Small Claims
Small Claims hearings are heard in district court with the purpose of providing a setting for persons to settle their disputes/claims without an attorney.  Knowledge of the law is not needed.  Individuals, partnerships, or corporations may all file a claim.

Rules applicable to Small Claims:

  1. The maximum amount for a claim is $6,500.00
  2. The hearing is conducted on an informal basis:  No attorneys are allowed unless acting on their own behalf, and no jury trial is held.
  3. If heard by the Magistrate, the decision may be appealed to the Judge.  The Judge's decision is final, however, and neither party may appeal.

Venue: Which district court do you file this claim?

The person suing (called the "plaintiff"), shall file the claim where the cause of action arose, or the city where the defendant lives or is employed

How to Submit a Claim

  1. You may go to either the Grandville or Walker division and ask the clerk for a Small Claims Affidavit form.  You may also find this form with instructions online by clicking here.
  2. Fill in the exact name and physical address of the person or business you are suing.  Unless you have the full and correct name and address you may not be able to file the affidavit of claim.  You will not be able to obtain personal service if you use a post office box address.
  3. Once the affidavit is complete, you file it with the court and pay 1) a filing fee determined by the amount of the claim, and 2) a service fee determined by the Process Server.

Before the Hearing

  1. The defendant must be served by Certified Mail or by a person authorized by the court to serve pleadings.
  2. The hearing date will be issued on the date of filing or mailed out at a later date.  Typically, the hearing date is scheduled within 30 days of the date of filing.
  3. You must notify your witnesses of time and date of the hearing.
  4. The defendant has the right to and may remove the matter from Small Claims to the General Civil Division.
  5. Before the hearing date, you may meet with trained mediators in an attempt to resolve the dispute.

If the matter is resolved before the court date, there is no need to attend the scheduled small claims hearing.  However, you do need to advise the court that the case has been settled.

Hearing Date

  1. Be on time.  Failure to be on time by plaintiff (the person suing) may result in the case being dismissed.  Failure to be on time by the defendant may result in a default judgment entered after testimony is taken.
  2. Bring your witnesses and all papers, pictures, etc., which is called evidence.
  3. You may meet with the party you are suing and try to reach a settlement prior to going into the court hearing.
  4. If a hearing is held, the Judge or Magistrate will decide the claim and render a decision.  The judgment will be mailed out to both parties.

Collecting on the Judgment

If the Judge or Magistrate decides in the plaintiff's favor, a judgment will enter allowing him/her to collect the monies from the defendant.
If the defendant refuses to pay, a plaintiff's options include:

  1. Discovery hearing to obtain financial information from defendant.
  2. Garnishments.
  3. Execution on personal property.

You need to wait 21 days from the date of judgment prior to filing any of the above.  A filing fee is required with each transaction.  For more detailed information regarding collection on a judgment, please read the document, Collecting your Money from a Small Claims Judgment.

Related Small Claims forms: