Enforcing a Judgment Debt in Victoria

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Written by: Nicholas Phibbs- Solicitor at ADC Legal

Received a court order for a monetary sum (Judgment Debt) against a Defendant (Debtor)  in the Magistrates Court of Victoria (Court) but the Debtor still refuses to comply?

Unfortunately, this is a scenario that occurs all too often, fortunately though, there are a  number of legal options available to you to enforce a Judgment Debt.

Before commencing enforcement proceedings against an individual or company however, it  is important to consider the financial position of the Debtor and their ability to pay the debt in  the first place.

Enforcement proceedings can be both time consuming and expensive.  There is no point spending more money on legal fees attempting to recover money the Debtor simple does not  have.

One legal option to discover the financial position of the Debtor is through a Summons for  Oral Examination of a Judgment Debtor.

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    An Oral Examination requires the Debtor to attend Court and under oath provide financial
    information including but not limited to;

    1. a) the amount and source of any income the Debtor receives;
    2. b) any property and assets the Debtor may possess;
    3. c) any cash that is readily available to the Debtor or that can be made so available;


    1. d) all debts, liabilities and other financial obligations of the Deb

    If the Debtor fails to appear at the Oral Examination an arrest warrant can be issued  compelling the Debtor to attend.

    Once the financial position of Debtor is established, the Court allows the debt to be enforced  in a number of different ways including;

    1. a) a warrant to seize property;
    2. b) an attachment of earnings order; and
      c) an attachment of debts o

    See also: Late payers can kill your business – Here’s a debt collection guide on how to stop them!

    Warrant to Seize Property 

    This warrant is valid for 12 months and gives authority to the Sheriff to go to the Debtor’s
    home or business address in Victoria and demand payment of a Judgment Debt.  Seized
    items will be sold at public auction and the proceeds will be forwarded to you up to the value  of the Judgment Debt owing.

    Attachment of earnings 

    If the Debtor is employed, the Court can make an order that requires the employer to deduct  specified amounts from the Debtor’s pay cheques until the Judgment Debt is paid.  If the
    employer fails to comply with a binding order, the you may apply to the Court to have the
    order enforced against the employer instead of the Debtor.

    Garnishee Orders 

    If the Debtor holds money in a financial institution, such as a bank, the Court can make an
    order against the financial institution known as a garnishee order.  This order requires the
    financial institution to pay monies held in their institution to the you rather than to the Debtor.

    Installment Orders 

    If after an Oral Examination, it is clear that the Debtor does not have the means to pay the  Judgment Debt in full the Court may decide an instalment order is the best course for the  Debtor to service the Judgment Debt.

    It is not only the Court that can order an instalment agreement, either party at any time post  judgment can apply to the Court for an instalment order.  While an instalment order is in
    force and being complied with, it operates as a stay of execution for the Debtor.


    The final option in recovery of a Judgment Debt is through personal and corporate
    insolvency regimes.  The effects of the bankruptcy are quite severe that it can be quite an  effective way of enforcing a Judgment Debt.  However, bankruptcy proceeds can also be  expensive and very technical with strict compliance to requirements and deadlines.


    If enforcement proceedings are not successful in recovery the Judgment Debt within the first  few months of the judgment it does not necessarily mean you should give up.  A Judgment  Debt in Victoria is valid for 15 years from the date of the judgment and enforcement
    proceedings can be brought against the Debtor at any time within this time limit.

    A Debtor’s circumstances can change dramatically over the course of 15 years, a Debtor  may gain employment or receive an inheritance from a family member and then is able to  service the Judgment Debt.

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    Adam Stewart - Debt Collection Expert
    About the Author

    In 2002, Adam Stewart established Debt Recoveries Australia Pty Ltd, a debt collection agency specialising in the insurance claims industry.

    Adam has worked in the fields of motor vehicle insurance and debt recovery for over 12 years, working with some of the largest insurance and debt recovery companies in Australia. Read more

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