Small Claims Court

Small Claims

If you are owed money or recompense for an amount under $5,000.00, small claims court might be for you.

Small claims is an informal hearing, set before a judge, where you can outline why you believe you are owed money. The judge will hear both sides of the issue, look at the evidence and then make an immediate judgment for monies owed.

A judgment doesn’t ensure payment, however, it shows you have a legal right to payment but does not go after those funds. This may lead to taking collections actions next. Collection action can lead to bank account garnishments or liens on property, but are an added expense and action.

To begin a case, go to your local county courthouse and submit a Notice of Small Claims. You will need to sign the document while there, and pay the filing fee.

Costs are minimal, the filing fee is usually under $30, and you must serve court documents to the other party. While you cannot serve the papers yourself, you can pay a firm or a sheriff to do this, have a friend (not connected with the case) do it for you, or send the papers through certified mail with delivery confirmation. There are also transportation costs, and time taken off work. If a judgment is found in your favor, you can ask for reasonable costs to be added to the original debt.

You may seek an attorney’s advice at any point, but they cannot appear on your behalf at the hearing. Some common advice is to provide as much documentation as you can (emails, photos, documents, bank records), and to always keep calm while talking to the judge.

Check your local state court webpage for more information.

Keeping Divorce Costs Down

court money

The Huffington Post recently listed 10 ways to keep divorce costs down. Their suggestions include limiting or consolidating calls to your attorney, reviewing your invoices carefully and arriving to your court hearings prepared and on time.

For more tips, visit the story at Huffington Post.

Google calendar week

Kid schedules are hard enough to follow without factoring in two or more households, child handovers, visitations and multiple calendars. A good option is to start an online calendar that all parties can access. Appointments can be scheduled with notices and reminders going out via email, and entries can even be color coded as to who is picking up or dropping off the kids.

This is also possibly a good solution if there are contact restrictions or conflict between parents, so scheduling can be solidified without direct contact between the parties. Talk to your attorney or the courts before starting a joint calendar if there is a restraining order or order of protection in effect.

Some examples of the many free online calendars are Google Calendar, Teamup Calendar, and LoCalendar.

Fair and attentive judge

Question:

I just found out that my court date is in front of a commissioner, and not a judge. What is the difference?

Answer:

A judge is elected by voters for a 4-year term, or appointed by the courts in case of a vacancy between elections. A judge must be an attorney licensed in that state to practice law.

A commissioner is hired by the court to help with a judge’s case load, and in most cases is a licensed attorney, though not always. A commissioner has the same powers as a judge to hear a court case and pass legally binding judgments. It is quite common to find your family law hearing in front of a commissioner.

Facebook app in front of Facebook

Facebook has published a quick video on how to block someone from seeing your posts, comments, and even pictures tagged with you in them. As they state, sometimes you just need some space. Plus, it’s usually always a wise idea when in the midst of litigation to block the opposing party or anyone who might feed them information on your activities.

Babysitter Veto

Mischievous grandmother and granddaughter

Question:
My ex wants a friend to watch our children, a friend that I don’t like. Do I have the right to say no?

Answer:
Generally, each parent has the right to leave their children in the care of whomever they trust while on their visitation time. This may be a friend, babysitter, family member or acquaintance. The other parent does not have the right of veto.

What to Wear at Court

this one, or?

Question:
I have a hearing or trial coming up, what should I wear?

Answer:
The most important consideration is to wear what makes you comfortable. A hearing or trial can be a very emotional experience, and the last thing you want to worry about is your clothes. If a suit or 4 inch heels make you feel strong, by all means, wear those. Alternately, if your power clothes are jeans and a tee shirt, put those on. The judge or commissioner will be concerned with the facts in the case and not what you’re wearing. Common sense says to avoid offensive pictures or slogans, and make sure your clothing is clean.

Privacy at Court

Court small 12-9-14
Question:
I have a hearing or trial coming up, will this be private?

Answer:
No, it will not be private. In the case of a hearing, there will be other hearings scheduled for the same time block, and everyone involved will be sitting in the room waiting for their turn. As well, the public is welcome to attend. You may see attorneys, law students, people supporting their friends or family, officers of the court and more.

As for a trial, this too is open to the public. There will not be as many bystanders as there are for hearings, but you may again see attorneys and law students or other people you don’t know. Each party is allowed to bring whomever they want for support, so there may also be friends, family members, partners or acquaintances. Each attorney involved in the case may have multiple assistants, there will be officers of the court, and possibly people coming in and out to pass messages.

In both cases, the hearing or trial will be recorded or possibly videotaped, and these recordings, or a transcript report, can be ordered from the court.

Finally, there will be a record of the hearing or trial itself, which can be accessed online. While there will be no specific details available there, it will still list the type of hearing and the relevant parties.