New Consumer Debt Defense Program Provides Free Legal Help

By Danilo Powell-Lima

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, total household debt in the United States topped $14.5 trillion at the end of 2020, which represents nearly 20% increase in debt over the course of the last decade. The average adult has more than $90,000 of debt, according to CNBC.

If you are struggling with debt, help is available. Thanks to a grant from the Ohio Supreme Court’s Civil Justice Grant program, the Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court created a partnership with The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland. This collaboration – called the Consumer Debt Defense Program – is designed to help those who are experiencing economic hardship and are being sued on a consumer debt. If you are being sued on a consumer debt in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court, learn more about the Consumer Debt Defense Program by calling 216-443-8204 , clicking this link Cuyahoga County’s Consumer Debt Defense Program  or by emailing courtinfo@cuyahogacounty.us

Beyond the stress of owing money, debt comes with a number of collateral consequences. For instance, failing to pay your debts impacts your credit score. A poor credit score may:

  • Limit your ability to qualify for a loan
  • Prevent you from leasing an apartment
  • Increase your insurance premiums

Attorneys, like the ones available through the new Consumer Debt Defense Program, can help people reduce or remove the burden of debt, so they can move on with their lives.

For example, when Alexandra (name changed for privacy), an assistant manager at a call center, took out a $7,000 loan in November of 2017, she was confident she could pay the amount back in full. But Alexandra fell ill in March of 2018 and could no longer work. She began receiving Social Security income. In February of 2020, Alexandra received a summons from her local municipal court because a creditor claimed she owed over $7,400 from the loan. The creditor was threatening to garnish the little money she had to her name.

Alexandra called Legal Aid for assistance and was connected with an attorney who began working on her case. The attorney sent letters to the creditor demonstrating that Alexandra’s debt was uncollectable. He notified the creditor that Social Security is a protected income source, and the creditor can’t garnish that income. Thanks to the attorney’s skilled advocacy, the creditor dropped the case, and Alexandra was free from the burden of that considerable debt.

If you are struggling with civil legal issues related to finances, please contact Legal Aid. You can call 888-817-3777 (toll-free) during business hours or visit www.lasclev.org/contact any time.