I think the best way to answer this is to answer each question you have asked individually, so I have copied your questions into this answer.
Here you go:
I am in the state of Fl.
No, I am not disputing the claim but the law firm that served the papers sent me a notice that they had previously sent me a Notice of Intent to Arbitrate that I never received so I AM disputing that. Do they not have to prove that they served me with these papers before?
Yes, they do need to show an effective service of process to claim the earlier date of "service" controls the action.
At this time I am not sure when I last made a payment. I am in the process of getting info. on checks written in the last few months. The bank that issued the credit changed names so I am wondering where my payments went. All of this will take time to investigate & the law firm as well as the National Arbitration Forum are only giving me 30 days to respond (14 if it is a 2nd notice as the law firm is claiming).
The reason I asked is sometimes, collection agencies try to collect debts past the statute of limitations for collection. However, if you have written checks to them within the last few months, they are almost certainly within the statute.
I have written the law firm asking for more info. as well as asking what my options are as far as a payment schedule. I sent the letter certified, return receipt the day after I received their letter. I have not gotten a confirmation that they signed for the letter. I also sent a copy to the National Arbitration Forum & received notice today that they had signed for my letter. However, they claim I didn't respond correctly to the dispute. So I again today, sent another letter to both the law firm & the National Arbitration Forum, certified, returned receipt.
Good idea on the certified letter, but it's probably no more effective than answering a lawsuit by a certified lettter. National Arbitration Forum requires you to use their procedures on responding to a claim, including the proper forms. National Arbitration Forum is actually located in Minnesota, and in some instances, claims you need to appear at arbitration there. Impossible for most people, of course. Here is the website that sets forth their rules: http://www.arb-forum.com/main.aspx?itemID=13&hideBar=False&navID=180&news=3
My main question is can this issue be resolved thru a payment plan? I am ready to resolve this issue ASAP but cannot afford to pay the debt off entirely at this time. I will need a monthly payment option. I expressed this in both letters I sent to the law firm & Arbitration Forum.
Actually, I would direct correspondence to the law firm handling the claim and the original credit card company, with a cc: to National Arbitration Forum.
Most law firms should work with you on the issue. Economically, collection law firms usually "purchase" the debt for a percentage of the amount owed, and make their money if you pay more than they paid for the debt. The risk to them is that they will never collect the debt, because the debtor has no money and/or declares bankruptcy. Since you are willing to pay the debt in full, they should agree to accept payments.
Although the credit card company has "sold" the debt and no longer has a monetary stake in the recovery, most of them have an interest in ensuring the debt is resolved fairly, because if the collection violations the fair debt collection act, they could have issues. I suggest offering as large as an initial payment as you can afford, and then set forth what you can pay monthly.
Any advice you can provide will be greatly appreciated and thank you for your prompt response. I feel very pressured by the Arbitration Forum and want to make sure I meet their deadlines to avoid further action against me
Arbitrators for the National Arbitration Forum are estimated to make $250 an hour, or more, which is added to your debt. They usually affirm the debt, because you cannot afford to appear in Minnesota to contest it. Here is a website I found detailing complaints about how this works: http://budhibbs.wordpress.com/national-arbitration-forum-attorneys-under-microscope/.
It will take some preserverence on your part (a lot of calls before you get to the right person) but I think you should be able to get them to accept a payment plan.