Q: How do I file for exemption of my income in a debit collectors complaint file in civil court?

My only source of income is social security disability. I do not own any real estate property, burial plan, or Plot. I do not have life insurance policy. My car has a lien on it and I make monthly payments. I need to file for exemption of my income and bank account. How do I do this without a lawyer? I can’t afford to file for bankruptcy.

1 Lawyer Answer
James L. Arrasmith
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  • Consumer Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA

A: If you are being sued by a debt collector in civil court and your only income is from Social Security Disability (SSDI), you can file for an exemption to protect your income and assets from being garnished or seized. Here are the steps you can take:

1. Respond to the lawsuit: File a written response (called an "Answer") to the debt collector's complaint with the court. In your Answer, state that your only income is from SSDI and that you are claiming an exemption for your income and assets.

2. File an exemption claim: Along with your Answer, file a separate claim of exemption form with the court. This form will allow you to list the specific exemptions you are claiming under your state's laws. SSDI income is typically exempt from garnishment under federal law.

3. Serve the plaintiff: Mail a copy of your Answer and exemption claim to the debt collector or their attorney. This is called "serving" the plaintiff.

4. Attend the hearing: The court will schedule a hearing on your exemption claim. Attend this hearing and bring proof of your SSDI income, such as a benefits award letter or bank statements showing your SSDI deposits.

5. Argue your case: At the hearing, explain to the judge that your only income is from SSDI and that you are claiming an exemption for your income and assets under federal and state law.

If the judge grants your exemption claim, the debt collector will not be able to garnish your SSDI income or seize your exempt assets. However, they may still be able to obtain a judgment against you for the debt.

For more specific guidance, contact your local legal aid office or self-help center at the courthouse. They may be able to provide you with the necessary forms and assist you in filing your exemption claim.

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