How to Collect a Debt from Friends and Family

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Trying to collect a debt from a family member or a friend can be an uncomfortable situation. Disputes involving money lead to conflict and ruin relationships. If you want to keep your relationship intact, it is best to approach the subject gingerly, and with compassion and understanding. If this fails, you will have to decide how important it is to recover the debt. As a last resort, you may decide to sue the friend or family member who owes your money.

Step 1

Meet with the family member or friend who borrowed the money. Discuss repayment options. If your friend or family member is having financial difficulties, be considerate of his situation and offer to accept a small payment for a limited amount of time, such as a year. Alternatively, you may reduce the debt amount. The type of arrangement you are willing to accept will depend on your own financial situation.

Step 2

File a complaint in the appropriate court if your family member or friend still refuses to repay you. The complaint initiates the lawsuit and provides the court with the the facts, the legal basis for the claim and the relief you are requesting, such as monetary compensation. Whether you can file the complaint in a small claims court depends on the amount limit imposed by the laws in your state. If the amount exceeds the limit, you must file your compliant in a higher court. Pay the filing fee.

Step 3

Serve the complaint on your family member or friend. You must notify the other party of the lawsuit by serving him. Service of process can be accomplished by in-person delivery or by mail. Check the laws in your state to determine the appropriate method.

Step 4

Attend the hearing. After you file the complaint, you will receive a hearing date. The hearing is your opportunity to present your side. If you have the written agreement, provide a copy to the judge. If you do not have a written agreement, you should provide the judge with any other evidence, such as witness statements or written documentation of conversations between you and the debtor.


  • Filing a lawsuit against a family member or friend will most likely cause long-term damage to the relationship. Before taking this step, consider whether you are prepared for this outcome.


  • Remember, the judge's decision in a trial is based on evidence and facts. If all you have is your word against there's, it will probably never make it to trial, so let your session at mediation work for your benefit.


About the Author

Jessica McElrath has been a freelance writer since 2000. McElrath is the author of "The Everything John F. Kennedy Book" and "The Everything Martin Luther King Jr. Book." McElrath has a Bachelor of Arts in history from the University of California at Berkeley and a Juris Doctor from Santa Clara University School of Law.