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Changing a court order for debt

This advice applies to Wales

About getting a court order changed

If your creditor has taken court action against you for a debt, they may have got a county court judgment (CCJ) or other court order against you. The court order means that you have to pay back the money you owe to your creditor, either in instalments or in full by a certain date.

Once you've got a court order, it's really important to keep to the terms of the order. If you can’t afford to keep to the terms of the court order, you should try to get it changed instead of not making payments.

If your circumstances change, it's always best to try and get the court order changed rather than falling behind with payments. If you do nothing, your creditor can take more serious action, and depending on the kind of debts you've got, you could end up losing your home or having your possessions taken away.

This page tells you what you need to think about if you want to apply to get a court order changed, and how the process works when you've made your application.

When you can ask to change the court order

If you can't afford the payments ordered by the court, you can usually ask to change the terms of the order to fit in with what you can afford to pay. This is called an application to vary the order.

You can ask to change the order for any reason if either:

  • you made a repayment offer and your creditor accepted it

  • you didn’t reply to your creditor’s claim and the court made the order without a hearing

The rules are different if there was a court hearing to decide your repayments or your creditor rejected your repayment offer. In these situations, you can only ask to change the court order if your circumstances have changed - for example, if you’ve lost your job or become ill.

Depending on your financial situation, you could apply to the court to pay off the debt in smaller instalments. Or you could say you can no longer afford to pay anything at all. 

You’ll have to give details of your financial situation when you make the application.

How to apply to change a court order

How you apply to get a court order changed depends on whether you can afford to pay something to clear your debts and how your repayments were decided.

If you can afford to pay something

If you have some money and can afford to pay the debt off in instalments, you'll need to fill in a court form to apply. This is called an application for an Instalment Order.

You should use form N245 if either:

  • you made a repayment offer and your creditor accepted it

  • you didn’t reply to your creditor’s claim and the court made the order without a hearing

You can find court form N245 on GOV.UK.

The rules are different if there was a court hearing to decide your repayments, or your creditor rejected your repayment offer. In these situations, you should use form N244 instead - you can find court form N244 on GOV.UK.

You'll have to give your financial details when you fill in the form and say how much you can now afford to pay. Return the form to the court, with the fee for the application. If you’re on a low income, you might not have to pay the fee or you might be allowed to pay less - check if you can get help paying the fees.

If your creditor agrees to your new offer or doesn't respond, the court will make a new order setting out what you offered to pay. There won't be a court hearing.

If your creditor rejects your offer, court staff will decide what you should pay, according to guidelines produced by the Court Service. They will then make an new order.

If you don’t agree with what the court staff decide, you can write to the court and ask them to reconsider the order. You must do this within 14 days of the date of the new order being made. You don’t have to pay a fee to ask the court to reconsider the order and you don’t have to use a special form.

If the claim wasn't issued in your local court, the hearing will be automatically transferred to a court nearest to you.

Your creditor could also apply to get the court order changed if they disagree with what the court staff decide. If they do this, the court will arrange a hearing at your local court to decide what’s fair.

For more information about working out your finances and drawing up a financial statement, you can use our budgeting tool.

You can get more information about finding free or affordable legal help.

It can be difficult to get the court to change the order.  if you need help to fill in the court forms or work out what you can afford to pay.

If you can’t afford to pay anything at all

You can ask the court to pause the order - this is called ‘suspending’ or ‘staying’ it. If the court agrees to suspend or stay an order, your creditor can’t force you to pay - for example, they won’t be able to send bailiffs to your home. 

It’s very rare for the court to suspend or stay an order if you can’t make any repayments. They’re more likely to suspend or stay an order if you can show your situation will improve. For example, if you’ve got a job offer which means you’ll be able to pay your debt soon. You might have to pay a fee to apply to court.

You can apply to get the order suspended or stayed using court form N244. This is a general application form. You'll need to explain on the form why you can't afford to make any payments. You'll also need to send in a separate financial statement to show why this is the case.

This is a statement showing how much money you have coming into your household and how much you spend. It will also show if you have any money left over to pay back what you owe.

Put in as much detail as you can to explain your reasons and attach any evidence you have which explains your situation. For example, if you can't work because of illness and this means you don't have the money to pay the debt, try to include some medical evidence, such as a letter from your GP.

Return the form to the court, with the fee for the application. If you’re on a low income, you might not have to pay the fee or you might be allowed to pay less - check if you can get help paying the fees on GOV.UK.

It’s a good idea to tick the box on the form to ask for a court hearing.. A court hearing will give you the chance to explain your situation - it might cost extra to have a hearing.

You can download court forms on GOV.UK.

For more information about working out your finances and drawing up a financial statement, you can use our online budgeting tool.

Find out more about getting court fees reduced or waived.

Talk to an adviser if you need help to fill in the court forms or work out what you can afford to pay.

Getting a court order set aside

If you don't agree you owe the money or you think there's been a mistake in the way the case has been handled, you could try to get the court order set aside.

If you manage to get the order set aside, your creditor can still go back to court to chase you for payment. They will have to start the process all over again and this would give you more time to sort out your finances and pay back the money.

Coronavirus – asking for a court order to be set aside

Ask the court as soon as possible if you want to set aside a court order. Don’t worry if you don’t hear from them for a while – they might take a long time to arrange a hearing.

You can check how to prepare if the court arranges a hearing by phone or video call.

It's very difficult to get a court order set aside and you've got to have a very good reason for asking for this to happen. The judge will decide whether you have a good case. Possible reasons for getting the order set aside include:

  • you have a defence to the claim which you were not able to make known earlier
  • you weren't able to attend a hearing and a judgment was made in your absence
  • a mistake in the original judgment
  • the court did not follow the court rules during the claim process
  • the creditor did not follow the court rules during the claim process

The judge will decide if you had a good reason for not sending the defence form back or missing a hearing. A sudden illness, accident or other unforeseen circumstances might count as a good reason. Or you may have not received the claim forms because they were either sent to the wrong address or lost in the post.

If you missed a hearing or didn't send the defence form back, the judge will also decide whether your case had a good chance of success. They'll do this by looking at your arguments and the evidence. You need to make another application to the court as quickly as you can, usually within seven days of when you found out about the order.

It can be very difficult to get a court order set aside. Talk to an adviser if you need help to decide if you should ask for a court order to be set aside.

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