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Collections Law/Owing a debt in one state, live in another


Hello. I was married for a few years and during that time, my ex-husband and I had a lapse in our auto insurance for a bit.
We have been divorced for a few years now and I have moved back to my home state.
I have received a collections letter from the motor vehicle department for that state, addressed to my married name, asking for payment.
I don't remember 100%,but I thought the divorce decree said he would be responsible, but he obviously hasn't paid it.
The letter stated that they can take my state tax refund, but I don't file state taxes for that state since I haven't lived there in a few years.
Is there anything legal they can do to me since I no longer live in that state?
Thank you.

Hi Laura:
First of all, regardless of what your divorce decree says, that is between you and your ex.    What I mean is that if the divorce decree provides that your ex was to pay the bill, and if he doesnít pay, you can bring an action for contempt of court against your ex for the amount that you are being sued for (because he didnít pay), but the divorce decree itself does not exempt you from being liable for the lawsuit against you.   The main reason for that is that the person that is suing you was not a party to your divorce case.

Having said that, your main question seems to be  what could the person suing you do to you to collect?  Could they take your state tax refund  if you donít get a state tax refund?   As you suggest, obviously not, but that still doesnít relieve you of liability.   It just depends on how aggressive they are going to be about coming after you.   However, there is nothing to keep them from bringing a lawsuit against you in that state, getting a judgment against you, and then enforcing that judgment against you in your present state.    That is done all of the time should be your primary concern.    Plus, since the collection agency has it now, it is most likely already on your credit report and if they get a judgment against you in court, the effect on your credit will even be worse.    Also, a judgment against you could lead to a lien (called a judicial lien) being placed on your house, if you own one -  not to mention wage garnishments, freezing of your bank accounts whatever.   Again, this just all depends on how aggressive the collection agency wants to be.

What should you do?   That depends on some factors you donít state in your question.   For example, how much money is involved?  A bill for a few thousand would deserve a lot more serious attention than would a bill for a few hundred.   What is the bill for that the collection agency has been hired to collect?  Do you have any defenses to the underlying debt?    Your question does not mention any of these factors.

If you would like to talk about his further, it would be much easier for me if you would just call me on the phone.   I will not charge you just to talk on the phone and you can call me anytime or on the weekends -   If I am available, I will answer.     I look forward to speaking with you if you should choose to call.

Jack Hall   J.D.
915  261-3893

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