Small claims

When the claim goes to court

This page has information for both plaintiffs and defendants going to court over a small claim.

You can settle the claim at any time before going to court, but you must let the court know.

Before the court hearing 

Both plaintiffs and defendants will first be asked to a meeting at the court.

This meeting, called a conference, will be run by a court officer and gives you the chance to come to an agreement before the claim goes before a judicial registrar or judge.

Court hearing: where and when

If you can’t reach an agreement, you will be told a date where the plaintiff will be given the chance to present their case in court. This is called a court hearing.

By law, you must attend the court hearing, unless you have been told otherwise.

The hearing will be held at the court where the plaintiff filed the claim.

If you are the defendant and you want the hearing to be held in a different court, you will need to make an application to the court for a transfer.

Preparing for court

The court cannot help you present your case as they are not allowed to take sides. 

By law, you don't need a lawyer, but you can hire a lawyer to represent you. This will be at your expense.

You can also have a support person but they are not allowed to speak for you.  

You need to take to court all the documents that support your side of the claim, whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant.

These can include any or all of the following:

  • contracts
  • receipts
  • bills
  • sale receipts
  • photographs
  • quotes.

You should always try to bring original document rather than photocopies.

Find out more information about courtroom rules.

Read more information about representing yourself in court.


You should ask witnesses to help support your case.

Witnesses can go to court with you, or write down their evidence in a statutory declaration, which is a legal document that declares something to be true.

A copy of their statutory declaration should be given to the other party, and your witness should hand the original to the judge at the hearing.

Your witness should attend court with you, and may be asked questions by the defendant and the judicial registrar or judge.

If your witness can’t attend court, the judicial registrar or judge won't be able to question them, and can only read their statutory declaration.

Find out more information about going to court as a witness.

Presenting your case: plaintiff

You will begin by telling the court why you believe the defendant owes you money. You must prove your case by presenting witnesses and your documents. The defendant may ask your witnesses questions.

Defending your case: defendant

As the defendant, you have the right of reply and will then tell the court why you believe you don’t owe any money, or why the work performed was satisfactory. The plaintiff may ask your witnesses questions.

The court’s decision

After hearing from both the plaintiff and defendant, the judicial registrar or judge will make a decision, called judgment, based on the facts.

Find out how to get money you are owed.

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Last updated: 01 May 2016

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