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At a glance: How to apply for time to pay when someone is taking court action against you.
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This summary is not relevant in England and Wales
To view information that covers England and Wales, please click here.

Which court process am I dealing with?

There are two different sheriff court procedures. 

  • Simple procedure for debts up to £5,000. 
  • Ordinary cause for debts over £5,000. 

Some debts, for example council tax, can also be enforced in the sheriff court using a summary warrant. 

This sheet explains how to ask for time to pay in ordinary cause actions or when a summary warrant has been issued against you. There are different rules for simple procedure actions. 

What is a time to pay direction?

If someone takes court action against you for a debt a time to pay direction gives you time to pay by weekly or monthly instalments or a lump sum. A decree with a time to pay direction is granted if your creditor accepts your payment offer. Even if they refuse, the court can make an order for the time to pay direction anyway. 

While the time to pay direction is in force your creditor cannot take certain actions to enforce payment. If you have a time to pay direction and you miss two payments, the direction ends on the date the third payment is due. 

How do I get a time to pay direction?

There is a form for a time to pay direction included in your court summons or writ. The form does not include much room for details. You could consider drawing up a separate statement of your financial situation. You can use our Digital Advice Tool to work out your budget. 

What is a time to pay order?

Diligence is the term for enforcement in Scottish law. Once diligence has begun you may be able to ask the court for time to pay using a time to pay order. These are similar to time to pay directions in that they freeze any further diligence against you.. 

The time to pay order application form is similar to a time to pay direction form but includes more room for extra details such as your other debts.  

You cannot apply for a time to pay order if you previously had a time to pay direction and fell behind on the payments ordered by the court. 

Are there any restrictions on when time to pay directions and orders apply?

Time to pay directions and orders do not apply for: 

  • Debts over £25,000. 
  • Awards in connection with divorce. 
  • Maintenance. 
  • Income tax, VAT or car tax. 

Time to pay and council tax debt

You can apply for time to pay your council tax debt. You can only do this after the council has issued a formal demand for the money you owe. This is called a ‘charge for payment’. If your time to pay application is granted and you keep making the payments ordered, the council cannot make you bankrupt or use diligence against you.

Learn more about this topic

If you want to learn more about this topic, you can read our in-depth guide.

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