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i The advice on this page applies to residents of Scotland only.

Court Decision or Decree. What is it and what are my rights?

If you have arrears and you can’t come to an arrangement to pay them back, your creditor could apply to the Sheriff Court and could get a court decision or decree.

Decisions or Decrees are court process only used to collect debts in Scotland. The equivalent court action in England, Wales and Northern Ireland works differently.

If your debt is regulated by the Consumer Credit Act, your debt must have defaulted before your creditor can begin court action.

If you get a decision or decree, details of it will appear on a public register for six years.

Paying a debt off in instalments

When you get court papers detailing how much you owe but you can't afford to pay off the whole debt you can ask to pay it in affordable instalments.

To do this you need to complete and return the form called ‘The Simple Procedure Time to Pay Application’ or the ‘Application in writing for a time to pay direction’. The application will be included with the court paperwork. You’ll be given a deadline to complete and return this, usually 21 days.

If you don’t return this form and you are liable for the debt it is likely the sheriff will order that you pay the full amount due.

The form asks the creditor to agree a payment amount you can afford. If the creditor doesn’t agree it, the court may ask you to attend a hearing to set a payment or the sheriff may accept or reject the offer.

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Types of Scottish court orders

If your creditor has gone to court and an order has been granted by the Sheriff, this is called a Decision or a Decree. If in response to the court papers you asked to pay in instalments and this was agreed, you’ll get a Decision with an order for time to pay or a Decree with a time to pay direction. As long as you keep making the payments your creditor can’t use any further court action or diligence.

If you didn’t apply for time to pay or you returned your forms too late, you’ll get a decision or a decree normally asking for the full amount to be paid. Your creditors may then start further court action if the full amount that is owed is not paid.

Free help and support

If you’ve received any court paperwork call our Helpline for advice. We can help you deal with the court forms and your debt.