How to File a Civil Complaint

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A civil complaint is the legal document used to state a claim against a defendant in a lawsuit. In the complaint, the plaintiff alleges the facts that support the grounds for his claim. In legal circles, the grounds that support the plaintiff's claim are often referred to as a cause of action. The complaint, along with the summons is usually served on the defendant at the very beginning of a lawsuit.

Determine the proper court for your civil suit. Court systems are very often divided into sections that hear specific cases. One common distinction used to classify cases is the amount in controversy. Court systems often have small claims courts and superior courts or district courts. In New Jersey, the superior court hears cases that have $15,000 or more in controversy.

Draft your complaint using the format that is used in the court system where you are bringing suit. Many jurisdictions have sample forms online. The New Jersey Superior Court has detailed instruction along with a sample form online.

Determine the filing fees required for your case. Visit the website for your court system or call the office of the clerk of the court. Sometimes there are special requirements such as checks that must be certified or cash not being accepted. In New Jersey Superior Court, the filing fee for a civil suit is $200 and checks do not need to be certified.

Deliver the requisite number of copies of the complaint to the office of the clerk of the court along with the fee. Verify the number of copies you will need for the filing. In New Jersey, you must bring three copies to the clerk's office. You can mail in your complaint along with your check for the filing fees. If you mail the documents, write a cover letter stating that you would like the documents filed to open a civil action and that you have enclosed the fee required.

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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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