64B District Court
Small Claims Division
What is Small Claims Court?
The small claims court was established in 1968 as a division of the District Court system. Its purpose is to provide a forum for easy access to the courts by people without the aid of attorneys to settle monetary disputes of $6,500 (increased to $7,000 in 2024) or less, or to acquire some type of fair settlement.
You do not need to know anything about the law to bring a suit in small claims court. Since lawyers are not allowed to argue cases for clients, you don't need a lawyer, however, you may wish to consult one for legal advise prior to or after your hearing. Note: Court staff members are not allowed to give legal advice. The hearing in small claims court is an informal process, so, you simply need to state your case in your own words. You may also present evidence of your claim or defense (bring with you any documents, photographs, witnesses etc. to present your case). The judge or magistrate will also ask questions. After both sides have been heard, the judge or magistrate will decide which party to enter judgment in favor of. This decision is based on the preponderance of the evidence, meaning, whichever side has proved their case by at least a 51% margin wins. Note: The Court, in a small claims action, can render only money judgments; thus, has no authority to enforce equitable relief, meaning the Court cannot order someone to do something or stop doing something.
If the plaintiff wins the case, the defendant must comply with the judge's ruling. If the defendant wins the case, the case is dismissed with prejudice, meaning that the plaintiff may not bring another suit against the same defendant on the same subject matter. It's important to remember that a judge's decision is final in small claims court. It cannot be appealed to a higher court. However, if the case is heard by a magistrate, either the plaintiff or the defendant may, within seven days from the issue date of the judgment, ask that the case be reheard by a judge if the magistrate's decision is unfavorable.
More information regarding small claims may be found on the State Court website.
How to File a Small Claims Lawsuit in the 64B District Court
1. Before filing your small claims case, you may wish to consider some things including:
- is the person you are suing collectable – how likely is it that you will be able to recover the money that you may be awarded by the judge/magistrate, (generally, you cannot collect from welfare, unemployment, social security and other government entitlements)
- how much you are willing to spend in order to try and collect that money, and
- is small claims the type of suit you wish to file (remember, either party may file a demand for the case to be removed to General Civil at any point before the small claims hearing is held).
2. In order to file a small claim against the person or business you want to sue, you must first determine the proper venue. You must file your suit in the district court based either on where the defendant lives or where the business is located, or where the transactions took place.
3. Tell the clerk at the “Small Claims” window that you want to file a small claim. The Affidavit of Claim form must be filled out and presented to the clerk. You can print this form out ahead of time and fill it out, or if you are unable to print the form above, you may purchase one from the clerk to fill out. If you complete the online form, you will need to provide an original plus four copies. If the copies are not provided, the Court will charge you for the copies at the rate of $1/page.
4. You will need to know:
- the exact name and address of the person or business you are suing, (please note that the Court does not assist you in locating a current address),
- how much money you are suing for, and
- why you are suing.
You must also choose how you wish to have the documents served. Your options include:
- restricted certified mail,
- court officer, or
- any legally competent adult who is not a party or an officer of a corporate party in the case.
5. If the defendant cannot be located and served personally or by alternate service, the suit cannot go forward.
6. If the Small Claims Clerk is available at the time you file, the clerk will set up a court date with you then. Hearings are typically set about four to six weeks out.
7. If you win the case, you may be entitled to be reimbursed by the defendant for the costs of filing your suit. Be sure to request the award of costs in your claim in addition to the amount of damages.
8. If you have any questions or need help, ask the Small Claims Clerk. He or she will help you as much as is legally possible. The clerk may tell you how to use the Court, but may NOT give legal advice.
Please be aware that having a judgment issued in favor of the plaintiff only allows the plaintiff the right to attempt collections. It does NOT guarantee there will be any money available for actual collection.
Before the Hearing
The person or business you are suing has the right to ask that the case be heard in a higher court, which is the General Civil Division. Removal the case to the General Civil Division will allow either party to be represented by an attorney at a trial or hearing if desired. You will be notified if the defendant makes such a request. Use form DC86 Demand and Order for Removal (Small Claims) to remove the case to the General Civil Division.
In most small claims cases, the parties will meet with the Attorney Magistrate for a pretrial conference to determine if the case can be settled prior to having a hearing. If the parties cannot agree to a resolution, the Attorney Magistrate will then decide whether to here the case right after the pretrial conference or, in some cases, refer the case to mediation prior to the small claims hearing in an effort to settle the case beforehand.
It is also possible that the defendant will offer to pay out of court once a notice of your pending lawsuit is received. If you reach such an agreement, make sure that the terms of payment are put in writing and signed by both you and the defendant. Then file a copy of the agreement with the Court. Once accepted by the Court, the agreement becomes an official judgment of the Court and is enforceable by law. The Court may also require the parties to sign a consent judgment in order to bind the parties to the agreement. Also the parties may agree to drop the case entirely, in which case, a dismissal form should be filed in order to close the case.
You should also contact any witnesses you want to appear in court on your behalf to document your claim.
The hearing will take place at the court where you filed your claim, unless another location is specified by the Court. Be there on time. Check in with the clerk at the “Small Claims” window. Be sure to bring all of your evidence with you, and make sure any witnesses are there on time.
If you fail to attend the hearing without having notified the Court, your claim will be dismissed. If the defendant does not show up for the hearing, the Court will usually grant you a "default judgment". This means that the magistrate/judge decides in your favor even though the other side of the case has not been presented.
Collecting Your Money From a Small Claims Judgment
If the judge or attorney magistrate decides in your favor, it means the defendant must pay you the amount ordered, plus a small amount in court costs. If a payment plan has not been set up, the full amount of the judgment is due within 30 days of the judgment. If the defendant refuses to abide by the order of the court, there are various options open to you allowed by law, typically, additional proceedings to seize property or to garnish income of the judgment debtor.
Seizure of Property
Seizure of property is a court procedure that allows a court officer to seize property belonging to the judgment debtor that can be sold at auction to pay the money owed to you. To file a request to seize property, use form MC19 Request and Order to Seize Property.
What is Garnishment
Garnishment is a court procedure that allows you to collect the money owed to you by collecting a portion of the judgment debtor’s wages, bank account, tax returns, and other sources. Generally, you cannot collect from welfare, unemployment, social security and other government entitlements. You may contact the Court clerk for the proper forms. Instructions are provided with the form.
How to Get an Order to Seize Property or a Garnishment
To get an order to seize property or for garnishment, you must first know where the judgment debtor lives and works, what assets he or she has and where these assets are located, as well as any other information that identifies the judgment debtor and his or her property. If you already have the information described above, you can start the process for an order to seize property or garnishment. If not, you can start this process by filing a discovery subpoena.
How to File a Discovery Subpoena
You must wait 21 days after your small claims judgment was entered before you can file a discovery subpoena. Use form MC11 Subpoena (Order to Appear and/or Produce). Make sure to contact the Court to set an appearance date and then put that date and location on the form. Complete the front of the Subpoena form and the Affidavit for judgment Debtor Examination on the back of the form. The judge must sign the Subpoena before it becomes legally binding. After the Subpoena is signed, you must serve it on the judgment debtor. Note: that there is a $15.00 fee for filing the Subpoena. The cost of serving it also varies.
How to File a Request to Seize Property
You must wait 21 days after your small claims judgment was entered before you can get an order to seize property. Use form MC19 Request and Order to Seize Property to start the process. Complete the Request portion of the form and file it with the court. The Court will issue the order by signing the form, and it will be executed by a sheriff or court officer. Once property is seized and sold, the money will be given to you. The sheriff or court officer is entitled to fees, which will be deducted from the proceeds from sale of the property.
How to File a Request for Garnishment
You must wait 21 days after your small claims judgment was entered before you can get an Order of Garnishment. There are three types of garnishment: (1) Periodic, (2) Nonperiodic, and (3) income tax intercept. Use the appropriate form Request and Writ for Garnishment, to start the garnishment process.
- MC12 REQUEST AND WRIT FOR GARNISHMENT(PERIODIC)
- MC13 REQUEST AND WRIT FOR GARNISHMENT (NONPERIODIC)
- MC 52 REQUEST AND WRIT FOR GARNISHMENT (INCOME TAX REFUND/CREDIT)
A periodic writ of garnishment is used to garnish the judgment debtor’s wages, rent payments, land contract payments or other debt that is paid to the judgment debtor on a periodic basis. A periodic garnishment is valid until the expiration date on the writ or until the judgment, interest, and costs are paid off, whichever occurs first.
A nonperiodic writ of garnishment is used to garnish the judgment debtor’s bank account or other property. Once money has been garnished under the nonperiodic writ, the writ is no longer valid. If there is a remaining balance due on the judgment, you must get another writ to collect more money.
An income tax writ of garnishment is used to intercept the judgment debtor’s income tax refund. Once the tax refund has been intercepted by the Department of Treasury, the writ is no longer valid. If there is a remaining balance due on the judgment, you must get another writ to collect more money.
Write or type in the names and addresses of the defendant (judgment debtor) and the garnishee on the Request part of the form. The garnishee is the person or business who has control or possession of the judgment debtor’s money. After you complete the Request, you must file it with the District Court that entered your small claims judgment. The filing fee is $15.00.
The Court will issue the Writ (order) by signing the form. The Request and Writ for Garnishment must be served on the garnishee along with the Garnishee Disclosure form MC14. There is a $6.00 disclosure fee for a garnishment of periodic payments and income tax refund. The cost of serving the writ varies.
When Do I Get My Money From the Garnishment
The garnishee has 14 days after the writ is served to let you, the Court, and the judgment debtor know if any money is available for garnishment. This information will be provided on the Garnishee Disclosure form. If you are trying to garnish the judgment debtor’s wages, you will only receive part of the wages, calculated by using a federal formula.
If money is available, it will be withheld from the judgment debtor right away. However, this money will be held for 28 days to allow the judgment debtor time to object. If the judgment debtor files no objections with the Court, the withheld money will be automatically sent to you after the 28 days. If the garnishment is for periodic payments, money will continue to be sent as payments become due to the judgment debtor until the writ expires.
What Else Can I Do
If your case against the judgment debtor involved a traffic accident, you can ask the court for an abstract of judgment, which would suspend the judgment debtor’s Michigan driver’s license until he or she pays the judgment. You must wait 30 days after the date of judgment until you can get an abstract of judgment. You need to provide the judgment debtor’s full name, date of birth, and Michigan driver’s license number. There is no filing fee. The Court clerk should have the necessary forms.
For additional legal assistance, contact Michigan Legal Help for tools that can help you with small claims cases.
Printable instructions for Collecting Your Money From a Small Claims Judgment.
Frequently asked Questions
What is a Small Claims case?
A small claims case is a claim for a money judgment of up to $6,500. There are some topics which cannot be heard in Small Claims. These include: fraud, libel, slander, assault, battery, and other intentional torts.
How much does it cost to file?
The filing fee depends on the amount of money you are suing for. Please see the Filing Fees page. There may be additional fees to serve the paperwork as well, but you may ask that court costs be included into your judgment.
When will I have a hearing on my case?
Small Claims hearings are usually scheduled with an attorney magistrate about 4-6 weeks after the claim is filed.
May I bring a lawyer?
No. Small Claims hearings are very informal; attorneys are not allowed to represent anyone in Small Claims. If you wish to hire an attorney, the case must be removed from Small Claims to General Civil some time before the Small Claims hearing is scheduled.
What should I bring with me to the hearing?
You should bring all of your documents, witnesses, and other evidence that you have to support or argue the claim.
What if we settle before the hearing?
If the dispute is settled or paid before the hearing, the plaintiff will need to file a dismissal.
What if the plaintiff/defendant doesn’t show up for the hearing?
If the plaintiff does not show up for the hearing, the magistrate will dismiss the case. If the defendant does not show up for the hearing, a default judgment will enter against him or her. He or she may request to have the judgment set aside by filing a Motion to Set Aside Default MC99.
What happens if the plaintiff wins?
If the plaintiff wins, the defendant has 21 days to pay the amount of the judgment to the plaintiff. If the defendant fails to do so, the plaintiff may begin collection activity on the 22nd day.
May I appeal a Small Claims judgment?
If your case was held before a magistrate, you have seven days to file an appeal to have your case held before a judge. If your case was held before a judge, you may not appeal the judge's decision.