A judgment is a legal order issued by a judge stating that a person owes a specific sum of money to a creditor, according to Illinois Legal Aid. Usually, before a judgment is won, the defendant has an opportunity to appear in court after receiving an official court summons. Responding to the summons allows defendants to present a defense and possibly avoid a judgment.
Showing up in court and settling with the creditor by arranging payment of monies owed is the best way to avoid receiving a judgement, according to Credit.com. If the defendant named in the summons loses or fails to appear in court, the creditor automatically wins and a judgment is issued against the defendant. The judgment becomes public record, which means it ends up on credit reports. Typically, judgements remain on credit reports for a period of 7 years.
Once a creditor wins a judgement against a debtor, the creditor may take steps to garnish wages or attempt to seize property, according to Credit.com. The judgment allows a creditor to request that an employer deduct up to 15 percent of wages until the debt is paid off, as explained by Illinois Legal Aid. Creditors can also request that a bank garnish a debtor's bank account. However, creditors seeking to take these measures must conform to state consumer protection laws.