Major credit bureaus TransUnion, Experian and Equifax usually acquire information about court judgments from third-party information providers. Companies providing the information regularly review court records and notify the credit bureaus about judgments, tax liens and bankruptcies. It is impossible for anyone to precisely predict how soon judgments will appear on credit reports. Court records are reviewed each day the courts are open, and it depends on how fast the information is relayed to credit bureaus.
Experian reports on its website in 2011 that "court records are updated periodically" and that credit bureaus move quickly to add information to credit reports told about judgment. People receiving could judgments should expect the information to show up on credit reports within about 30 to 60 days or even sooner.
Experian describes a judgment as a debt owed as the result of a lawsuit. Judgments, also called monetary judgments, are legal orders signed by a judge. The judge rules in favor of the party filing suit and demands that the person sued pay a specific amount of money. The information is listed as a judgment on the report but is updated once paid to show as a "paid" judgment. Judgments remain on credit reports for seven years, and are very damaging to credit when first listed. Judgments hurt credit scores at first but are less damaging after two or three years.
The timing of a judgment is important for people applying for a mortgage or facing some other credit decision. For example, a mortgage company could require full payment of a judgment before granting credit approval on a home loan. However, many people with judgments are already suffering from bad credit. Typically, companies have reported negative information long before any court action over debt. Credit bureaus are told about late payments on the account and also are alerted when the account is charged off and listed as a collections account with a debt collector. A charge-off means the account was closed by the credit card company and sold or assigned to a debt collector.
There is no way to stop a judgment from appearing on a credit report. Credit repair agencies say they can remove judgments from reports, but the Federal Trade Commission reports there isn't a legal or ethical way to do so.
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