To start the process you must file a Plaintiffs Claim and ORDER to Go to Small Claims Court (SC-100) with the court. If you are interested in additional information on Small Claims, please refer to the California Courts web site.
When a Small Claims action is filed with the court, the plaintiff in the case must notify the defendant. A Proof of Service is the document that is filed with the court that shows the defendant has been notified. A Small Claims case can not be heard until the defendant has been served. Please refer to our Service of Process section for the necessary forms we need.
Small Claims Hearings are scheduled no earlier than 20 days and no later than 70 days from the date that it is filed (CCP 116.330). At the time the hearing is scheduled, we recommend you request the maximum number of days allowable. The additional time is necessary to ensure service within the following time frames (CCP 116.340):
- IN COUNTY - If the defendant lives in the same county that the action was filed, the defendant must be personally served at least 15 days prior to the court date. For substituted service, the documents must served at least 25 days prior to the hearing.
- OUT OF COUNTY - If the defendant lives in a county other than where the hearing was ordered, the defendant must be personally served at least 20 days prior to the court date. For substituted service, the documents must be served at least 30 days prior to the hearing.
Alternatives to personal service
It is our policy to use substituted service when we are unable to serve the defendant personally. This allows us to serve a competent adult living at or in charge of the residence, business, or location where the defendant regularly receives mail. When substituted service is used, we will mail a copy of the documents to the defendant at the location of the substituted service [CCP 415.20 (A) and (B)]
An established P.O. Box with the U.S. Postal Service is exempt from substituted service. If this is the only address you have, the court may serve the claim via certified mail [CCP 116.330, sub-section (b)(1)].
ALTHOUGH WE STRIVE TO MAINTAIN THE ACCURACY, COMPLETENESS, AND TIMELINESS OF THE INFORMATION FOUND ON THIS SITE; WE CANNOT GUARANTEE ALL OF IT. THE INFORMATION HEREIN SHOULD BE USED ONLY AS A GUIDE, AND SHOULD NOT BE CONSTRUED AS LEGAL ADVICE.