File Your Complaint or Your Answer

You must file your complaint or petition in the appropriate court.  Most courts will require you to pay a fee, while some will not.

Check the website for the Clerk of Court for the court that you have determined is the court where your lawsuit should be filed.  The Clerk’s web page should have a section for forms and fees.  Identify the form that you will need to file with your complaint or petition.  The form should indicate whether a fee is required.  If you have questions about forms or fees, ask someone in the Clerk of Court’s office.

You might want to visit the office of the Clerk of Court in person rather than do this online or by telephone.  The staff will never give legal advice, but they should answer questions and help you with basic procedural matters.

Some states require that a request a jury be made with your complaint.  This may be required in your complaint, or there may be a checkbox on the form that you file as a “cover sheet” to go with your complaint when it is filed.  If you want a jury trial, simply check the box and pay the jury fee.

I always ask for a jury trial because I don’t trust judges.

You must have your complaint served on the defendant(s).  Check the rules on how this must be done.

One of the fundamental procedural requirements in any court is that you must provide a copy of any document you file, either by mail or by personal service (through the sheriff or a process server).  Ensure that you comply with your state’s law on service of process.

If you are a defendant, the plaintiff must serve you with the complaint.  You must then answer the complaint within the period of time set by state or federal law.  Don’t be late as it could cause you to have a default judgment entered against you.