Filing a Claim

Before filing a claim, you should have some idea of what your chances are of collecting. A judgment does not mean automatic payment. There are often cases where the collection of money is difficult, if not impossible. The party you sued may be penniless or bankrupt; may have gone out of business or left town; may not earn enough for you to garnishee wages, or for other reasons, it may be impossible to make the defendant pay. Income such as welfare, unemployment, social security, etc. cannot be garnisheed. However, you do have six years to collect and a party’s circumstances may change during that time.

Before coming to the court be sure you have the following:

  1. Bring all paperwork with the proper number of copies.
  2. The filing fee. If applicable, the service fee for certified mail is also due (see fee schedule). When filing by mail, send a check (Michigan banks only) or money order made payable to the 35th District Court.
  3. Defendant’s full and correct first and last name.
  4. Defendant’s current address (route or post office box numbers are not enough when you want a process server to make personal services). If you furnish an incorrect address and the court officer attempts service, they are allowed by law to charge you for their time.
  5. Amount of claim and pertinent dates.
  6. A brief and concise statement of the nature of the claim. The responsibility is yours to prove two things to the Court. First, liability- why it is the defendant’s obligation or responsibility to pay the money you claim. Second, damages- what is the exact amount of the money owed.

When the Claim is filed in a small claims case the hearing date is set four to five weeks after processing. In a general civil case when the Claim is filed the hearing is set after a responsive pleading is filed.  This generally allows enough time for the defendant to receive the notice with more than the required seven days before the hearing date.

The Defendant will be served in one of the two ways:

  1. A copy is left with them personally by a process server or any legally competent adult who is not a party or an officer of a corporate party.
  2. The notice is mailed by certified mail with a return receipt requested. If certified mail is not picked up by the defendant you may need to have a process server try to attempt personal service.