File the Summons and Complaint forms

Once you fill out your forms, you need to file them with the court and pay a filing fee. 

Before you start

Make copies. If you haven't already, make copies of the forms and any attachments before you go to court to file them. You’ll need the original for the court to keep, a copy for you, and a copy for everyone you're suing.

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If you are close to the statute of limitations, you may want to get help from a lawyer before filing your papers. The date your case is successfully filed determines if you meet the filing deadline. A lawyer can make look over your papers to make sure there are no mistakes. If you file in person, it can also help so there is a problem you can fix it right away.

How to file forms with the court

  • Take your forms to the court clerk's office

    Go to the superior court in the county where you're suing. This will be the superior court you already wrote on the forms. You'll file your forms in the court that accepts civil filings.

    At the courthouse, you’ll file the forms you filled out by giving the original and the copies to a clerk at the clerk’s office. 

    Yes, you can file by mail. Mail the original and 2 copies to the clerk. You need to include the filing fee (or fee waiver request) and a self-addressed stamped envelope so the clerk can mail your copies back to you. Make sure to include enough postage. If you don't include a self-addressed stamped envelope, you'll have to go to the courthouse to pick up your copies.

    Some courts allow online filing. You can find out if your court has online filing (efiling) on your court's website.

  • Pay a filing fee

    You’ll need to pay a fee of $240-$450 to the clerk when you file your forms.  

    If you can’t afford the fee, you can ask for a fee waiver. You qualify for a fee waiver if:  

    • You receive public benefits  

    • Your income is less than a set amount 

    • You can’t afford the fee and meet your basic needs 

    There is a range of filing fees depending on how much you are suing for.

    • If you are suing for less than $10,000 the fee is typically $240
    • If you are suing for between $10,000 up to $25,000 the fee is typically $385
    • If you are suing for $25,000 or more the fee is typically $435

    San BernardinoSan Francisco, and Riverside counties have different slightly higher fees. 

  • Get your filed forms back from the clerk

    The clerk will stamp all the forms, keep the original and return the copies to you. Keep one copy for your records. You’ll have the other copies delivered to everyone you're suing. This is called serving.

Suing someone in civil court

What's next?

Next, you'll have the Summons and Complaint delivered to each person, business, or government agency that you're suing. This is called service or serving papers. This lets them know that you're suing them in court and that they have a deadline to respond.

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