Judgments and default judgments

If you cannot settle a case at court about debt, it will go to a trial. All parties will present their evidence to the court and can be questioned by the other parties about it. The magistrate will then decide. The decision is called a judgment.

In some situations, the magistrate can make judgment in a party’s favour without a trial if a party fails to do what is required by the law. Usually this is because the other party has not done something within the required time frames. This is called default judgment.

If a judgment has been made against you, you may want to get legal advice on your options. Our Get help with going to court webpage has information on where you may be able to get help.

This page has information on what a judgment is and when you can ask for default judgment.

What is a judgment?

The court's decision is called a judgment. Once a court judgment has been made, it can be enforced if the other party does not follow it. A judgment debt is the amount that must be paid under a court order.

The party in favour of whom judgment is made is called the judgment creditor. The party against whom the judgment is made, who owes the money, is the judgment debtor.

If a judgment has been made against you and you don’t understand, or you don’t have money to pay, you should get legal advice.

When can I ask the court for default judgment?

You can ask the court for default judgment for several reasons including:

  • In minor case claims if:
    • the defendant
      • does not lodge and serve a response within 14 days of receiving a claim, or
      • a party does not attend a pre-trial conference.
  • In general procedure claims if:
    • the defendant has not:
      • lodged a response, or
      • lodged and served a statement of defence or a statement of defence and counterclaim as required by the rules, or
    • a party:
      • fails to go to a pre-trial conference, or
      • did not attend, or if they did not have to attend their lawyer fails to go to a status conference, or
      • does not follow the requirements of the Magistrates Court (Civil Proceedings) Act 2004 (WA), the rules of court, court orders or directions.

Get legal advice about these situations.

In a general procedure claim involving an application to have the claim struck out, there are some situations not covered here where the registrar should not give default judgment if the other party has not lodged and served a statement of defence or a statement of defence and counterclaim.

If you apply for default judgment, you can also ask for an order for any costs you have because the other party did not comply.

Do time limits apply?

In a general procedure claim, in certain situations where the defendant did not lodge and serve a defence or lodge and serve a statement of defence and counterclaim, a registrar must not give default judgment without a magistrate’s approval. This includes if one year or more has passed since the claim was served.

If this occurs you will need to file an affidavit stating the reasons why it took so long for you to finalise the claim. The magistrate may then give approval for default judgment to be given by a registrar.

It is best to file all affidavits and documents as soon as possible, because the defendant can still lodge their response up until you ask for default judgment.

What if the court makes a default judgment against me?

In some situations, you might be able to have the judgment set aside.


Reviewed: 21 February 2024


The information displayed on this page is provided for information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have a legal problem, you should see a lawyer. Legal Aid Western Australia aims to provide information that is accurate, however does not accept responsibility for any errors or omissions in the information provided on this page or incorporated into it by reference.