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Changes to court rules: Enforcement of judgments by Charging Orders and Attachment of Earnings

April 2016

Changes to court rules: Enforcement of judgments by Charging Orders and Attachment of Earnings

‘Hot on the heels’ of further court fee increases that came into effect on 21 March 2016, April 2016 sees changes taking place across various procedural parts of the court rules (England & Wales). 

Most notably, these changes include amendments to the rules about enforcing judgments by:

  • Charging Orders; and
  • Attachment of Earnings Orders.

Charging Orders

The changes to the process around Charging Orders stem from the centralisation of the Court Service’s processing of such applications, away from individual county court hearing centres to the County Court Money Claims Centre (CCMCC). 

Applications will continue to be initially processed without a hearing and without notice to the debtor (subject to certain exceptions) and in most cases this will lead to the making of an Interim Charging Order (ICO). 

However, what is significantly different from the current system is that following the subsequent service of the application and ICO on the debtor (and other interested parties), the application will no longer be automatically listed for a final hearing. 

Instead, the application and ICO will be served on the debtor and other interested parties (as under the former process), with a final hearing only taking place if an objection or request is made by the debtor or other interested parties for it to be dealt with at a court hearing. If this happens, the matter will be transferred from the CCMCC to the debtor’s home court. 

In the absence of an objection or request, on expiry of a 28 day period from service of the ICO, the CCMCC will make a Final Charging Order without a hearing.

Attachment of Earnings Orders

Similarly to the Charging Order changes, all applications for Attachment of Earnings Orders (AOEs) must now be made to the CCMCC. The CCMCC may make an AEO if it is in receipt of the debtor's reply form and if it has sufficient information to do so.

As with the new Charging Order process, the matter will be transferred to the debtor's home court for hearing.  Possible circumstances for such a transfer include; where the debtor objects to the AEO and applies for it to be reconsidered, or if the debtor (i) fails to obey the AEO, (ii) fails to file a statement of means or (iii) fails to make payment.

When the debtor fails to meet such obligations, the current provisions regarding the court's power to suspend any committal order are retained, with the revised rules providing the debtor with the opportunity to apply for a further suspension by attending court and explaining the failure to comply with the AEO.

Conclusion

As technology improves and the Court Service looks to make further costs savings through technology, it is likely that there will be more amendments to current processes with centralisation of standard procedures and matters dealt with at individual county courts for non-standard matters. 

Following this round of changes, it will be interesting to see whether - as a result of hearings no longer being automatically held - a higher percentage of cases conclude with a Final Charging Order being made.

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