Skip to main content

What happens if I don't show up in civil court for unsecured debt in Massachusetts?

Boston, MA |

I don't have an income or way to pay if they win judgement. Can I be arrested for not showing up? The paper I go said "attendance required" it's not a subpoena, it's the first hearing. Also, if I don't pay, can I be arrested?

+ Read More

Attorney answers 4


No you cannot be arrested for a civil judgment. Your attendance is required to avoid a default judgment being entered against you. If, however, the pursuing creditor decides to continue the matter into execution you need to pay particular attention to any paperwork you may receive in that it may be requiring you to answer questions or give information in aid of execution of the judgment. In some jurisdictions, the failure to respond to these inquiries could result in harsher penalties.


If it is for the trial, they you lose. If the subpoena is for a judgment debtor exam, and you do not appear, you could end up with a bench warrant against you for failing to appear.


Whether you can be arrested for not showing up depends on the exact nature of the hearing. You say it is the first hearing, but that does not really help. Was there a hearing before you were not aware of? Is if the first small claims payment review hearing, or a first supplementary process hearing? This is important to answer the questions. Some of the other advice, as a result, may be misleading

If this is a payment review hearing in small claims, or a supplementary process hearing, and you do not show up a capias (civil arrest warrant) may issue for the creditor to have you arrested and brought before the court. If it is for a trial, and you are not being subpoenaed, a capias will not issue, but you will likely lose your case.

DISCLAIMER: This answer is provided in response to a "hypothetical" question and provided for general, informational purposes and does not create an attorney/client relationship. The information presented is not legal advice and may change based additional information and research. It is recommended that you speak to an attorney to discuss your specific legal issues.


Assuming that a judgment has not yet been entered, if you don't show up, a default judgment will likely be entered against you. This is a civil case, not a criminal matter, so you can't be arrested.

Note that once a judgment has been entered, and you're subpoenaed to attend supplementary proceedings, failure to attend could result in your arrest, not for failure to pay the judgment, but for contempt for failing to obey the judge's order requiring that you appear.

Lawsuits and disputes topics

Recommended articles about Lawsuits and disputes

What others are asking

Can't find what you're looking for?

Post a free question on our public forum.

Ask a Question

- or -

Search for lawyers by reviews and ratings.

Find a Lawyer