Information about small claims payment orders and hearings

Learn about what types of income are exempt from payment orders and what’s expected of plaintiffs and defendants at payment hearings.

Payment hearings

If the successful plaintiff (the “judgment creditor”) informs the clerk-magistrate's office that the defendant (the “judgment debtor”) is following the magistrate’s payment order, then neither party has to go to the scheduled payment hearing.

If the judgment debtor isn’t following the magistrate’s payment order, then both parties must go to the scheduled payment hearing. If the judgment debtor doesn’t appear, without further notice a magistrate may issue a civil arrest warrant (capias) for their arrest.

Notification that you’ve received payment

Once you’ve collected the full amount of the court's judgment, you must notify the court in writing within 10 days. You don’t need to 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 in Counterclaim form to tell the court.

Additional Resources for

Income exempt from payment orders

Income that the defendant gets from these public assistance and benefit programs is exempt 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 per week (G.L. c. 175, § 110A)
  • Emergency aid for elderly & disabled (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 more (G.L. c.246, § 28).

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