You are encouraged to try to resolve your claim without coming to court. You can do this informally or you might reach a resolution following court-ordered mediation. See Avoiding court for more information about other options.
Before making an application, you should seek legal advice.
If you are not able to resolve the issue and want to make a claim, you will need to complete an application and file it with the Court, together with other documents that support your case, then notify the other party.
You will need to file:
a completed Application – General federal law
an Affidavit or statement of claim or points of claim to support your application, and
the supporting documents.
If you are preparing an affidavit, see the fact sheet Preparing an affidavit.
Preparing a small claim
If you are applying under the small claims process you will need to provide enough details about your claim so that the Court and the other party (the ‘respondent’) can understand the claim. You do not need to use ‘legal language’ when setting out the details of your claim. You should describe, in your own words, what happened, making sure to include all the important points of your claim. You will need to provide supporting evidence, so gather all the relevant documents before you proceed.
Filing with the Court
Wherever possible, you must file court documents online using eLodgment. For information on how to use eLodgment, see the Federal Court website.
If it is not possible to file using eLodgment, you may be able to file your documents in-person, by mail, or in certain circumstances, by fax or email. Contact the Court if you are not sure how to file the documents.
What do I need to pay?
You need to pay a filing fee to the Court when you file the application. For more information, see Fees.
In some circumstances, you may be exempt from paying court fees, for example, if you are a concession holder. You will need to apply to the Court for the exemption, using the Application form for Exemption from Paying Court Fees – General. You can also apply for an exemption if paying court fees would cause you financial hardship. Use the Application form for Exemption from Paying Court Fees – Financial Hardship.
How do I notify the respondent?
After your application has been filed, you must ‘serve’ the application on the respondent. That means you must make sure that the respondent receives the filed documents.
If you are serving documents on a corporation, you (or someone who serves the documents on your behalf) can serve the documents by leaving a copy with a person who appears to be an officer of the corporation or appears to be working for the corporation. You can leave the documents:
at the corporation’s registered office, or
if there is no registered office, at the corporation’s main place of business or main office.
If you are serving documents on an individual, you (or someone who serves the documents on your behalf) should serve the documents in person.
After the documents have been served, you will need to complete an Affidavit of service, which you should file with the Court (using eLodgment). The completed affidavit of service will prove that the respondent received the documents and therefore knows about the Court hearing.
The affidavit of service must be sworn or affirmed in front of a person authorised by law to witness the swearing of affidavits, such as a lawyer or Justice of the Peace. You should have a copy of the filed affidavit of service with you at the Court hearing.
The respondent may choose to file a response before the first court date. If the respondent files a response, it must be filed and served within 28 days after the application was received.
If you cannot serve the documents in-person, you can apply to the Court for an order allowing you to serve the documents in a different way, for example, by email. This is known as ‘substituted service’. You make that application by filing:
an Application in a proceeding, and
an accompanying Affidavit explaining why you want substituted service.