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Information about small claims payment orders and hearings

Learn about what types of income are exempt from payment orders and what is expected of plaintiffs and defendants in regards to payment hearings.

Payment hearings

If the successful plaintiff (the “Judgment Creditor”) informs the clerk-magistrate's office that the defendant (the “Judgment Debtor”) is in compliance with the magistrate’s payment order, then neither party is required to appear at the scheduled payment hearing.

If the Judgment Debtor is not in compliance with the magistrate’s payment order, then both parties must appear at the scheduled payment hearing. If the Judgment Debtor fails to appear, without further notice a magistrate may issue a civil arrest warrant (capias) for his or her arrest.

Notification of payment received

Once the full amount of the court's judgment has been collected, you are required to notify the court in writing within 10 days. You do need not use any particular form for your notice, but be sure to include the court’s docket number. You may also choose to use either the Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment form or the Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment on Counterclaim form (see additional resources below) to notify the court.

Additional Resources for Notification of payment received

Income exempt from payment orders

Income to the defendant from the following public assistance and benefit programs is exempt by law from any court small claims payment order:

  • Unemployment Benefits (G.L. c. 151A, § 36)
  • Workers Compensation Benefits (G.L. c. 152, § 47)
  • Social Security Benefits (42 U.S.C. § 401)
  • Federal Old-Age, Survivors & Disability Insurance Benefits (42 U.S.C. § 407)
  • Supplementary Security Income (SSI) for Aged, Blind and Disabled (42 U.S.C. § 1381[a])
  • Other Disability Insurance Benefits up to $400 weekly (G.L. c. 175, § 110A)
  • Emergency Aid for Elderly & Disabled (now G.L. c. 117A)
  • Veterans Benefits (G.L. c. 115, § 5 or 38 U.S.C. § 5301[a] or 42 U.S.C. § 1001)
  • Medal of Honor Veterans Benefits (38 U.S.C. § 1562)
  • Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) Benefits (G.L. c. 118, § 10)
  • Maternal Child Health Services Block Grant Benefits (42 U.S.C. § 701)
  • Other public assistance benefits (G.L. c. 235, § 34, fifteenth)

In addition, a portion of wages or employment-based retirement payments is exempt from any payment order. 

The exempt amount under Massachusetts law is 85% of your gross wages or 50 times the hourly minimum wage, whichever is greater. (G.L. c.246, § 28)

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