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Some Important Terms to Know Regarding Small Claims and Judgment Collection

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR): Several methods of settling a dispute other than going to court.

Appeal: A rehearing of the claims in the next highest court.

Attachment: Collecting a judgment by taking the debtors real estate.

Complaint: A written statement by the plaintiff explaining the legal claims against the defendant. This complaint starts the Small Claims process.

Contempt of Court: Deliberately disobeying an order of the court or request for interrogatories which can result in criminal sanctions.

Counterclaim: A claim the defendant makes against the plaintiff after the latter files a small claims case. Counterclaims will state that the plaintiff owes them money.

Damages: The money awarded by the judge.

Default Judgment: A judgment awarded against one of the parties because they did not show up for the hearing.

Defendant: Person being sued.

Dismissal: When the judge dismisses the charges because the plaintiff does not show up; the result is that the defendant owes nothing.

Docket: The court’s calendar of cases to be heard on a specific date.

Enforce: To attempt to collect on a judgment.

Execution: The court ordering the sheriff’s office to take property owned by the debtor to pay the plaintiff what is owed.

Filing Fee: The money paid to file the paperwork that starts the small claims case.

Garnishment: Taking a percentage of the debtor’s wages on a regular basis until the debt is satisfied.

Judgment: The amount the judge determines is owed by the debtor.

Jurisdictional Limit: The amount set by the state, county, or other area as the maximum that can be awarded by that court.

Parties: The plaintiff and the defendant involved in the suit.

Plaintiff: The person who files the initial small claims complaint.

Satisfaction of Judgment: Paper work submitted by the plaintiff acknowledging the debt has been paid.

Settlement: The parties coming to an agreement on their own without involving the courts.

Statute of Limitations: The period of time within which a person must file a claim.

Third Party Claim: A claim by the defendant against someone other than the plaintiff or another defendant, claiming that someone else is responsible for any judgment.

Trial De Novo: A new trial before a new judge or in a different court.

Here is a complete list of legal terms relating to small claims court.

More small claims articles and pre-litigation resources

We are available at any time to answer your questions regarding your possible claim, proceeding to court or mediation, and collecting your judgment. Contact us if you have questions or would like a recommendation for professional help in collecting your judgement.

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States—A Closer Look at Small Claims

This month’s focus: Michigan

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Small Claims Court Links to each State

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Tip of the Week

September 27, 2010

If you have been awarded a judgment, waited the 30 days required, sent a demand letter giving the debtor a time limit for paying his/her debt; what should you do if you still have no money? You know that the court can do little, but before you take steps to garnish wages or bank accounts, consider suggesting negotiation or mediation if the debtor gives any impression that they want to settle the matter.

More tips...

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