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Your Rights and Responsibilities

Produced by Mariah Jennings-Rampsi, South Coastal Counties Legal Services, with funding from American College of Bankruptcy
Reviewed September 2019

Your responsibilities

You must pay back the money you owe. Even if you have disabilities, or you have no money, you still owe the money. You must pay your debts when you can.

A creditor may sue you even if you have disabilities or you have no money.

The only way to stop owing the money is:

  1. Pay the debt, or
  2. Get a court to order that you do not owe the money. The court may decide you do not owe the money if:
    • You file for bankruptcy and the court orders a “discharge;”
    • You were under 18 when you agreed to buy something on credit or borrowed money;
    • You were forced to agree to the debt; or
    • You did not understand that you were borrowing money.

Your rights

Creditors and debt collectors are not allowed to harass you. They are only allowed to contact you during certain times. If you want them to stop contacting you, you can write to them and tell them to stop. See the section on cease and desist letters to learn how to stop them.

You may be “collection proof”. Your income and property may be “protected.” You do not have to use protected income or property to pay most debts.

If all of your income and property is protected, you are often called “Judgment proof.” Judgment proof is also called “Collection proof” or “Execution Proof.” See Am I collection or execution proof? to learn more.

Some debts must be paid. You must pay taxes and child support even if it means you have to use your protected property or income. These debts are given “special priority”. Your income and property are not protected from paying these debts.

Take the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's Financial empowerment self-assessment to understand your own financial knowledge, skills, and overall confidence.

Find Legal Aid

You may be able to get free legal help from your local legal aid program. Or email a question about your own legal problem to a lawyer.

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