Dealing with your non-priority debts

​What if my creditors take court action?

Many people are frightened of courts especially when they feel guilty because they owe money. But a civil court is not there to judge anyone guilty or innocent, but to settle disputes about money owed and how to repay it. The court is not there to serve the interests of creditors alone. When your creditor makes a claim in the sheriff court, different procedures apply, depending on how much your debt is. The order the court makes is called a 'decree'. It states what you owe and how you should repay it. Once a creditor has got a decree, they may try to take further action against you. There are a number of ways they can try to make you pay. This is called 'diligence'. it is important that you understand your rights and the types of diligence that a creditor can use.

See our fact sheet:

Sheriff court action for debt.




Applying for time to pay

If your creditor has started court action, or has already got a decree, you may be able to apply to the sheriff court for time to pay the debt. If the court accepts your application for time to pay, and you keep making the payments the court orders, your creditor cannot take most types of further action against you.

If your creditor does not accept your time to pay offer, there will be a court hearing. This will look at how reasonable your offer was. This could mean that legal costs are added to your original debt.


creditors who take action against you in the wrong country

If you live in Scotland and took your debt out there, a creditor should not try and take action against you in another country, for example England. If they try to do this, contact us for advice.








Reducing payments on court orders

  • You can apply to reduce the payments you have been ordered to make if your circumstances change, or if you can't afford the payments. You might need help from a money advice centre, local citizens advice bureau, law centre or legal aid solicitor. Contact us for advice.


what about the Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS)?

If you have money left over after your essential outgoings, you may be able to apply for a DAS debt-payment programme. This will also stop diligence.

The Debt Arrangement Scheme (DAS) 

  • If a creditor has already taken you to court, you can still apply to the court for a time to pay order if you have not previously broken an arrangement set up by the court. However, you need to wait until the creditor moves onto the next stages of recovering the debt, called 'diligence'. If you are given a time to pay order, this will stop most types of diligence and, as long as you keep up the payments, you should not be asked to pay any more than you can afford.