Enforcement of monetary decision of the Magistrates, District or Supreme Court

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This factsheet outlines the steps required to enforce a decision of the Magistrates, District and Supreme Courts of Queensland that requires a person to pay a fixed amount of money. It also outlines two of the procedures open to attack enforcement proceedings.

In this factsheet, "enforcement creditor" means the person who is owed money and is taking enforcement action and "enforcement debtor" means the person who owes the money and is the subject of enforcement action.

A reference to "the Rules" is a reference to the Uniform Civil Procedure Rules 1999 (Qld). Forms can be accessed here.

The steps to enforce a court's monetary order are:

  • Step 1 - write a letter to the enforcement debtor
  • Step 2 - consider the financial situation of the enforcement debtor and, if necessary, apply for an enforcement hearing
  • Step 3 - apply for an enforcement warrant

Time limits

You may enforce a judgment for a monetary sum at any time within six years from the date of the decision. If you do not enforce the decision within this six year time frame you may lose the right to do so. You can apply to the court for an extension of this first six year period for a further six years, however, the court may not necessarily grant the extension of time.

Step 1 - write a letter to the enforcement debtor

The first step in an enforcement process is usually to write a 'letter of demand' to the enforcement debtor; advising of the date of the decision and the amount owing, and requesting that the amount be paid by a reasonable date (e.g. 7 days or 14 days etc). You do not necessarily have to take this step but it can save you the time and cost of taking other enforcement steps, and sometimes the enforcement debtor will make a payment.

You should attach a copy of the court decision to the letter and provide your bank account details, or the name you wish a cheque to be made out to, so that the enforcement debtor may pay you the amount owing.

If the enforcement debtor does not pay you within the time specified, you should consider commencing enforcement proceedings.

Enforcement proceedings can either be conducted in the same court that made the order, or if the size of the costs order that you have falls within the monetary jurisdiction of a lower court, then you can register the judgment in that lower court (rule 802). The Magistrates Court deals with matters of less than $150,000, and the District Court deals with matters between $150,000 - $750,000. The Supreme Court deals with matters greater than $750,000.

Step 2 - consider the financial situation of the enforcement debtor and, if necessary, apply for an enforcement hearing

It will only be worthwhile pursuing enforcement proceedings if the enforcement debtor has access to money or assets (which may be sold) to be able to pay you the amount owed.

You will need to consider what you know about the enforcement debtor's financial situation. For example, you may know that the enforcement debtor owns a property, works for a particular employer or has money owing to them from a third party. If you do not know anything about the enforcement debtor's financial situation you will need to apply for an enforcement hearing to obtain this information.

Either way, you should send the enforcement debtor a letter enclosing a statement of financial position (form 71). Ask the enforcement debtor to complete this form and return it to you within 14 days. You must send a statement of financial position before you apply for an enforcement hearing.

If the enforcement debtor pays you the amount you are owed in response to this letter, you will not need to commence enforcement proceedings and the matter will be over.

If the enforcement debtor returns the statement of financial position to you with sufficient information, you can then proceed to apply for an enforcement warrant. See step 3 below.

If the enforcement debtor does not respond to you within 14 days or does not provide sufficient information, then you will need to apply for an order that the enforcement debtor attend an enforcement hearing. An enforcement hearing is an oral examination by the court of the enforcement debtor about their financial position.

Applying for an enforcement hearing

To apply for an enforcement hearing, you will need to file the following three documents.

  1. Application (form 9). This document is for you to ask the court for an order that:
    • the enforcement debtor be summoned to an enforcement hearing; and
    • the enforcement debtor provide you with documents relating to their finances, e.g. documents about assets, income, bank accounts, or other documents which may demonstrate their ability to pay you the amount you are owed.
  2. Affidavit (form 46). This document is for you to swear or affirm:
    • the amount you are owed and the steps you have taken to recover this amount;
    • whether you have received a completed statement of financial position and the steps you've taken to get a completed statement of financial position;
    • if you have received a completed statement of financial position, why you are not satisfied with the information in the statement; and
    • an offer to pay conduct money for the enforcement debtor's attendance at the hearing (if relevant).
  3. Enforcement hearing summons (form 70). This document is for you to list what documents you want the enforcement debtor to provide at the hearing (which you should have already referred to in your application).

The court will set a date for the enforcement hearing and issue the summons, which must be served by you on the enforcement debtor at least 14 days before the date of the hearing. The summons may instruct the enforcement debtor to provide you with a completed Statement of Financial Position (Form 71) before the hearing (Rule 808(7)). If this is the case, you will need to serve a blank Form 71 with the summons.

If the enforcement debtor returns the Statement of Financial Position to you with sufficient information, you should notify the court and the enforcement debtor that you no longer require the enforcement hearing and apply for an enforcement warrant (see step 3 below).

If the enforcement debtor does not return the Statement of Financial Position to you before the hearing, the enforcement hearing will proceed. The enforcement debtor will be required to attend court to answer questions about their finances and bring along any documents listed in the enforcement hearing summons. You will also need to attend the hearing.

The enforcement hearing may prompt the enforcement debtor to negotiate payment arrangements with the enforcement creditor (you) to resolve the dispute. If the enforcement debtor does not offer to negotiate, the court may order an enforcement warrant.

If the enforcement debtor fails to attend the hearing, the court may issue a warrant for their arrest.

Step 3 - apply for an enforcement warrant

Once you have obtained information about the enforcement debtor's financial position (either through your own informal searches or through the enforcement hearing process) you can apply to the court for an enforcement warrant.

Types of enforcement warrants

Enforcement warrant for redirection of earnings under rule 855. This type of warrant directs the enforcement debtor's employer to pay part of his/her wages to you whenever they get paid. To apply for this type of warrant, details of the source of the enforcement debtor's earnings, for example their employer, are required.

Enforcement warrant for redirection of a debt under rule 840. This type of warrant directs a third party who currently owes a debt to the enforcement debtor to pay that money to you instead. To apply for this type of warrant you will need to know the details of the third party and the amount they owe the enforcement debtor.

Enforcement warrant for regular redirections from a financial institution under rule 848. This type of warrant directs a financial institution, e.g. a bank, to redirect regular payments received by the enforcement debtor to you. To apply for this type of warrant you will need to know details of any payments regularly made and the enforcement debtor's account details.

Enforcement warrant for seizure and sale of property under rule 828. This type of warrant directs the enforcement officer, who is the sheriff or bailiff of the court, to seize and sell property belonging to the enforcement debtor. There are limits on the type of property which may be seized and sold. To apply for this type of warrant, you will need to know details of the enforcement debtor's property which may be seized and sold.

Applying for an enforcement warrant

To apply for an enforcement warrant, you will need to file the following three documents at the court where you registered the decision.

  1. Application (form 9). This document is for you to ask the court to issue an enforcement warrant.
  2. Statement supporting application for enforcement warrant (form 74). This document is for you to set out details about the decision you are seeking to enforce, costs incurred by you in pursuing enforcement proceedings and interest claimable. You must complete this statement no more than 2 days before you file the application; and
  3. Warrant (form 75, 76, 77 or 78). You will need to choose the correct warrant form and attach this to your application and supporting statement.

Once you have filed the documents, the registrar of the court will decide whether to issue an enforcement warrant.

If the registrar issues an enforcement warrant, the warrant will need to be served on the enforcement debtor and any person required to take action under the warrant, such as the enforcement debtor's employer or financial institution. There are different rules about how different types of warrants must be served.

You may choose to engage a 'bailiff' to serve the warrant. A warrant for the seizure and sale property must be executed by a bailiff. If you engage a bailiff, you will need to pay a deposit of money as security for any costs the bailiff may incur in executing the warrant. Bailiffs can be employed by contacting the bailiff's office at the courthouse.

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