What is “Supplementary Process”? Am I being sued again?

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Greater Boston Legal Services

If a creditor wins a debt collection lawsuit against you in civil court and you don’t make payments, the creditor may take you to court again to enforce the judgment and make you pay the debt. 

This second court case is called "Supplementary Process" or "Supplemental Process." You get a complaint and summons in the mail with the date and time of the Supplementary Process hearing.


You must show up in court for your Supplementary Process hearing. If you miss your Supplementary Process hearing, the court may issue a warrant for your arrest. 

When can a creditor start a Supplementary Process case?

You can only be brought back to court for Supplementary Process if you lose a debt collection lawsuit in civil court

  • In a debt collection case, the judge decides if you owe the debt. 
  • In a Supplementary Process case, the judge figures out how you will pay the debt. 

Usually, creditors won’t go through Supplementary Process if you make payments voluntarily. 

What do I have to do in Supplementary Process?

First, you go to a hearing. The date and time are listed on the complaint and summons you get in the mail. 

At the hearing, the judge will probably ask you to fill out a financial statement form. The financial statement form asks for your income, assets (property/belongings), and your expenses (like rent, medicine, and food). Fill out the form as best as you can.

If your income is protected, bring copies of your benefit statements or paystubs to court to show the judge.

You may have to go to court many times for Supplemental Process. Even if the judge decides you aren’t able to pay the debt now, the plaintiff can ask to reschedule the hearing in a few months to see if your finances have changed. They can also file another case at any time. Judgments last for 20 years in Massachusetts.

You must go to court each time, even if you do not have any money to pay the debt. If you do not go to court, the judge may order you to pay all of your debt at once or issue a warrant for your arrest.

What happens after the judge decides?

You either get the judge's decision the same day of the hearing or in the mail afterward.

The judge can decide:

  • if you can afford to pay anything toward the debt, and/or
  • if you have any property that can be sold to pay the debt.

If the judge decides you are able to pay the debt, you get a “payment order” from the court. The court may set up a payment plan or order you to pay the debt immediately. In rare cases, the court may order you to sell non-exempt assets to pay off the debt.

What if I am collection-proof?

If you are collection-proof and do not think your circumstances will change anytime soon, you can ask the judge to dismiss your case. Be ready to explain:

  1. Your financial situation (bring documentation),
  2. Why you do not believe your situation will change, and
  3. Why it is a hardship for you to go to court when your situation is not going to change.

If you are collection-proof and over 60 or disabled, the judge can decide that you do not need to return to court. Send documentation of your age or disability to the plaintiff’s attorney and the judge. Documentation could be a copy of your license or Social Security benefits.

Then, ask the judge to dismiss the case. See Am I collection-proof if I am over 60 or disabled?


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