Being sued

You'll know you're being sued when you receive a formal document issued by a court. You should take these documents very seriously. Don't ignore them.

If you're being sued and don't know what to do next, follow these steps.

What to do if you're being sued


Check that the documentation you received has been issued by a court

Sometimes debt collectors will send you documents that look like formal court documents but they're not actually issued by a court.

The first thing to do is to check that the formal documentation has:

  • the name of the relevant court and a court stamp
  • a court number
  • a section telling you what will happen if you don't respond within a certain time

If the document has the above information, then a court has issued them.

If you're unsure whether the court has issued the document, ring the court to check.

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Depending on where you live, formal documents could be called a ''Claim'', ''Statement of Claim'', ''Complaint'' or a ''Summons''.

There are different rules in different courts about how the documents must be delivered to you. The court document can be:

  • handed to you personally
  • left at your address
  • sent by certified mail
  • sent by ordinary post

The document will tell you how long you have to respond. The time limit varies in different parts of Australia.

If you're a tenant and have received a notice to vacate, a notice of hearing or similar, refer to Rent.


Understand your options

You have six options once you've received a formal notice that you're being sued. They are:

  1. Contact the creditor to:
    • negotiate a repayment arrangement
    • dispute the debt claimed
  2. Lodge in external dispute resolution if:
    • you're in financial hardship
    • you have a reason why you don't owe the debt claimed.
      You can only go to EDR before judgment is obtained. Lodging a complaint with EDR stops the court action until EDR deals with the matter
  3. Confess to the debt by agreeing you owe the money
    This involves filling in some forms with the court to confirm that you owe the debt. Do not confess the debt until you get advice.
  4. Defend the court action
    Court procedures are different in each state and territory, but generally you do this by lodging documents with the court setting out your defence (before the time limit given in the claim document). Please be aware that if you defend the action and lose, much higher costs may be awarded against you (including any legal costs for the other party) than would have been the case if you hadn't defended the court action.
  5. Do nothing and don't attend court
    This means that your creditor is likely to get a default judgment against you.
  6. Apply to the court to pay the debt in instalments
    If judgment has already been obtained.

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You can negotiate with your creditor even after court action has started.


Call to speak to one of our financial counsellors

Before deciding which option is right for you, call us on 1800 007 007 to talk it through.

We may be able to assist you with options 1, 2 and 6; and we can refer you to appropriate legal advice for the other options.