Advice on Small Claims Court?

16 Comments
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By an edhat reader

Unfortunately, I have to take someone to Small Claims Court and I'm unsure how the process goes or what I can expect. I know how the process should work, but I'm curious if it really works out that way and if it's ridiculously hard to get the money I'm owed. Does anyone have any tips or experiences they can share?

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a-1535554103 Aug 29, 2018 07:48 AM
Advice on Small Claims Court?

It is very simple and the court user friendly. You just fill out the form, have the sheriff serve them, and you'll have a hearing in 30 days. And yes, if you need to sue someone for money, usually it's b/c they don't have it (not always but usually). It is always difficult to collect on a judgment. So you need to decide if it's worth your time effort and aggravation. The joke among we lawyers is - you can take that judgment and hang it on your wall. Not always true, but most times. You can do your own amateur asset search online beforehand which should help you decide if it's worth it.

a-1535643974 Aug 30, 2018 08:46 AM
Advice on Small Claims Court?

This lawyer does not think it a joke. Small Claims court is a great resource for the people who can get some justice without paying for lawyers and ridiculous costs. I say to all people to "go for it," you can do it. And, yes, the small claims advisor is a help. And yes collecting from private parties is a problem but not from businesses who don't want the publicity.

a-1535648125 Aug 30, 2018 09:55 AM
Advice on Small Claims Court?

I suspect I have more years before the assizes than you have years under the sun. What is the point of such an inane comment?

pii Aug 29, 2018 08:17 AM
Advice on Small Claims Court?

"Asset search online"? Creepy. Too much transparency!
I have found it futile to get paid on a judgement.
When you go before the judge, be respectful of the court's time and act as professional as you can. But you knew that.

a-1535557301 Aug 29, 2018 08:41 AM
Advice on Small Claims Court?

You do realize grantor/grantee indexes are public, correct? Regarding house sales. Has been forever, even before the internet. The house is the biggest asset. As for the rest, a judgment debtor must submit to a debtor's exam on proper notice, so you can find out about assets that way to. Including any cash in their pocket which if they have it, must turn it over at th exam.

Factotum Aug 29, 2018 09:06 AM
Advice on Small Claims Court?

Did you pay cash or do you have a paper trail of the transaction, including a signed contract and a cancelled check? Check out the NOLO Press self-help law guides - they have one about Small Claims.

Factotum Aug 29, 2018 09:11 AM
Advice on Small Claims Court?

Google The Superior Court County of Santa Barbara Small Claims for official information. You can also call their Small Claims Court Advisor for further help: ADVISORS:
The law requires each county to provide free assistance in small claims cases.

You may contact the Small Claims Advisor program only by telephone. Phone numbers are:
"Santa Maria (805) 349-1289
Lompoc (805) 349-1289 or (805) 737-7775 Ext. 3303
Santa Ynez Valley (805) 349-1289 or (805) 686-5011 Ext. 3303. "

conniemara Aug 29, 2018 09:28 AM
Advice on Small Claims Court?

Do your homework. Gather all revelavant documents be precise clear and to the point. They have a help center with wonderful people at the court house. Good luck. I won a very difficult case. It can be done

toot Aug 29, 2018 12:58 PM
Advice on Small Claims Court?

Some ten years ago I had to go thru Small Claims to sue an exchange student to recover out of pocket money I lost b/c of him damaging my truck. The gal behind the counter was unhelpful, caustic, surly and condescending. Try not to get her.

a-1535643790 Aug 30, 2018 08:43 AM
Advice on Small Claims Court?

I second this comment. I have only used the process one time but when I did the clerk behind the counter was absolutely the rudest and most controlling person I have dealt with in the legal system. When I went back I tried to avoid her but she butted in to interrupt the clerk I was talking to as she seems to be the person in charge. No one wants to complain because to do so risks god knows what in the processing of your case.

Surfeit Aug 29, 2018 02:16 PM
Advice on Small Claims Court?

Yes, the court process is only the beginning. If you are awarded a judgment it will be difficult to collect if the person has no visible assets such as job. If the debtor has a job you can apply for a levy on his/her wages or if he/she has a retail business you can request a marshal to do a "till tap". However, there are charges associated with those procedures so be sure to ask for court costs when you apply for the small claims judgment. You have to decide if it's worth your time, effort and investment in fees to proceed.

Col Aug 30, 2018 11:47 AM
Advice on Small Claims Court?

File and take it all the way to court time. A lot of cases "are settled on the courthouse steps". People don't want others to see their name posted on the docket.

Factotum Aug 30, 2018 12:59 PM
Advice on Small Claims Court?

If you get a judgment, record it and it sits for 10 years, until you renew it or it gets paid off. Never know when this might pay off for you even if this person has no assets to attach today.

wid Aug 31, 2018 12:12 PM
Advice on Small Claims Court?

Small Claims advisor in Santa Barbara has a phone, but they NEVER answer. Show up in person.
I only had a 10 or 15 minute wait. The woman who helped me was fantastic. I need to sue a business (Sansum Clinic) & she looked up the corporate info right there for the proper place and person to serve. The Sansum person in the billing department was unable to give me that information. The service is free, but they would like a $20 donation. It is well worth it.

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