Small Claims

Dispute Resolution Services assists those involved with Small Claims matters in San Joaquin County. The SJCBA cannot provide legal advice, but it can answer many basic questions, including how to file a case and the forms to use. Email or call the office, or attend a monthly Small Claims Clinic.

How to File a Claim

1. Send a Demand

Before filing a claim, you must ask the other party (the defendant) for the money. This is called a “demand” and it can be done either in writing or orally.

2. Start Your Case

A form called “SC-100” must be completed by you to start a Small Claims case. Once the SC-100 form is filled out, take it to the correct courthouse to file it with the court clerk. When it is filed, the court clerk gives you a hearing date; that is the day when you and the other party will appear before the judge to have your case decided. Before the hearing date you must have the defendant "served", which means you must properly notify the other party that they are being sued in Small Claims court and include the date of the hearing. Once they have been served, you will get a “Proof of Service” form.

3. Process of Service

  • A copy of the claim must be served to each defendant.
  • “Personal Service” is when any person who is over the age of 18 and not an involved party to the case gives the other party a copy of the filed claim, including information about the date, time, and location of the court hearing. The person who does the Personal Service must fill out the Proof of Service form, called “SC-104.”
  • The Sheriff’s Office can also serve the papers for you and provide a Proof of Service form SC-104; there is a cost for this service.
  • The Small Claims clerk can serve the papers by certified mail (only the Small Claims clerk can serve by certified mail). The service is completed once the receipt is signed by the defendant and returned.

4. Prepare and Present Your Case

  • Prepare copies of all evidence you will be presenting the day of your hearing. You will need at least three (3) copies: one for you, one for the court, and one for each person (defendant) you are suing for the same case.
  • Stay organized, make a list of key points, and tell the judge the relevant facts. Be polite and answer the judge’s questions. Do not interrupt others when they are speaking.

Small Claims Clinic


Second Thursday of Each Month

Small Claims Resources

San Joaquin County Court Small Claims Division

Go To Court Website

Official Small Claims Forms

View Forms