Can I take legal action to recover a $5000 debt owed by my ex?

Question Details: My ex partner currently owes me $5000. She and her partner have a decent income between them, from which they could easily afford to pay me back over time, but she is bad at managing money and also has a synthetic cannabis habit. How can I recover my money?

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Answers by Lawyers

Community Law Wellington & Hutt Valley

Yes, you can take legal action to recover debts from individuals, including ex-partners, but we first recommend you attempt negotiation.

You should first try to recover your money by negotiating for its payment with your ex-partner. You could agree on a payment plan which includes regular payments over time, with consequences (for example, further payments or interest) if she misses payments.

If your negotiations are unsuccessful, your next option depends on whether your ex-partner disputes she owes the debt or not. If your ex-partner says she does not owe you anything, you could file proceedings in the Disputes Tribunal. At the Tribunal, you would need to provide evidence to show that your ex-partner borrowed the money, and evidence that it remains unpaid. Details of this process are available here: www.communitylaw.org.nz.

If your ex-partner admits she owes you money but refuses to pay it, you can file proceedings in the District Court for recovery of the money. This is likely to be a more expensive and relatively slow process. It can be difficult to do without a lawyer, and paying a lawyer may cost more than you are owed. If you decide to talk to a lawyer about this, make sure you are very clear about agreeing in writing how much you will spend on advice or help with this matter. If you decide to do it yourself, there is information here: www.justice.govt.nz.

Answered 13 Aug 2013. The IMPORTANT NOTICE below is part of this answer.

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