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Exemptions to Small Claim Judgments

Information for the Judgment Creditor (AKA the Plaintiff)

If the debtor claims any exemptions, you (the Plaintiff) have 7 days following receipt of the claim of exemption to mail back to the judgment debtor (certified mail, return receipt requested) a declaration objecting to the claim of exemption AND accompanied by a "notice of hearing" on your objection to the Exemption Claim. You must also send the notice of hearing to the court.

The hearing should be held NOT LATER THAN 14 days after your receipt of the Exemption Claim so you must act fast!

After receiving the "return receipt" showing delivery to the judgment debtor of your objections to the exemption AND a notice of hearing, mail a copy of both documents to the garnishee defendant.

Finally, be prepared at the hearing to quickly and clearly explain to the judge why the court should not allow the judgment debtor's exemption(s).

If you do not object to the exemption claim

If you do not object to the exemption claim or do not object within seven (7) days after receiving the judgment debtor's claim of exemption, then not later than 10 days following your receipt of the exemption claim, you MUST obtain a court order and deliver it to the garnishee defendant telling the garnishee defendant to release exempt assets to the judgment debtor.

WARNING! If you do not comply with the exemption rules, the judgment debtor is entitled to receive from you $50 plus the actual damages he or she sustains because the exempt property was not released.

Information for the Judgment Debtor (Defendant)

If you are the judgment debtor, you may be able to claim one or more exemptions and avoid paying the judgment or at least a portion of it.

Here are some possible exemptions:

Bank Account funds that are from:

  • Veterans Benefits
  • Child Support Payments
  • U.S. Government Pension
  • Unemployment Compensation
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
  • Certain funds in a joint or community account
  • Other public Assistance or Income allowed by State Law

Wages:

  • That are already garnished for child support payments or ex-spousal support;
  • Certain pension or retirement benefits

Personal Property held by the Garnishee Defendant:

Personal property of your choice, valued up to a maximum limit that is set individually by state - usually up to $500.

Up to $100 in cash or funds in your bank account (deducted from the personal property limit above)

Certain property (limited by differing dollar values) such as household furnishings, tools of trade, and two motor vehicles.

In order to protect your right to claim these exemptions you must, within 28 days from the date on the Writ of Garnishment, deliver to the court clerk and mail a copy to the plaintiff, the completed Exemption Claim - Form H.