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The 16th Judicial District

SMALL CLAIMS

It is the litigant's responsibility to file the required forms provided by the court for the action being taken. The Clerk may assist in providing these forms. Reasonable accommodations will be provided in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. You must make sure all forms are typed or completed in legible handwriting, in blue or black ink.

To file a Small Claims action, you must file the following forms:

Petition, Summons, Defendant's Claim provided by the Clerk's office. You must fill out the Plaintiff's name, address, and the Defendant's name, address, and zip code.

Petition, Summons and Defendant's Claim may be mailed to Clerk's office. Filing fee to file your petition must be included; make check payable to: Clerk of the District Court. The amount of the filing fee is as follows:

$30.00 for claims up to $500.00
$50.00 for claims of $500.01 to $4,000 maximum
An additional $5.00 must be included for the sheriff's fee to serve a copy of the papers on the Defendant. If payment of the sheriff's fee is made by check, make payable to the County Sheriff (of the county where it is to be served.)

Petition, Summons and Defendant's Claim may be served in one of the following ways:

Certified Mail
or Personal or Residential Service
If Defendant resides in another state, it is the Plaintiff's responsibility to provide the address for the Sheriff's Office of the County in which the Defendant resides.

Be prepared to present your entire case when the Court instructs you to do so. The Defendant may file a counterclaim at the time of the trial, so make sure you are prepared to defend any counterclaim that the Defendant may have that arises out of the same action. After you have presented your case, the Judge will state his/her ruling and the reason for it. If you disagree with it, you may appeal; but you should not argue with the Judge. If you wish to appeal, there is a filing fee of $147.00 and you may get an Attorney. An appeal is filed in the District Court Clerk's Office, and is initiated by filing the Notice of Appeal within 10 working days of the Journal Entry/Order that is the subject of the Appeal.

A court date will be continued only in cases of extreme personal hardship. If you cannot be in court on the day set for trial, you must notify the Clerk's office at least three (3) days before the court date or contact the other party and try to agree to a continuance and then notify the Clerk's office. If you cannot agree, the Judge may grant a continuance at his/her discretion.

All judgments should be paid through the court. It is the responsibility of the judgment debtor to make sure that a satisfaction of judgment has been filed by the judgment creditor when the judgment has been paid in full.

SMALL CLAIMS PROCEDURE (PLAINTIFF)

If you wish to file a Small Claims action, you must file your claim in the appropriate District Court, or your case may be dismissed (with the loss of your filing fee) or transferred to the proper county prior to trial. You may file your claim in Ford County District Court if:

The Defendant lives in Ford County,
The Defendant is served with a summons in Ford County,
The Defendant was a resident of Ford County at the time the action arose,
The Defendant is doing business and can be served in Ford County (if you are filing against a business), or
The property sought to be recovered is located in Ford County.

You must sue the proper party and have your claim served upon the proper person. You should name as a Defendant, the person or business that you feel is responsible for payment of your claim. Make sure you have the correct name and address of the person(s) or business you wish to sue. If you are suing a business, the correct way to write the name is: owner's name D/B/A business name. (D/B/A means "doing business as")

YOU CAN FILE ONLY TWENTY (20) SMALL CLAIMS CASES IN A CALENDAR YEAR.

Contact the Defendant before you file your claim to determine if you can settle your case. If you can't, talk to the Defendant again when you get to court. You may find that his/her only reason for contesting the claim is that he/she is unable to pay you. If so, try to work out a payment schedule.

If you expect to win your case, you must be prepared. You should know how you intend to testify ahead of time. The time for telling the Judge all the reasons that you believe you should win is before the Judge rules, not after. If this were not the rule, cases would never end.

If you have witnesses whose testimony you believe will help your case, you must have them testify in court. Hearsay and written statements are not permitted. Contact your witnesses and ask them to voluntarily come to court. If they won't, you should fill out a Subpoena to be issued by the Clerk at least seven (7) days prior to your court date. A witness shall receive $10.00 per day for attendance, and the mileage allowed by law if the witness has to travel one mile or more to and from Court. These fees are to be paid to the witness by the person issuing the Subpoena. A personal check, cashier's check or money order made payable to the witness must be attached to the Subpoena. No cash will be accepted. An additional $5.00 must be included for the sheriff's fee to serve the Subpoena on the Witness. If payment is made by check, make payable to the County Sheriff (of the county where it is to be served.)

Even though you are not an Attorney, you will be expected to show the same respect for the Court that Attorneys are expected to show. BE ON TIME. If you are not present when your case is called, the case may be DISMISSED. You MUST be present for every hearing.

Forms used to start these proceedings are available from the Clerk or on this website.

SMALL CLAIMS PROCEDURE (COLLECTING A JUDGMENT)

The Court/Clerk does NOT collect judgments. The judgment creditor (the party winning judgment) is responsible for the collection of the judgment.

If you have been granted a judgment on your claim or counterclaim, the party against whom it has been granted has a legal obligation to pay it if he does not appeal the Judge's decision in 10 working days from the date of judgment. If the party does not pay, there are legal remedies available that may assist you in collecting the judgment. After judgment, Attorneys may appear on behalf of the parties in small claims court.

If the judgment awarded is not paid within 15 days of the judgment date, the judgment creditor shall mail a copy of the Journal Entry of Judgment to the judgment debtor together with a Statement of Assets. You must also get a certificate of mailing from the post office (P.S. Form 3817) and file that with the Clerk of the District Court to show that you have made the mailing. Within 30 days of receiving the Statement of Assets form, unless the judgment has been paid, the judgment debtor shall complete the Statement of Assets form and return it to the Clerk of the District Court who will forward the Statement of Assets to the creditor.

THE MOST COMMON MEANS OF COLLECTING A JUDGMENT:

GARNISHMENT: 10 days after judgment. Unless the judgment has been appealed, a Garnishment may be ordered by the court if the debtor's assets (employer, bank accounts, etc) are known. A Garnishment is an order of the court directing a garnishee (one who owes money to the debtor, such as an employer or banking institution) to pay all or part of the money into the court. If the Garnishment is not contested, the money will be applied to the judgment. The sheriff's fee of $5.00 must be included to serve the Garnishment on the garnishee. If payment of the sheriff's fee is made by check, make payable to the County Sheriff (of the county where it is to be served.)

CONTEMPT OF COURT: If the debtor does NOT return the Statement of Assets form within 30 days of receiving it AND still does not pay , the Judge may order a Contempt Citation to be issued by the Clerk ordering the debtor to appear in court. You will need to call the Clerk and provide the information needed for the Citation to be issued. The Clerk will set a court date. During this Court proceeding you may question the debtor concerning his/her assets (employment, bank accounts, etc.)

BENCH WARRANT: If the debtor is personally served with the citation for contempt and still does not appear, a bench warrant may be issued by the Judge which orders the Sheriff to ARREST the debtor and bring him/her before the court for examination of assets (the bench warrant is not issued for the failure to pay.) Once the bench warrant is served, a hearing will be scheduled and a copy of the served bench warrant will be sent to the creditor.