How to File a Lawsuit in Virginia

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Most civil cases in the state of Virginia are brought in the circuit court. Each city and county in Virginia has a circuit court, which has broad powers for trial of most disputes. It handles claims that are greater than the district court limit of $15,000. It also handles family cases such as divorce and separation proceedings, and any case involving small claims.

Determine the proper court for your case. Depending on the amount in dispute, the proper place for your case may be the small claim parts division of district court. District courts are the only ones with the authority to hear civil cases in amounts of $4,500 or less. District courts share authority with the circuit courts to hear cases with claims between $4,500 and $15,000. The circuit court has the exclusive authority to handle cases involving more than $15,000.

Organize the facts of your case. You may have a clear idea of what harm you suffered and how you were wronged. But this is not the same as an organized collection of facts or a chronological detail of the relevant events. Organizing your case in this way will be of tremendous help to you. It will help to determine who your best witnesses are and what documents and other evidence will help you prove your case.

Draft the complaint and prepare a summons. The complaint is a formal legal document that details the facts of the case and makes the claim against the defendant. Write the complaint as numbered paragraphs. Each paragraph should state an allegation that supports your case. Be sure to state where the parties reside, conduct business, or where the acts that constitute the claim occurred. These facts let the court know that it has jurisdiction to handle the case. If the dispute arose out of state and the parties reside out of state, the Virginia court will not have the legal authority to hear the case.

File the summons and complaint with the clerk of the court. This is how the case is started. The plaintiff in the case must pay the filing fees for the case. You can use the Virginia Courts website to calculate the fees required for your case.

Serve the complaint on the defendant. The defendant has the right to know that the case was filed against him and he must be given an opportunity to respond. Hire a process server to serve the defendant. You can also pay a fee and have a local sheriff or constable serve process. The defendant has 21 days to respond to the complaint after he is served with process.


  • This article does not constitute legal advice. For a full understanding of your rights and liabilities in civil cases, consult with an attorney who practices in Virginia.



About the Author

Grayson Charles has been writing and editing since 1986. He enjoys writing technical articles in the areas of government, law, public policy, computers and the impact of the Internet on society. He was previously a freelance writer for "Panacea Magazine." Charles holds a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from the State University of New York at Albany.

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