Can court judgements be removed from my credit file?

This is a question we are asked regularly and knowing the answer could make all the difference. Before WE answer this question, let’s take a quick look at what a court judgement actually is.

A court judgment is a legal order that makes a person or organisation liable for an amount of money. If someone feels they are owed money by another party they have the option to commence legal proceedings in an attempt to recover the amount outstanding.

This process would normally involve the services of a solicitor who would begin by preparing a statement of claim. In these proceedings the party that is commencing the legal action is known as the plaintiff or claimant and the party being sued is known as the defendant.

A statement of claim will outline the claim and what the defendant may do to resolve the matter. Typically a Statement of Claim will give a 28 day period for the defendant to either file a defence or settle the matter with the Plaintiff. This process does vary slightly from State to State , but for the most part the fundamentals are the same.

One thing that does differ is the process of the defendant being served a statement of claim. In the state of NSW this does involve the defendant being personally served while in other states the plaintiff need only mail this document. We often talk to people in NSW that were not served and yet a judgement was entered, in some cases without them even knowing. While it is possible this could indicate a flaw in the process followed by the plaintiff or their solicitor, this can also be caused by what is known as substituted service. If a party such as a process server makes repeated attempts to serve the defendant, they may make an application to the court to be awarded substituted service. Once substituted service is awarded the plaintiff is seen as have fulfilled their obligations of serving the defendant and the notice period of the Statement of Claim would begin at this time.

A court action is recorded on a credit file for five years however the limitations period under the (name of act) is twelve years. It’s also worth mentioning that the credit reporting agencies gain this information from the public records that the courts produce and not from the plaintiff or solicitor.

Now we know a little more about court judgements, let me tackle the question “can they be removed from a credit report? The short answer is yes, in most cases a court judgement can be removed from a credit file.

The process of removing a court judgement from a credit file begins with having the plaintiff agreeing to sign a Notice of Discontinuance or Consent Order depending on the state the judgement was entered in. By signing this document the plaintiff is agreeing to formally discontinue their action, not an unreasonable request if the judgement is paid or the defendant can settle the debt. However this can be a very different matter if this is not the case. If the judgement is unpaid there’s very little chance the plaintiff will agree to discontinue their action. We find from experience that it can be beneficial if the defendant has not paid the judgement but is in a position to settle with the plaintiff at the time we approach them, nothing motivates a plaintiff more than the prospect of getting paid.

In most cases even if the judgement has been paid prior, the plaintiff will agree to sign the necessary documents, given they are approached in the right way of course.