Filing a judgment is a last resort when a person has exhausted all other means of a resolving a dispute. The process may be a bit intimidating, but it is relatively easy and goes rather smoothly. It as simple as filling out some forms, filing them with the court and waiting for a trial date to be set--or for the defendant to offer an amicable solution that eliminates the need for a trial altogether.
Steps to Filing a Judgement
Know whom you are filing against and the defendant's whereabouts. A judgment can be filed against a person or a corporation. Judgments must be filed in the district court, or county court, in which the defendant resides. In the case of accidents, the judgment must be filed where the accident occurred. A corporation is required to have a representative in each state it conducts business, so a judgment against a corporation can be filed in the state where you live. Contact your local county clerk's office if you are unsure where to file a judgment. County clerks are required by law to assist you and make sure you understand the filing process.
Obtain a Notice of Small Claim Form from your county court. You can complete it at the court building or file it by mail or online (in some areas). If filing by mail, make four copies and send along with the filing fee (average is $20) and a large, self-addressed stamped envelope. The form should contain the name and address of the person or corporation against whom you are filing, or the date and location of the accident, and the amount of your claim in dollars. Verify with your county clerk for maximum amounts, as these vary by state.
Obtain the case number and trial date, after the county clerk receives your notice. The clerk sends you two copies of the form along with the case number and trial date information in the self-addressed stamped envelope you provided. You keep one copy and deliver the other copy to the defendant.
Notify the defendant at least ten days prior to the trial date. The notice can be served either by a sheriff, process server, the court clerk via certified mail, or an individual not connected to the case. Delivery by a sheriff is the safest method and requires a small fee. A sheriff will make only one delivery attempt. For a $35-$65 fee, you can have a process server deliver the notice.
File a Proof of Service form with the court clerk as required upon delivery of the notice. Either the sheriff or process server must complete a Certificate of Service and submit it to the court clerk. If served by an individual not connected to the case, the person must sign an Affidavit of Service before a Notary Public or complete a Return of Service form. The affidavit or certificate must be filed with the court clerk.
File a Proof of Service form with the county clerk, as required, once the notice has been filed. The sheriff or process server delivering the notice must complete a certificate of service and submit it to the court clerk. If the notice is served by another person, that person must sign an Affidavit of Service before a Notary Public or complete a Return of Service form. The affidavit or certificate must be filed with the court clerk.
- Legal Law Justice image by Stacey Alexander from Fotolia.com