Victoria Legal Aid

Court orders and judgment

Explains what happens once the court has made an order against you for outstanding debts, and your options once an order is made.

A court will make an order if it agrees you owe a debt, even if you do not go to court. Once an order is made a creditor can apply for enforcement orders to make you pay a debt.

You still have options once a court order is made.

The total amount that the court orders you to pay, including your original debt plus costs and interest, is known as a ‘judgment debt’. A creditor generally has 15 years to take action to enforce a judgment debt.

A judgment debt gives the creditor the right to apply to the court for the following orders, to try to make you pay:

  • summons for oral examination
  • instalment order
  • attachment of earnings
  • attachment of debt
  • warrants of seizure and sale
  • warrant to sell your house.

A creditor may also give you a bankruptcy notice if you owe more than $10,000. If you then don’t pay, the creditor can issue a creditor’s petition, and seek a sequestration order, making you bankrupt. A creditor has 6 years from the date of your judgment debt to give you a bankruptcy notice.

See Creditors’ options for details.

Your options once an order is made

You still have options. For example, you can negotiate to pay the debt, ask the court for instalment orders, or apply for bankruptcy yourself. You can get help to do any of these things.

Can I get a court order reversed?

You may be able to reverse the court order, if you didn't file a defence or go to court. You will need to ask for a re-hearing. This process can be expensive. It is very important that you get legal advice before asking for a re-hearing. You must fill in the re-hearing court form and:

  • write a sworn statement (affidavit) that shows that you have a defence
  • explain in the affidavit why you did not enter a defence or go to court, and why it has taken you until now to apply to the court
  • show that the creditor will not be worse off by having the first court order cancelled.

Unless the creditor was at fault you will have to pay the creditor’s legal costs.

You might also be able to appeal against the decision. This is rare, and you have limited time if you want to appeal. You would need to show that the first court made a mistake in applying the law. Get other support about this. It is likely to be complicated and will be expensive.

Other support

Find out how you can get other support for debt and financial issues.

Disclaimer: The material in this print-out relates to the law as it applies in the state of Victoria. It is intended as a general guide only. Readers should not act on the basis of any material in this print-out without getting legal advice about their own particular situations. Victoria Legal Aid disclaims any liability howsoever caused to any person in respect of any action taken in reliance on the contents of the publication.

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Reviewed 07 April 2022

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