reporting Longevity

The majority of judgments are allowed to remain on a consumer’s credit report for up to 7 years from the date the judgment is filed by the court. Unsatisfied or unpaid judgments are no exception to the 7-year rule.

And, when it comes to your credit scores it should come as no surprise that judgments can have a serious negative impact.

Judgments are considered to be a major derogatory credit entry by both FICO and VantageScore’s credit scoring systems. The extent to which a judgment will impact your scores will lessen somewhat with time, but it will still damage your scores until the day it is removed.

Unsatisfied judgments (aka, judgments that have not been paid and satisfied) also have the potential to come back and bite a consumer a second time as well.

The reason unpaid judgments may have an added downside for consumers is due to the fact that they have the potential to be re-filed.

If a judgment is re-filed before the initial 7 years expires then it can be picked up by the credit bureaus again and can actually remain on the consumer’s credit report for 7 years from the new filing date.

3. Satisfied Judgments and Credit Impact

When a judgment has been paid the court will update the status of the judgment and file what’s referred to as a satisfaction of judgment. One of the most common misunderstandings about the reporting of satisfied judgments is that a satisfied judgment will be removed from a consumer’s credit report prior to the 7-year credit reporting statute of limitations.

Unfortunately for consumers, this idea is untrue. Satisfied judgments continue to remain on a consumer’s credit reports for 7 years from the date the judgment was initially filed by the court.

Although most consumers find it disappointing that satisfied judgments could continue to harm their credit scores for many years, there are still two benefits to paying off a judgment.

As mentioned above, unpaid judgments not only harm a consumer’s credit scores but they carry the added risk of being re-filed. Additionally, unpaid judgments accrue interest, just like any other debt.

The interest rates vary but it’s not unheard of to have a judgment accruing double digit interest, every year.

4. Vacated Judgments and Credit Reporting

If a consumer appeals a previously filed judgment there’s a chance they can have it vacated. When a court vacates a judgment, it is as if the judgment never existed.

Thankfully for consumers, the credit bureaus will delete vacated judgments from credit reports. Vacated judgments are recorded as such in court records so it’s not hard for the credit bureaus to confirm the new status.

Or, if you’re able to get a copy of the vacate order you can provide a copy to the credit reporting agencies and speed up the process. If you are able to get a judgment vacated then you can dispute the status of the judgment with the credit bureaus and ask them to delete it from your credit reports.

If you’ve got it then be sure to include proof that the judgment was vacated with your disputes, although this is not required. Also, be sure to dispute the judgment with each credit bureau that is reporting the item.

If you are unsure which credit bureaus are currently reporting the judgment then you can always obtain free copies of all 3 of your credit reports each year at

5. Judgments and Mortgage Loans

Not only is it possible that a judgment will trash your credit scores, but an unpaid judgment will also make it much more difficult you to qualify for a mortgage loan. Judgments can lower your credit scores to the point where you may not be able to qualify for a mortgage loan.

To add insult to injury, even if your credit scores are high enough to qualify for a mortgage in spite of the presence of a judgment the lender is almost certainly going to require that the judgment be paid and satisfied prior to closing.

If you have already paid and satisfied a judgment that was filed against you do not just assume that the judgment is being reported correctly by the credit bureaus.

Credit reporting errors occur quite often (up to 21% of the time according to the FTC) and it is ultimately up to you to verify that the information on your credit reports is accurate.

You should check your credit reports and if you discover that you have a judgment or anything else being reported incorrectly you can submit a dispute to the credit bureau(s) asking for the item to be corrected or removed.


About the author

John Ulzheimer


  • America’s court system and the credit system sucks very unfair ….it is like being on a roller coasters …..up’s and down’s
    You are pretty much ..a ..loss no matter what you do….

    • Speaking of Courts, Who if anybody ? Regulates Credit Reporting Agencies and should we not have a right to have a statement of our own explaining why and how some negative information got on our credit reports, Sort of like if you are a seller on Ebay or Amazon and a buyer gives you a bad report for everyone to see, Where you get to explain and in my case ask all prospective buyers to look at my last 450 very satisfied customers in the last year.

      • The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
        You do have rights under the FCRA. The credit reporting agencies are not following the guidelines when reporting consumers information. That is why the dispute process is available. Until the information is verified, under the law it should not be placed on any credit reports. These agencies ignore the laws.
        Author of Credit Jail How to Break Out.

    • I agree 1,000,000 percent 😀it’s up and down ‘ up and down up and down and it’s apparently what ever u try don’t work and really sad part they don’t in account sometimes u job is lost might have to go and get major surgery so and so on who’s cares if u can’t work or something major happens I u gonna get behind on u bills not everyone but a lot they don’t care

  • America’s court system and the credit system sucks very unfair ….it is like being on a roller coasters …..up’s and down’s
    You are pretty much ..a ..loss no matter what you do….

  • Is there any reason for a landlord or money lender to even file for a judgment in the future?

    It appears now there is no negative to reneging on a debt. Am I incorrect?


    • Filing a Judgment will extend the statue of limitations on fines/citations.
      If the agency has not managed to collect outstanding debt, the will renew the judgment to extend the statute of limitations on the debt.

  • I was contacted by Collection Agency on an old credit card debt that I stopped paying 4/2010. They state they will not sue me, but the opening date on my credit report shows 2013. Should I go ahead and send them a validation letter?
    Thank you!

  • Is it true that as of July 2017 the credit bureaus must remove all civil judgments and tax liens from one’s credit report? I heard this on the news that new law has been passed.

    • Yes, it is true. I have two judgements that will “naturally” be removed in mid-2018, but I called 2 of the 3 major credit bureaus, and they basically said that legal teams were working on the details and the judgements should automatically be removed by the agencies. Bear in mind, they retain records for hundreds of millions of Americans, and they all won’t be taken care of in one month. I’ll stay on them until mine are cleared and I suggest you do the same. Good luck!

  • You know – if there was enough public outcry about the horribly inconsistent world of credit reporting and EVERY SINGLE TIME that errors are made by these credit bureaus they were held responsible for the costs pain and suffering experienced by the consumer; then, and only then would we (the people) start to actually see a fair, reasonable, and equitable credit system! As it stands right now – THERE IS no continuity whatsoever! The credit reporting bureaus are NEVER held responsible or accountable for errors on their part. In my case, I was deployed and a charge came in. I was out of the country – serving this country and a bill came in that I was never aware of. Although, I had passed along my new contact information – the company never got it forwarded on to their billing dept. So, bills that went out got returned as un-deliverable. It then have a lean placed against me and even though all of this could be proven and I am supposed to be protected under the ‘Service Members Civil Relief Act’? I was not! ALL of this because Credit Reporting Agencies are allowed to act with impunity. So…., if Americans are tired of them – then Americans have to take action and go thru their representatives and perhaps then and only then would this ridiculously inept system be fixed!

  • Judgement was removed from my credit karma in 2015. Haven’t checked actual credit reports. Hadn’t received any recovery letters until two weeks ago. How does one know if judgement was refiled b4 the 7years? I don’t have any paperwork to check. How do I get these letters to stop?

    • Do a credit check on yourself and credit karma shows them. It just more likely hadn’t been filed yet. I try to check weekly glad I do. The credit bureau not on credit karma you can get a free year of looking at your report. Not sure how I got mine but I’m a member and don’t pay to see my report when I want to. Search on was around the fees.

  • With all the fancy algorithms and credit reporting services available, have they actually improved the delinquency rates?

  • Hi, I have two judgements on my credit report, but have paid them both to the parties that filed them, I’ve have satisfied the debt, so am I able to have the judgements removed off my credit report?

  • I was sued by a lawyer that I built the house for. The house was completed when finished and he took possession but never made a payment to the bank that the house was financed with. The house was put on the market and was listed for almost 7 months. When the house and did not sell he trumped up allegations and sued me for the entire price of the house. I spent $70,000 of my own money defending myself but ran out of money. He then got a judgment from us $320,000 of which I never got notice from the court that it had been filed. Can I get this removed sense it was falsely Filed without my knowledge.

      • Hi Sam, thanks for responding. Upon rereading.. I believe I asked incorrectly on what to do. First off.. the one judgement in question has no information on it.. not even a file date.. so I looked at my paper work and found a letter from the collection company/attorney and they filed paperwork to the courthouse stating Notice of dismissal with prejudice. So what I’m asking is, can I get theverything judgement removed from credit report? If so, do I start with the attorney?

        Regarding my other judgement, it was filed, but I settled with collection company, so it never went to court. The judgement states paid, can I have it removed or do I leave it alone?

        I appreciate your time and look forward to hearing from you?


  • Is no pay, late pay on debit/credit cards the same? If so, I thought that after 7 years they could not put a new default date. My understanding is that it’s against the law to do so.

  • What about when the IRS put lean on your credit and a judgment how long does that stay in does that hurt your credit really belly?

    • Hi Michael,
      Thanks for reading! You will find the fourth and fifth items on this list on the next page of the article, which you can find by clicking on the big, red 2 at the end of the article.

    • Hi Herman,
      Thanks for reading! You will find the fourth and fifth items on this list on the next page of the article, which you can find by clicking on the big, red 2 at the end of the article.

  • Hi. I filed bankruptcy 5 yrs ago. One of the creditors is listed as filed, but not satisfied, as the others are. There is a notation of included in bk. Home loan officer said not the same and I had to send him bk paperwork. How would I fix this at Experian, or the courts or both? Thank you for your time.

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