Chloe Meltzer | December 01, 2022
Summary: Learn what it means to have a Warrant in Debt and how to defend yourself with SoloSuit.
In many states, any lawsuit in regards to money is considered a type of civil action, and in Virginia, it is known as a “Warrant in Debt.” This term sounds very technical, but it simply means that you owe money on a debt.
Creditors or debt collectors typically obtain a warrant in debt to obtain a judgment against you. Judgments are a court order to pay your debt, and with a judgment, more serious demands can occur. This might include wage garnishment or freezing your bank account. Before getting to that point though, you should expect calls, letters, and negative credit reports beforehand.
If a creditor files a Warrant in Debt in court, you will be given notice. Typically this will come as an in-person service or through the mail. Another name for a warrant in debt is being “served.”
When an in-person service serves you with a warrant in debt, it will be done by either a sheriff or process server. This person will bring you the warrant in debt to your home, and hand it to either you or an adult resident. It is good to note that the debt collector cannot discuss your debt with anyone other than your spouse.
If you receive it through the mail, then you may come home to a notice on the front of your door. The creditor should always also provide a mailed notice.
When reading through the warrant in debt, you will notice a few items:
The return date is essentially the date and time that you will be required to appear in court, also known as a summons date. If you do not arrive during the return date, a default judgment will automatically be entered against you.
Default judgments only occur if you do not appear to defend your lawsuit. This means that you automatically forfeit the lawsuit. If you do go to court, you shouldn't admit any guilt or responsibility for the debt. This means you should not go to your summons for the Warrant in Debt and explain to the judge that you cannot afford to pay.
The point of going to court is to determine if the debt is valid. This means that regardless of your situation if it is proven valid, you will be required to pay it. This is why when you go to court, you should decide beforehand if you plan to dispute the debt.
If you decide you want to dispute the debt, then the judge will set another date for trial. In this case, the creditor or debt collector will be given a chance to gather the evidence. The judge may also order a “Bill of Particulars” and a “Grounds of Defense”.
When you go to trial the creditor or debt collector will reach for any evidence to prove the debt is valid. Essentially they will take all of the details provided in the Bill of Particulars, and back them with proof. This should include:
After the evidence has been presented, you will then be allowed to present your evidence stating why the debt is not valid. You may use one of the following common defenses, such as:
When it comes to the statute of limitations, this is an affirmative defense. It means that in your state, legally a lawsuit can not be presented to pursue the debt. In the state of Virginia, this is anywhere from three to five years and depends on whether or not you can find the original debt agreement.
If you end up winning your case then it should be dismissed. If you fight the debt and lose, then you will have a judgment placed against you. Judgments are valid for up to 10 years and up to 40 years in Virginia. This means that the creditor who obtained the judgment against you may not begin to collect right away, but others will. There are various methods of collection, such as wage garnishment, bank account freezes, and liens on the property.
Wage garnishment in Virginia may legally be up to 25% of your disposable income. This means that garnishment can also take all the money in your bank account until the judgment is paid off. Social security cannot be touched, but otherwise, your wages are fair game.
Unfortunately, after a judgment is official, creditors may be more aggressive. They know they have rights to collect on your wages or income, and they will push to use those rights. In Virginia it can be difficult to stop garnishment, meaning the last resort is bankruptcy.
Bankruptcy should always be a last resort, which is why it is recommended to settle or negotiate whenever possible. This will avoid judgment altogether and typically lead to a better outcome overall.
SoloSuit makes it easy to respond to a debt collection lawsuit.
How it works: SoloSuit is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your answer. Upon completion, you can either print the completed forms and mail in the hard copies to the courts or you can pay SoloSuit to file it for you and to have an attorney review the document.
"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James
Here's a list of guides for other states.
Being sued by a different debt collector? We're making guides on how to beat each one.
Is your credit card company suing you? Learn how you can beat each one.
Need more info on statutes of limitations? Read our 50-state guide.
Need help managing your finances? Check out these resources.