Question: Debt collectors are hounding my wife and I over some credit card debt. While we acknowledge owing money, my only income is derived from federal disability, and my wife receives unemployment benefits.  Are we judgement proof?

Answer: Without attachable property, you just might be judgement proof.  State and federal law exclude certain types of income from debt collection.   The following list of protected income sources is listed on the state’s website (  Income from these sources cannot be taken to pay a debt and you cannot be ordered to make payments from them.

  • SSI, SSDI, OASDI, (Social Security and Disability Income)
  • Unemployment Compensation
  • Workers Compensation
  • Income from Pensions, Retirement Funds, IRAs, etc. (including public employees and railroad retirement)
  • Veterans Benefits (however, this income is subject to claims for reimbursement by the VA and Dept. of Transitional Assistance)
  • Public Assistance (Any government benefit to the poor)
  • Welfare Benefits (Any benefit given by the Mass Dept. of Transitional Assistance)

This income is protected from civil debt collection and wage garnishment.  However, this income can be used to enforce payment of taxes, court ordered child support or alimony, or a fine or restitution in a criminal case.   Small amounts of general income are protected to cover basic expenses. The law allows you to keep the following:

  • $75 per month for heat, hot water and lights;
  • $200 per month for rent;
  • $127.50 in weekly wages for general purposes;
  • If your income is $26,500 or more after federal and state taxes are withheld, you may keep 75% of the after tax income.

Attorney James Haroutunian practices real estate law, estate planning and business representation in Billerica at 790 Boston Road.  Contact him with questions at 978-671-0711,, or email him at


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