Getting ready for your day in court can feel overwhelming! It doesn’t have to be. Make sure you put in place a detailed plan of action. In this article, we highlight things you can do before your day in court so you set yourself up for success.
First and Foremost
Before planning to go to small claims court, you’ll want to ensure you have done the following:
✓ Write a Demand Letter to the person who owes you money
✓ Ensure your case is eligible for small claims court
Small claims courts hear cases that are generally relatively low sums of money. To check the limit you can claim for in your state, visit this 50-State Chart of Small Claims Court Dollar Limits.
✓ File and serve your case
Take the necessary steps to file your case with the court and notify the other party that you are suing them. If you need help, JusticeDirect can help you each step of the way!
✓ Consider Mediation
Depending on your local rules, you may have to go through mediation before you present your case in front of the judge. Consider whether you will be willing to mediate and settle the case. Think about whether there is an amount you would accept to settle the claim and avoid trial.
Preparing for Your Hearing
Preparing for your small claims court day also involves ensuring that if you have children, pets, or anyone else who depends on you for care, their needs are well-attended to on the day of your hearing. By doing this, you can fully concentrate on your hearing. :
Finding Your Destination
- Ensure you know how to get to the courthouse
- Confirm how much time it’ll take to arrive
- Know where to park
- Prepare to pay for parking.
- Some courthouses may offer free parking, but only sometimes.
- Make sure you know where to walk to get from the parking lot to the courthouse
- Sometimes they’re not right next to each other
- Make sure you know where your courtroom is before your day in court.
Be sure you have a clean and presentable outfit. Appropriate outfits include
- A suit,
- A pair of clean jeans and a collared shirt
- Slacks and a dress shirt or a skirt and a dress shirt
- our work uniform
Arranging Your Witnesses
Call or text any witnesses you will call during the hearing and make sure they can attend your trial. If they cannot attend, ask if they can provide a witness statement for you to use as evidence.
What to Expect
If possible, attend another hearing before your trial to understand what to expect. Small claims court hearings are often open to the public, so you can ask court staff to sit in on someone else’s case. Doing this helps you better understand how to prepare for small claims court yourself.
Practicing and Polishing Your Presentation
- Organize your evidence and know where to find everything if the judge has questions.
- Practice telling your case and explaining how you calculated any damages. Write down any notes or reminders that might help you when presenting your case at trial.
What to Pack
It’s a good idea to prepare your bag the day before your hearing so that you’re prepared and set up for success. Ensure your bag includes:
- At least two extra copies of your evidence, one for the judge and one for the defendant(s).
- Your ID.
- Copies of any court forms you had to complete.
- Don’t bring anything that would not make it through security: a pocket knife, pepper spray, or any item that might be considered a weapon.
Be aware that some courts will make you leave your phone in your car or lock it in a lockbox or locker at the courthouse.
As you prepare for your upcoming small claims court hearing, you might be feeling a bit nervous. The legal stuff can be scary, but the more you prepare and plan for your day in court, the less intimidating it becomes.
Now, let’s look ahead to what happens on the actual day of your small claims court hearing. In our next blog post, “What to Expect the Day of Your Small Claims Court Hearing”.