Thank you for your question. Personally, I really dislike debt collector's and how they operate.
Nevertheless, could you please inform me why her bank was notified? Meaning, did the debt collectors seek to attach funds in her bank account?
Thank you for all the information. Based on the facts you have presented, it appears that the creditor has already obtained a judgment. How?
Based on what you have told me, it is highly possible that the creditor filed a lawsuit in New Jersey, claimed to the court that they could not find your grandmother and then had her served via newspaper publication. Believe me, it is easier to do than it sounds.
Generally, to serve someone with a lawsuit via newspaper publication, an attorney signs an affidavit stating that he/she cannot find the person. Even if they have not looked, if they know the judge and he/she trusts them, it is usually rubber stamped.
Once the order for publication is entered, the creditor can publish a notice in some -- possibly small town newspaper that is approved by the court -- which will ensure that most people will not read it.
After about 4 weeks of publication and no one answers the lawsuit, then the creditor can file for a default. This is a legal term for basically a forfeit. After that, the creditor can file for a default judgment. However, the motion to obtain a default judgment usually must be sent to a real address and not through a newspaper.
Now, since it appears that a judgment has been entered, it would be advisable to have someone physically go to the New Jersey Court and copy the court file. I realize that this is not convenient, but it is the only way to find out what happened in the case.
Subsequently, it would be wise to file a motion to set aside/vacate the default judgment or any judgment based on lack of due process. Meaning that your grandmother never received any of the court papers. Since most states have laws that favor the elderly and/or there is usually this sentiment, you should include her age in the motion.
If she cannot afford an attorney, then you should look at the local clerk of court's website and find out if they have any forms for these types of motions. Even if you cannot hire an attorney, it would be advisable to have a consultation with one to get some more detailed information. Usually, if you find an attorney that has been in practice for 1-5 years, the fees are less expensive.
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Thank you for the follow-up. Generally, if there was a judgment in New Jersey, then in order to collect on the judgment over state lines, most states have what is generally called an Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act or something to that effect.
This usually means that if there is a judgment, then it must be registered in Pennsylvania and then after that, the local sheriff may be able to enforce the judgment. Usually, this means that the creditor can usually go after bank accounts and possibly garnish wages.
Entering a home, that is more difficult. Generally, the laws of Pennsylvania would establish if that could occur. With someone's, home, there is usually more protection. Also, you may also consider doing a search at the local courthouse in Pennsylvania where her house is located and determine if there are any liens against her house or property.
I realize that all this is very stressful and daunting. However -- in my opinion -- it would be wise to go to the source in New Jersey and try to get the judgment vacated and ask for a STAY (halt) to any proceedings along with the motion to vacate judgment.
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