What happens if the plaintiff receives a judgement against me in small claims court and I can’t afford to pay?

UPDATED: May 21, 2012

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What happens if the plaintiff receives a judgement against me in small claims court and I can’t afford to pay?

I have my first court case. If the plaintiff (creditor) wins a judgement but I have no income and no assets (home, car, anything in my name), what happens if I can’t pay? All I have is an exempt amount in my savings account can you be put in jail for not paying? Would they try and come to my apartment to seize personal belongings? I don’t own anything of value besides my computer which I am going to need for going back to school and some other items. I just want to know what I should be prepared for when I go for my court date.

Asked on May 21, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Massachusetts


S.L,. Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

If you can't pay the judgment, you won't go to jail.  This is a civil case and not a criminal case.  If you don't have any assets or income, you are judgment proof.  No one will come to your apartment to seize your belongings.

If you do have an income in the future, the judgment could then be enforced by a wage garnishment.  A wage garnishment can be stopped by filing bankruptcy.

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