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Possible responses from the defendant

When the defendant receives the claim they have 21 days to decide what to do. During that time the plaintiff cannot do anything to proceed with the claim.The three choices the defendant has are:

  • do nothing
  • pay the full amount of the claim or come to some arrangement with the plaintiff to resolve the claim - if the defendant admits the claim or that they owe some or all of the amount, they can fill in the front of the claim form and return it to the court
  • defend the claim, with or without a counterclaim.

No response

If the defendant does not respond within 21 days, you can apply for judgment to be signed in your favour without the need for a court hearing. To do this, complete a Form 18 and file it with the court with proof that a Minor Civil Claim Form 3 has been served on the debtor, and that you have waited at least 21 days for a reply.

This judgment can be set aside if the defendant can show they did not receive the claim. This is why it is important to find out the defendant's correct address, and, if there is any doubt about the address, to have a Sheriff's Officer serve the claim or serve it personally yourself.

Admission of the claim

If the defendant admits the claim and agrees to pay or act, ensure you negotiate a specific final date for payment or action. If the defendant does not pay or act by the agreed date, follow the process set out above for having judgement signed, and then apply for an investigation hearing.

The defendant can admit liability for all or part of a debt owed. If the defendant only admits part of the debt owed, and you aren’t happy with that, you can continue with the action. However, you may have to pay the defendant’s costs if the court awards you no more than what the defendant paid into the Court.

A defendant can admit liability for a debt by filing an Enforceable Payment Agreement (Form 1B) document with the Court.

Denial of liability

  • The defendant has 21 days to file a defence from the time a claim is served.
  • A defendant has to complete a Form 4 and file it at the Magistrates Court Registry.
  • A copy of the defence will either be sent to you by the court or by the defendant.


  • If the defendant thinks they have a claim against you, the plaintiff, they can complete and file a counterclaim. This is a Form 5 from the Magistrates Court. The filing fee is $153 as at 1 July 2019.
  • The counterclaim needs to be filed with the defence, and, if for any reason your claim does not proceed or is dismissed, the counterclaim can still continue as a separate action.
  • If you have a counterclaim filed against you, the court assumes you are defending it; therefore you do not need to file a separate defence.
Possible responses from the defendant  :  Last Revised: Thu Jun 27th 2019
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