Bankruptcy is a process where people who cannot pay their debts give up their assets and control of their finances, either by agreement or court order, in exchange for protection from legal action by their creditors.
A bankruptcy case may be heard by the Federal Court or the Federal Circuit Court. Most bankruptcy cases are heard by the Federal Circuit Court. The rules, forms and procedures are the same in each court for bankruptcy cases.
A person who claims that you owe them money can ask the Federal Court or the Federal Circuit Court to declare you bankrupt. This person is called a creditor and their application is called a Creditor’s Petition. The creditor will give you a copy of the Creditor’s Petition which includes a time and date for you to attend court. To declare you bankrupt the creditor must prove to the Court that you have committed an act of bankruptcy.
The most common act of bankruptcy is failing to follow the instructions in a bankruptcy notice. This notice is issued by the Australian Financial Security Authority (AFSA) (formerly Insolvency and Trustee Service Australia (ITSA)) and then given to you by the creditor. The main instruction is that you pay the amount of a judgment debt within the time specified in the bankruptcy notice.
At the hearing the Court decides whether or not you have committed an act of bankruptcy. Among other things the Court will consider whether:
If you do not agree to being made bankrupt, you need to complete some forms and file them with the Court at least three days before the hearing. The steps you need to follow are explained in more detail under the heading ‘steps if you do not agree to being made bankrupt’.
The Creditor’s Petition will show the time, date and place of the hearing. If you are not sure, call or visit a registry near you. You can also check Federal Law Search through the Federal Court’s website.
A list of cases is usually posted on a noticeboard near the entrance of the court building. There may be several hearings with the same time and date as your case. You should wait in or near the courtroom until your case is called. It is a good idea to sit in the courtroom for a little while so that you can see what happens at a hearing.
In the Federal Court your case may be heard by a Judge or a Registrar. In the Federal Circuit Court your case may be heard by a Judge or a Registrar. If your case is heard by a Registrar you are entitled to ask that it be heard by a Judge of the Federal Court or the Federal Circuit Court (as the case may be).
When your case is called you should walk to the long bar table at the front of the courtroom and tell the Judge or Registrar your name. You should stand up when you are speaking and also when the Judge or Registrar is speaking to you.
At the hearing you need to tell the Court your response to the Creditor’s Petition.
You have three options:
At the hearing tell the Judge or Registrar that you agree to being made bankrupt. The Judge or Registrar will check the Creditor’s Petition. If it is correct he or she will make an order to declare you bankrupt. This is called a sequestration order.
The most common reasons or grounds for not agreeing to being made bankrupt are that you:
There may be other grounds as well.
If you need more time to prepare your case you may ask for an adjournment. An adjournment is when a hearing is deferred or postponed to a later date.
At the hearing tell the Judge or Registrar you want an adjournment and the reason why. The Court will also ask the other side whether it agrees to an adjournment. The Court does not automatically grant an adjournment but will do so if it thinks your reasons for requesting it are valid.
Even after your case comes before the Court you and the creditor may negotiate to settle the creditor’s claim and sometimes the Court will grant an adjournment to enable these negotiations to take place.
If you are granted an adjournment you may be ordered to prepare a further affidavit. If you ask for an adjournment and it is granted, you may also be ordered to pay the creditor’s legal costs for the day of the hearing.
If the Judge or Registrar makes a sequestration order a trustee will be appointed to manage your financial affairs. Your trustee will notify you of your bankruptcy in writing. The trustee will explain his or her role and your responsibilities as a bankrupt. The trustee will also give you a statement of affairs which you must complete and file with the Official Receiver (AFSA). Your period of bankruptcy runs for three years from the date you file your statement of affairs with AFSA.
There are several legal outcomes of your bankruptcy; for instance:
There are other consequences of becoming bankrupt. For more information, contact AFSA.
The registry may arrange an interpreter for you at the hearing. If you need an interpreter you must contact the registry at least one week before the hearing. If you do not contact the registry they may not be able to arrange an interpreter in time and the hearing may be delayed.
You can also call 131 450 and speak to the registry through a telephone interpreter.
For more information, including access to the Act, Rules and any of the forms mentioned in this brochure go to:
The Courts can give you information about:
Court staff cannot provide you with legal advice.
For general enquiries about bankruptcy contact your local AFSA office or go to their website
This brochure provides general information only and is not provided as legal advice. If you have a legal issue, you should contact a lawyer before making a decision about what to do or applying to the Court.
ABN 60 265 617 271
Our assistance phone line is 1300 352 000
Our E-mail address for family law enquiries (including divorce) is firstname.lastname@example.org
Our E-mail address for general federal law enquiries is email@example.com,
Disclaimer Privacy Statement, Site Instructions Translations
© Copyright Federal Circuit Court of Australia
Page Updated 13 August 2013