We earlier discussed how to enforce a payment in the Northern Territory through relatively informal avenues including issuing a Letter of Demand. This article will look at how you can recover money owed through the Small Claims Division of the Northern Territory Local Court located in Darwin.

Step One: Fill in and File a Statement of Claim form.

You can download the Statement of Claim (SOC) form from the Northern Territory Magistrates Court website. It is also available for the Local Court office. Once completed, you will return it to your nearest Local Court (called filing).

Step Two: Serve the Statement of Claim on the Defendant within 12 months.

You have 12 months from filing the SOC to ensure the debtor (called the Defendant) receives the form (called service). The SOC is served to the Defendant personally, not by mail. If, however, you require more than 12 months, you can ask the Court for an extension of time. 

Step Three: File a Declaration of Service

If you served the Defendant yourself, you will then need to file the Declaration of Service. The Local Court can arrange for service on your behalf if you are unable to serve the Defendant personally, or you can pay for a licensed process server.

Step Four: Respond to the Statement of Claim within 28 Days of Service

Within 28 days of service, the Defendant must:

  • Settle the claim,
  • Pay the claim, or
  • File in court a Notice of Defence, Notice of Admission or an offer to pay.

Although the Defendant chooses how to respond to the SOC, they must make their decision clear within 28 days of receipt. 

If the Defendant files a Notice of Defence, Notice of Admission or an offer to pay, they need to take the documents to the Court. You will receive a copy of the filed document for notification purposes. 

Step Five: Applying for Default Judgment

If the Defendant does not take any of the actions in step five, you can fill out an Application for Default Judgment form. If the Defendant fails to respond, you can apply for the Court to award a default judgment in your favour.

The Hearing

You can still settle the matter before or during the proceedings, but only before the judgment has been handed down. If you do reach a settlement, you must let the court know. It is useful to have a written and signed agreement addressing the settlement terms to present to the Court. 

At the hearing itself, it is critical that you bring all relevant documents that will help you prove your case. The Court will make a judgment after hearing both you and the Defendant. 

Costs

There are fees involved in filing a Statement of Claim, and the fees are dependant on the amount you are claiming. The Schedule of Fees is available on the Northern Territory Magistrates Court website.

Conclusion

It is sensible to enforce a payment by first sending the debtor reminder letters and then issuing a Letter of Demand. However, should this prove unsuccessful in recovering the money owed, you may need to pursue your matter in the Small Claims Division in the Northern Territory Local Court. LegalVision’s experienced team of litigaiton and dispute resolution lawyers would be delighted to assist you. Should you have any questions, please get in touch with us on 1300 544 755.

Dhanu Eliezer

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