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Please HELP! Didn't answer but no default judgement yet, please read I need Advice

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We are in Georgia.

On June 2nd my wife was served a Summons from an attorney representing a credit card (discover). We did NOT respond in the 30 day time frame. (I know stupid, but we just learned this).

We called the Magistrate's office on 7/28/11 and they stated that a default judgement has not been ordered. I then asked if we could still answer the summons at this point (since we are past the 30 days) and the clerk said we could, BUT it was up to the judges discretion if he would allow it. She also suggested I should try calling the plaintiff and talk/work out a settlement with them.

What should we do?!? This is for a balance of over $8500, which we of course do not have the funds to pay.

We have tried to negotiate with the attorney in the past and the best they say they will do is $5200. Still I cannot afford that! They seem to not budge from that figure at all and I'm typically a good negotiator.

1. Should I file an answer now and hope that the judge allows it? How do I even answer this? And wouldn't I have to state a valid reason for answering the summons late.

The summons contains my wife name, the discover balance, then attached as exhibit A is a credit card statement from discover with the balance on it. I also want to point out that the summons itself had no court date or time filled out on it, that part of the form was blank.

2. Is there any strategy on getting the attorney to settle on something less than the $5200? They just seem hell bent on not negotiating below that amount.

I've read a lot of sites that say for a charged off credit card balance, we should be able to clear it for 25% or so. Should I write a letter with a $2500 cashiers check and state that if they deposit it, they are agreeing to accept that payment in full and cannot go after us for the difference?

Any advice on how we should proceed would be wonderful as we are trying to put our financial hardships behind us.

To whomever answers, thank you so much for your time.

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