How to File Small Claims in Virginia

By Samantha Kemp

For claims in Virginia involving disputes valued at $5,000 or less, small claims court is available. Virginia small claims courts provide a forum for litigants to receive justice in an expeditious manner while not requiring all of the formalities of other types of cases. A plaintiff must follow certain rules to get his case before a judge and to establish that the court has jurisdiction over the case.

Determine the Defendant's Address

Find out where the defendant lives and works. This information may be on a check that he sent you, in public records or available by asking an acquaintance. This information is necessary for the forms you will need to complete and to have the defendant served. Also, the Virginia court in the city or county where the defendant lives or works has proper jurisdiction over the case.

Get the Necessary Forms

Ask the court clerk for the forms that you need. Virginia's judicial system's website lists all of the district courts in the state to help you locate the appropriate court clerk's office. Alternatively, you can download the forms on Virginia's court system's website. A warrant in debt form is necessary if you are seeking a money judgment while a warrant in detinue form is necessary if you are seeking possession of a piece of property that you believe is wrongly being withheld from you.

Complete the Forms

Fill out all pertinent information on the forms, including the plaintiff and defendant's names and addresses, the reason for the claim and the name of the court. Read all instructions that accompany the forms. You will fill out different sections for the judge, process server and court clerk. These sections are designated as such on the forms. The warrant in debt form must specify the amount of the debt that you claim the defendant owes you while a warrant in detinue form must include a specific description of the property that you are seeking. Make two copies of every form. The clerk completes her portion of the warrant form, which indicates the date of the trial.

Pay Fees

Pay any necessary filing fees. Calculate estimated filing fees on this website. In most jurisdictions in Virginia, the fee for the sheriff's department to serve the defendant is $12. Pay the fees by cash, money order or cashier's check.

Serve the Defendant

Give a private process server a copy of the forms you filed with the clerk if you do not want the sheriff to serve the defendant. If you paid for the sheriff to serve, the clerk forwards the paperwork to the sheriff's department. The server completes a form showing that the defendant was served. Send this form to the clerk's office to document that proper service was executed on the defendant.


Virginia law does not allow you to have an attorney with you in small claims court. However, an attorney can provide you with advice on your case or presenting your case outside the courtroom. Also, an attorney can have the case removed from small claims court to the general district court before the judge reaches a decision in the case.

About the Author

Samantha Kemp is a lawyer for a general practice firm. She has been writing professionally since 2009. Her articles focus on legal issues, personal finance, business and education. Kemp acquired her JD from the University of Arkansas School of Law. She also has degrees in economics and business and teaching.

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