If you have been notified to appear in court for a payment of judgment hearing, you may want to take a look at the New Hampshire statute 524:6-a entitled “Periodic Payment of Judgments.” First and foremost, make every effort to attend the scheduled hearing.
Debtors’ prisons are a thing of the distant past, so you should have no fear of being incarcerated simply because you cannot pay your bills. However, it maybe a different story if you fail to comply with a court order to attend a payment of judgment hearing or if you fail to comply with a court order for payment issued as a result of a payment of judgment hearing.
You will be asked to fill out a financial affidavit which will be either included with the notice of the hearing or provided to you when you arrive at the court. Be prepared to fill out the financial affidavit in as much detail as possible as it will be the basis of any order the court will make regarding your ability to pay. You may also be approached by the creditor or the creditor’s attorney at the courthouse prior to the hearing with an invitation to enter into discussions for a possible payment agreement between you and the creditor.
If an agreement is reached in this manner, it is submitted to the court for approval usually without a court hearing. If you do end up having a hearing before a judge, you may be asked questions about the financial affidavit you completed and possibly additional questions about your financial ability.
Keep in mind that it is rare for a judge to order a debtor to pay to a creditor a payment which is not supported by an ability to pay on his/her financial affidavit. If the court finds that you have no ability to pay, the hearing may be continued for six (6) months for you to return for a determination if your ability to pay the judgment has improved.
If the court does order you to pay a lump sum or periodic payment to the creditor and you fail to comply with the order, you can be found in civil contempt which may involve fines or possible incarceration.
So remember, make sure to attend the hearing, fill out the financial affidavit accurately, and comply with any order from the court.
Author: Attorney George H. Thompson
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