Entry of Appearance

The way you let the court and other side know, formally, that you are going to defend yourself, is by filing an “Entry of Appearance.” This video discusses this requirement and some other “red tape” like how days are counted.

The Entry of Appearance is important because once you do that, the court and other side must provide you notice of anything that is happening. Before that, you are subject to default without notice. You CAN enter a case without answering it, but you’re still subject to default. So enter your appearance AND answer the petition at the same time – even if you aren’t required by the court to do so.

In the lower courts in Missouri, people often show up for court and announce their presence when called. But if they don’t file an answer, if they miss another hearing they still get defaulted. Don’t let this happen to you.

Click here for a sample Entry of Appearance.


Affidavits by Debt Collectors are often False and Deceptive

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Affidavit – what it is and how to make one

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How to Answer a Petition when Sued for Debt

When you’re sued for debt, one of the first things you have to do is write and file an answer. You could lose the case very easily until you do. Luckily, it isn’t hard, and this video will show you how. For more detailed information and help on fighting and winning your suit against the debt collector, get the Debt Defense System. If it hasn’t come to litigation yet and you hope to keep it from doing so, you can get the Debt Negotiation and Settlement System.


Answering a petition in a debt law case is actually very simple. Keeping in mind that it is up to the plaintiff to prove its case if you deny a part of the petition, there is little incentive to admit anything. Pro se defendants also quite frequently overestimate the things they should admit. For example, you may know that you borrowed some money or used a credit card, but do you really know how much you borrowed or whether all the charges were legitimate? Do you know for sure that you did not pay some of the debt or that you truly, legally, owed every amount claimed? And do you know with certainty even that the company suing you owes the debt at all?


What to Do If You’ve Got Debt Troubles

If your bills are adding up and the bill collectors are beginning to bug you, you need to start taking action to protect yourself.

This video goes through the reasons you should win if you get sued for debt and begins the discussion on how to send the right signals to the debt collectors to leave you alone.


Why you Need us if you’re Being Sued for Debt

If you’re being sued or threatened with suit, the first thing you will have thought about was getting a lawyer. Probably the second thing you thought was that you could not afford one. Lawyers don’t all charge the same, or even the same way, but they are all expensive.

What Lawyers Charge

A lawyer with experience, in a medium to large city, will aim to make at least $100 to $300 per hour. It seems impossible, but it’s true, and that will translate into:

  • A flat charge of $1,000 to $1,500 for defending your suit;
  • $1,000 or more in retainer plus a contingent rate; or
  • An hourly rate of $150 per hour.
  • Or some variation essentially equaling the same thing.

Now, not all lawyers will charge that much, but most will – or as much as they can.

What makes it even worse is that very few lawyers are very familiar with the laws involved in defending you. That means they either have to charge you their rates while they learn what to do, eat the costs of learning what they’re doing, or NOT learn what they’re doing. And all of these things have obvious problems for a person needing a lawyer.

So it’s hard to afford a lawyer.

It’s Hard to Find a Lawyer in Debt Law

It’s also hard just to find one who does this kind of law. Many of our members have reported that they could not find a lawyer who would take their case at any price. And there aren’t many lawyers who do. Most big cities have a few – it’s hit and miss in small communities. That’s because people can’t afford them for this kind of law, considering what they have to charge, and because most lawyers haven’t actually heard of most of the laws involved – debt defense is NOT standard teaching in law schools.

Lawyers who DO know about debt law know that, if they represent you, they’ll be taking on a case against a lawyer who handles dozens, perhaps hundreds or thousands of these cases at a time, with a staff, documents, and network to support all that. It’s a tough job. It can be done, but the math isn’t real great, so not many lawyers handle debt law defense.

You Can Do it Yourself

Luckily, you don’t have to have a lawyer for debt defense. In fact, it may even be an advantage to represent yourself. And while it may seem scary, you’ll see that it really isn’t very. Let me explain.

The Number One Reason Most People Don’t Defend themselves

The biggest reason people don’t defend themselves is fear – they’re afraid of having to show up in court, stand up and talk to the judge, talk to a jury… etc.

In fact, most cases of every type never go to trial. Very few do – less than five out of a hundred, perhaps much less than that. If yours DOES go to trial, and for every appearance before a judge, you will be fully prepared. You’ll know much more than the lawyer on the other side – and you’ll know you know, and so, eventually, will the judge. There are a couple of reasons this is so.

Debt Law is Factory Law

America is drowning in debt, and debt cases are filed by the truckload.  That means a few things to you.

First, it means that the people filing the suit know very little about the cases before they file them – they just don’t have time. If you talk to the lawyer before a court date, you’ll see someone utterly confident that they’ll win – without having a clue about anything having to do with your case. The lawyer probably will have never even looked at your case.

Second, it means that the companies need to keep lawyer time invested in cases to an absolute minimum. As I say, the lawyers never worry about losing your case – they worry about spending time on it.  So they will conduct discovery or other pretrial preparations, if at all, in a standardized way, and they will respond to you in a standardized way. That means you can foresee what they will say and prepare (which we help you do). And it means you can disrupt them if you do things they don’t foresee, and we help with that, too.

Given all that, it means, thirdly, that most debt plaintiffs’ lawyers are not particularly gifted lawyers. They spend all day, every day, doing the equivalent of a bully walking up and down a beach kicking sand on everybody that’s smaller them. That isn’t exactly great conditioning for legal thinking, and most good lawyers regard it as a waste of their talent and don’t want to do it. That means there will be a good chance you’re at least as smart as the lawyer you will see in this case. And you should be a heck of a lot more motivated.

With our help, you will be more knowledgeable, too. The best way to get that help is by joining us as a member.

Sue Bad Debt Collectors

Debt collection isn’t always a “pretty” business, and if you owe money – or if a company thinks you owe it money – they can get pretty rough. The law is practical, in general, and recognizes the importance of businesses getting paid. But there are limits. You have rights against rogue debt collectors.

Most of these rights can be found in the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act. We talk a lot on this site about defending yourself from collections suits. And this defense can often take the form of making counterclaims, as well. But what if you want to sue them? Can you do so? and why would you? This video explores those questions a little bit.

Be Aggressive: Sue the Debt Collector

There are a lot of reasons you might want to sue the debt collector. Doing so allows you to choose the time and court of the suit. Also, because debt collectors frequently sell the (your) debt, the one currently bugging you might not want or be prepared to sue you. Filing suit means you catch them unprepared, and they will be more likely to settle with you and cancel your debt. The Debt Defense System will guide you through the process.

It is easier to sue a debt collector than an original creditor for debt law violations. You have a fairly clear, broad set of rights against debt collectors under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). In general, they are required to be fair with you, and this means they must inform you of certain of your rights (like verification, for example), must not deceive or attempt to deceive you, cannot harass you beyond certain limits, and in general must treat you with fundamental fairness. If they violate any of these rules, you’ll have a claim against them under the FDCPA.

It’s a little different with original creditors. Businesses that have a relationship with you other than simply as collectors are somewhat vulnerable to getting bad reputations – they are “accountable to the market.” That puts certain natural limits on their actions as to how roughly they can treat you. Therefore, the FDCPA does not need to give you as many rights against them. Still, there are limits, and behaviors so extreme as to be “outrageous” will give you a right against original creditors.

So a critical distinction will be whether the company is a debt collector within the meaning of the law or not.  That used to be easier to prove than it is now. If the company bugging you owns the debt it’s bugging you about, you will need to allege and prove that its “principal business” is debt collection. If it can show that it does other things (like lending or servicing accounts, or possibly even it it’s a subsidiary of another company that does other things), it may not be a debt collector. The biggest debt collectors are probably still within the FDCPA, but some others may not be.

Garnishment and other collection methods

Garnishment of Assets – Can they Take your Wages or Bank Account?

Can your wages be garnished by a debt collector? What about bank accounts? Here are some things you need to know about garnishment.

If you have assets, and this includes either a job or money in the bank, you must be concerned about the possibility of being garnished if a debt collector (or anybody else) has a judgment against you.

Bank Accounts

Bank accounts can be garnished and, when they are, it is almost always a surprise to the debtor. What typically happens is collectors obtain money judgments (usually by default) and then use the judgment to freeze the funds in your bank account. State law and banking rules govern how the bank must handle the garnishment process. Collectors always notify the bank first and then notify the debtor. This way your funds are frozen before you can take any action such as withdrawing all your funds.

Their notifying the bank first is perfectly legal. You typically receive the notice (including your rights) a day or two after your funds have been frozen. In most states, the garnishment can not only freeze funds already in your account at the time of service on the financial institution, but can also reach funds that get put in the bank afterward, for a time.

During the time the garnishment is in effect, the financial institution will not honor checks or other orders for the payment of money drawn against your account. This means any outstanding checks will more than likely bounce or be returned for NSF. The exception to this rule is if your account has more on deposit than the amount of the garnishment. In this case, the bank can honor checks up to the amount that will reduce your funds below the amount of the garnishment. When the amount being garnished is paid, the freeze on your account must be terminated.


Wages can also be garnished, and, again, your first notice that you are being garnished is likely to be when you receive a check that is less than you thought it would be. Federal law limits the maximum amount that can be garnished by one or more garnishment orders to 25 percent of your disposable earnings for that week, or the amount by which disposable earnings for that week exceed thirty times the Federal minimum hourly wage, whichever is less. In simple terms, “disposable income” is whatever money you have left after paying all required taxes and national insurances!

Disposable income is after-tax income that is officially calculated as the difference between personal income and personal tax and nontax payments. In general terms, personal tax and nontax payments are about 15% of personal income, which makes disposable personal income about 85% of personal income.

IMPORTANT: In order for wages to be garnished, disposable earnings per week must exceed thirty times the federal minimum hourly wage or $154.50. Put another way, if you make $154.50 or less per week your wages cannot be garnished – for now and as long as you don’t make any more than that. Also – Social Security and some other types of disability or retirement income are protected from collection.

There are also important state rules regarding garnishment, and if you are garnished, or if you bank account is seized (especially), your first move should be to look at the state laws on garnishment and see if an exemption applies to you. They often will.

But You Should Not Let them Get a Judgment

All of the above being said, you will almost always be much better off it you can avoid letting them get a judgment against you. Things could get better for you in any number of ways. Just because things seem bleak now doesn’t mean that the sun won’t eventually shine. And it isn’t all that hard to keep them from getting a judgment if you know what you’re doing.

If you want help fighting the debt collectors, you should consider our new FastTrack Membership. Go here for more information on debt collection and defense, and how we can help you. We can also help you overcome a default judgment.



What if I Think I Owe the Money?

What if I Really Owe the Money – or Think I Do?

What if you think you really owe the money? Should you defend yourself? Here’s why you must defend yourself. If you don’t you run the risk of having to pay twice. And if you do defend yourself, you probably won’t have to pay. If that bothers you, give the money to somebody who really needs it.

Most People Being Sued Actually DO Owe Someone Some Money

If you’re being sued by a debt collector, you probably think you owe them the money, although it’s surprising how often people who do NOT owe anybody any money get sued. If that’s you – you still need to fight the case, it won’t go away by itself. But if you actually do owe somebody the money for which you are being sued, you still need to be careful.

And you should still defend yourself as well as you can.

You must make the debt collector prove every part of its case – not only that you owe the money, but that you owe it to them. And exactly how much you supposedly owe. That’s because old debts get sold – often more than once – and if you don’t make the debt collector prove it owns the debt, you may pay the wrong person. And then you might have to pay again if you get sued by the person that actually owns the debt.

In addition, most people who get sued for debts do not owe what the debt collectors are trying to collect. They routinely add fees and interest they should not, and consumer protections agencies and organizations routinely estimate that almost all debt collection suits include extra charges – and many of them are for far more than is owed.


Because of the extremely lax regulation of debt collectors, and the frequent erosion of those regulations that do exist, debt collectors develop many dirty tricks. One of the dirtiest is known as “double-banging.” This is the repeated collection of the same debt by the same debt collector.  You may wonder how such a thing is possible, and it would be difficult, no doubt, if these double-bangers didn’t have a couple of things going for them.

One thing that makes double-banging easier is “spoofing.” That’s a technology that allows debt collectors to cause your phone to think the phone call is coming from another number, usually a local exchange. Thus, while your phone tells you the call is from your own telephone area code, it’s actually originating far away. And of course the debt collectors often change their names – not just the people calling, but the companies they’re supposedly representing. So you are receiving a call from a company that already collected from you, and now it is collecting the same debt again under another name. And they don’t necessarily wait till you have paid the debt off the first time, either. In one known case, a debt collector collected the same debt TEN times.

And that was without even suing the victim. They can do that, too.

Ultimately, what makes all this possible is that people let it happen. That is, they get scared, or feel guilty, or get angry… any number of feelings cause you to relax your guard, and then they get you. Instead of requiring them to provide proof, you’re asking how to pay.

And once they get you, you go on a “sucker list.” That’s just what you probably think it is – a list of people who will fall for various scams. Debt collectors sometimes trade these sucker lists to each other, so after one of them has collected as much as possible, they trade your name to another who will do the same thing.

The Good News

The good news about debt collectors is that they usually CANNOT prove their cases if you make put them to the test. The whole process by which they get these debts is so sloppy and careless that they usually cannot find or obtain the proof that they need to win their case. IF you defend yourself.

Protect Your Rights

Our mission is to protect people from the debt collection process. If you are being sued by debt collectors, or if you are being harassed for money, you need to take action to defend what’s yours. For much more information on defending yourself, go to Fast Track to Debt Defense.

Self-Representation in Debt Litigation – Pro Se is Easier than you Think

Although hiring a lawyer might be the “gold standard” of defense, lawyers are always expensive. If you’re being sued by a debt collector and can’t afford a lawyer, all is not lost. You CAN represent yourself. This is not complicated law, debt collectors are not innovative or particularly energetic, and the debt collection system is a “factory” approach not designed to work against people who defend themselves intelligently. You can do it.

Okay – maybe debt defense isn’t always very fun. In fact, most of the time it isn’t exactly fun, but it is easier than you expect, and winning is great. Going from the threat of having to pay (somehow) from $1,000 to $50,000 to some debt collector, to having them drop the case – or to settling with you for pennies on the dollar… that’s fun, and it changes the way you look at debt and debt law forever.

Pro se legal representation means representing yourself rather than hiring a lawyer to do it for you. You have the right to do that in essentially any court proceeding, whether as defendant or plaintiff, and whether the matter is civil (for money) or criminal. Pro se is a Latin phrase meaning “for oneself,” and you will sometimes see it called propria persona (abbreviated to “pro per”). In England and Wales, the comparable status is called “litigant in person.”

Some Think It’s Scary

Although many people fear the thought of representing themselves in court, pro se representation is not rare. According to National Center on State Courts in 1991-92 71% of domestic relations (family law) cases had at least one unrepresented party, and in 18% of the cases both parties were pro se.  It is a growing trend in debt collection law as well as family law and other matters.

The right of self-representation has long been established in the United States. It predates even the ratification of the Constitution, as Section 35 of the Judiciary Act of 1789—enacted by the first Congress and signed by President Washington, states that, “in all the courts of the United States, the parties may plead and manage their own causes personally or by the assistance of counsel.” Most states have a similar constitution provision.

Will the Courts Protect You from Mistakes?

The California rules of Civil Procedure explicitly express a preference for resolution of every case on the merits, even if resolution requires excusing inadvertence by a pro se litigant that would otherwise result in a dismissal. The Judicial Council justifies this rule with the argument that “Judges are charged with ascertaining the truth, not just playing referee.” And the Council suggests “the court should take whatever measures may be reasonable and necessary to insure a fair trial.”

Although most states and the federal courts share this bias in favor of hearing courts on “their merits,” (based on what is actually fair), pro se litigants cannot rely on any special treatment. Some courts explicitly will not extend favorable treatment to non-professional litigants.

Pro Se Litigants Often Do Very Well

They may not need any extra help. According to Erica J. Hashimoto, an assistant professor at the Georgia School of Law, criminal defendants are “not necessarily ill-served” by the decision to represent themselves. In state court, pro se defendants charged with felonies probably fared much better than represented defendants. Of the 234 pro se defendants studied by Ms. Hashimoto, “just under 50 percent of them were convicted on any charge….for represented state court defendants, by contrast, a total of 75 percent were convicted of some charge.” And just 26 percent of the pro se defendants ended up with felony convictions, whereas 63 percent of represented defendants in Ms. Hashimoto’s study did. In federal court…the acquittal rate for pro se defendants is virtually identical to the acquittal rate for represented defendants.

Of course there could well be other important variables that the Hashimoto study did not include, but it seems clear that there is nothing like an “automatic penalty” for daring to represent yourself. And as I have pointed out many times elsewhere, there are certain types of cases and situations where pro se representation may actually be an advantage. In debt collection cases, for example, the economic factors often outweigh legal issues, and a vigorous pro se defendant can gain a significant advantage by being able to take energetic steps in his or her favor that a lawyer—always on the clock—would pragmatically be unable to take.

Courts are not always favorable to self-represented people for various reasons, but even with that bias, pro se plaintiffs have recorded some significant victories in civil courts. For example, Robert Kearns, inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper who won more than $10 million from Ford for patent infringement; Reginald and Roxanna Bailey, a married couple, together won $140,000 from Allstate Insurance in a federal jury trial in Missouri, and George Cofield, a janitor, won $30,000 from the City of Atlanta in 1980. Among others. Pro se defendants encounter fewer prejudices and have many more victories. These victories often occur in less easily reportable fashion, being simply the unheralded dismissal of a debt collection action.

Pro Se Representation in Debt Collection Cases

As pointed out above, defendants in debt collection cases have some significant economic advantages in conducting their cases. They also have fewer of the disadvantages that many other types of cases have. This may simply be because debt collection cases tend to be document-intensive rather than witness-intensive. In the somewhat unusual case which actually goes to trial, the court is confronted with basic evidentiary questions: can the debt collector produce enough evidence? And is it “admissible” in court for the court’s consideration? Little finesse is required.

This basic legal simplicity, the fact that debt defendants were obviously brought before the court against their wishes, and the general economic difference between typical debt defendants and plaintiffs often seem to create a favorable impression on the judges.

Get Help

If you would like us to take a look at your case and give you a sort of roadmap to what you need to do and how, take a look at our Personalized Evaluation product. If you’re being sued and already know you want to defend yourself without spending a lot of money on lawyers, then get out Debt Defense System.

Protect Your Rights

If you are being contacted by debt collectors, you need to be alert to protect your rights. These calls are often a prelude to their suing you. You might consider membership with our site, which gets you our ecourses for free, plus gives you many other benefits.Check out some of our e-courses. Or consider our prepaid legal plan to protect you from future possible litigation. With that, if you get sued, you’ll get a lawyer to defend you for free.