What happens if a creditor wins judgement against me and I can’t afford to pay?

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What happens if a creditor wins judgement against me and I can’t afford to pay?

Is there any chance of having the case dismissed? I am college aged but I had to drop out when I couldn’t afford to pay for it anymore. what steps would they try and take against me? i want to know what to be prepred for. in case it matters, i don’t own a home, car, don’t have any income coming in, what money i do have is in my savings account and according to Massachusetts state laws, it’s exempt. i am mainly worried about my personal belongings and being arrested if I can’t pay.

Asked on June 19, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, Massachusetts

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

No, a case is NOT dismissed if the debtor/defendant has no money--the plaintiff is still allowed to seek to prove his liabilty and get a judgment against him. If  can't pay simply due to not having money (rather than doing something criminal or which represents a fraud on the court, like hiding assets in an offshore account), you should not fear arrest; people are not jailed in the U.S. for being poor or having fallen on hard times.

A creditor could potentially try to execute on, or take personal belongings of yours, but this rarely happens--it's usually not worth the effort.

Judgments are good for years; even if you can't pay now, it may that you can pay later (e.g. you get a job; you inherit; you start a business; etc.). One option for the plaintiff is to docket, or register, the judgment, then periodically try to enforce it in the future, on the chance that your finanical situation has improved.


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