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This section has step-by-step information for people who are being chased for money or goods in the Small Claims Division of the Local Court. There is information about how you can respond to a claim, the various steps in the court process, what to do if you settle the case and what happens after you go to court.
If you have received a letter of demand and are unsure what to do, see:
It is really important to try and resolve the dispute as the court process will cost you money, time and energy. For information on what you can do to resolve your dispute, including negotiating with the other party and going to mediation, see:
Resolving your dispute – goods.
Once a case is started in court you are called the 'defendant'. The other party taking you to court is called the 'plaintiff'.
If you are being chased for a consumer credit debt, such as a mortgage, car loan, personal loan or a credit card debt, you have other rights and can try external dispute resolution (EDR). There are lots of benefits of trying to resolve the dispute through EDR, rather than through court. For more information, see External Dispute Resolution.
If you receive a document called a statement of claim, this means the other party has started a court case against you to try to get their money or goods back, or to recover the cost of repairing the damage to their vehicle caused by a car accident that they say was your fault. You have a number of options if you receive a statement of claim for money or goods.
You must take action within 28 days of receiving a statement of claim. This section has information on how you can respond. If you are not sure how to respond after reading this information, you should get legal advice.
For more information, see Responding to a statement of claim.
If you receive a statement of claim and decide to defend it, you will need to go to court. This section has information about what happens after you file your defence form:
For more information, see During your case.
You can try to settle your case at any time. If you and the other party reach an agreement, it is a good idea to put the agreement in writing. You will also need to end the court case.
For more information, see Settling your case.
If you win the case, you will not have to pay the other party any money or return goods.
If you lose the case or do not defend the claim, there will be a judgment against you. You can either pay the money or return the goods, or you may be able to negotiate with the other party some more time to pay the debt.
If you do not do what is set out in the judgment, the other party can take steps to get the money paid or the goods returned. This is called enforcement.
If you lose the case, you may be able to ask for a review of the decision or appeal your case to the District Court.
For more information, see After court.