I’m just not sure I buy the advice in this column, much as I want to

We have an old debt that continues to haunt us. Or I should say, that my husband has an old debt from his previous marriage. However, it’s something that he truly feels that is not his debit. He was out of the country for two years, his wife opened an account without his signature, charged an item, and according to the divorce document was responsible for after the divorce.

However, it has continued to be sold, and rereported as new, to various collection agencies. They come around about every 6 months and send us a letter or two (we just got a new one this week offering 50% payment). But it keeps getting renewed on his credit report and despite having disputed it, it remains. We just get a notification from the credit bureaus that it is a valid debt. (It may be valid, but it’s not HIS.)

We’re at a loss as to how to handle it – it’s over 12 years old. On one hand, I’d just like it to go away. On the other hand, we really feel like it’s legally not his debt. I haven’t yet requested validation from any of the collection agencies because I am sure they will just give us the same runaround “it’s valid” that we’ve gotten from the credit bureau.

Anyway, no point to this rambling other than to say that in my experience, I just haven’t found that disputing a debt with a credit bureau does much of anything.

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Mmmm, I don’t know. I’m pretty strict with the whole ethical aspect of debt reduction (having NOT been as a young adult) and yet if I had received a 1099c on a debt–that’s a pretty firm indication of settlement on the part of the creditor. While obviously it would have been better to have paid off the debt initially–well there’s a point at which you have to say that amends have been made and the way towards righteousness is in focusing on present and future behavior. Trying to make good on a debt that the original creditor has already written off its books and the profit on which you have already paid taxes is like calling an ex-husband five years after the divorce and offering to go to marriage counseling.

I’m not saying there’s a time and a place for making good on very old debts. I owe $1800.00 to my mother’s ex-husband–$1200.00 of which it can be convincingly argued I’d have never needed to borrow if I hadn’t gotten mixed up in his life to begin with. We haven’t spoken in well over a decade. But he’s on my list in the proper place in the snowball (most of which is on hold till my taxes are caught up). I don’t even know where to FIND him at this point, but it’s right to repay him. So this isn’t about the age of the debt. It’s about the degree to which the debt has been settled. If ex-stepfather called me tomorrow and said, “I heard you have plans to repay me, look, I’ve thought about it and here’s why I don’t want you to do that . . .” or “this would be a more reasonable amount, after all, I was the one who talked you into blah, blah, blah” then there wouldn’t be anything immoral about accepting his offer (although I’d probably want to pray about it first).

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