Small Claims

For Small Claims self help, visit the State of Michigan Courts website.

  1. Filing a Claim
  2. Fee Schedule

Before Filing

Before coming to the Court to fill out an Affidavit of Claim, be sure you have the following:

  • The filing fee, plus service fee for certified mail (see fee schedule)
    • When filing by mail, send check or money order made payable to the 85th District Court. All complaints filed by mail must be notarized. Mailing fees are subject to change due to postal increases.
    • If you want personal service by a court officer, you will receive a bill for that service.
  • Defendant’s full and correct name
  • Defendant’s current address
  • Amount of claim and pertinent dates
  • A concise statement as to the nature of the claim
    • You may use a second sheet if necessary.
    • The responsibility is yours to prove two things to the Court - liability and damages:
      • Liability: Why it is the Defendant’s obligation or responsibility to pay the money you claim.
      • Damages: The exact amount of money owed.
    • Remember, it’s your word against the defendant’s. The judge must rule against you if you are not prepared to prove your case.
  • A copy of all papers to support your claim
    • Items such as bills of sale, receipts, guarantees, accident reports, leases, promissory notes, repair estimates, etc. must be supplied to the Court and a copy provided for each defendant. You must have these on the day of your hearing.

After Filing

When your claim is filed, a hearing date is set 30 days away. This generally allows enough time for the defendant to receive the notice no later than the required seven days before the hearing date. This is done in one of two ways.

You must decide which method of service will be used:

  • The notice is mailed to the defendant(s) by certified mail with a return receipt requested. Although certified mail is less expensive sometimes a defendant will refuse to sign for it or has moved. If certified mail is not picked up by the defendant, you may want to have a court officer try to make service after a new hearing date is scheduled. Unless the Court has proof the defendant has received the notice, it cannot proceed with the case. Where service by certified mail is made, it shall be made by the Clerk of the Court.
  • A copy is left with the defendant(s) personally by a Court Officer or Court-approved process server. If you are not familiar with the laws governing service, and wish to have an experienced officer serve your papers, drop boxes are provided at the Court. The Court assumes no responsibility for this service. You must pay the Court Officer or process server directly.

Additional Considerations

  • Before filing your claim, you should have some idea what your chances are of collecting. A judgment does not mean automatic payment. It simply means you have proven to the satisfaction of the Court that the person you sued owes you money. There are often cases where a judgment is not particularly difficult to obtain but the collection of money is difficult if not impossible.
  • The party you have sued may be penniless or bankrupt, may have gone out of business or left town, may not earn enough for you to garnish wages, or, for other reasons, it may be impossible to make the defendant pay. Income such as welfare, unemployment, social security etc. cannot be garnished. An uncollectible judgment may turn out to be a hollow victory.
  • Please note that Court personnel cannot provide legal advice.


For small claims forms visit the State of Michigan Courts Small Claims Forms page. Forms are also available at the District Court Office, located at:
415 Third Street
Manistee, MI 49660