Justice of the Peace, Precinct 4, Place 1

Debt Claim

A debt claim case is a lawsuit brought to recover a debt by an assignee of a claim, a debt collector or collection agency, a financial institution, or a person or entity primarily engaged in the business of lending money at interest.  The claim can be for no more than $20,000.00, excluding statutory interest and court costs but including attorney fees, if any.

When filing a small claims lawsuit, if there are any additional questions that are not addressed below, please contact someone for legal advice.

  1. The amount of debt (exclusive of court costs) may not exceed $20,000.00 at the time the petition is filed, except in matters involving deed restrictions.

  2. Generally, a petition should be filed in the precinct where the defendant(s) resides or where the property sued for is located.  If there are questions as to where to file, please contact someone for legal advice. 

  3. Make sure the defendant's legal name is on the complaint as it is important when the citation is served.  Note:  If it is a corporation, call the secretary of state at 800-252-1386.  Their office will provide the corporation's authorized agent;  it is important to file on the correct entity.

  4. Fill out the petition completely.  If anything is left blank, the petition cannot be accepted.  Note: The attached forms are generic.  If the lawsuit is complicated, the petition may need to be expanded or an attorney may need to be consulted.  Discovery, if used, will be limited to what is reasonable and necessary.  If a party is filing a motion for discovery, it must be filed with the court.

  5. The petition needs to be filed with the court Monday thru Friday between 8:00 am - 4:30 pm.  The status of the lawsuit may be checked periodically by contacting the court.  The normal filing fee is $46.00 plus $80.00 for each party served.

  6. The citation will be served on the defendant(s) named in the lawsuit at the address on the petition.  The defendant has fourteen (14) days from the date they are served to file an answer with the court.  If the defendant does not answer, the petitioner (plaintiff) becomes eligible for a default hearing.  A default hearing must be requested.  Note:  The more information submitted to the court, the sooner the constable can serve the citation.

  7. The court will set a hearing date and notify each party by mail once the fourteen (14) days have passed.   The hearing will be at least 45 days after the defendant files the answer.  Continuances are discouraged, but in special circumstances may be granted if filed at least five (5) days prior to the hearing.  In the case a continuance is filed, it must be supported by a sworn affidavit. 

  8. Subpoenas may be issued for witnesses that will not appear voluntarily.  Subpoenas should be requested at least fourteen (14) days prior to the hearing date.   The cost is $90.00 per subpoena broken down as $10.00 money order; and $80.00 cash, cashier's check, money order, or for an additional convenience fee a credit card can be used.

  9. Attorneys are not required for a trial, but each party may have an attorney present.   A jury may be requested no later than fourteen (14) days before the date of the hearing.  The jury fee is $22.00 paid for by the party requesting.

  10. The hearing will be conducted not only according to the law, but according to what is equitable to both the plaintiff and defendant under the law.

  11. If a judgment is received, the court does not collect the judgment.  The judgment may be collected using one of the options listed below:

    • Abstract of Judgment - can be obtained ten (10) days after the judgment is signed.  An abstract of judgment puts a lien on real property owned by the defendant in the county or counties where it is filed.  It is good for ten (10) years.

    • Writ of Execution - may be obtained thirty (30) days after the judgment is signed or thirty (30) days after a motion for  a new trial or a motion to set aside judgment.  The writ of execution authorizes the sheriff or constable to seize personal assets belonging to the defendant and sell them at public auction to satisfy the judgment.

    • Writ of Garnishment - is available if property subject to execution is insufficient to cover the judgment.  It is also available thirty (30) days after the judgment is signed.  In this proceeding, the defendant's bank is asked to freeze all funds belonging to the defendant and a hearing is held to decide if the plaintiff is entitled to the funds.  An attorney is required for this option.  

    • Turnover Order - can be obtained to reach property that is not easily accessible outside the court.  It is a complicated action and it is recommended to consult an attorney.

        12.  The court will assist with procedural matters, but cannot give legal advice.

        13.  Fee Schedule:

    Fee Services Total
  Debt Claims $ 46.00 $  80.00 $ 126.00
  Jury $ 22.00 NA $    22.00
  Abstract $   5.00 NA $       5.00
  Writ of Execution $   5.00 $ 250.00 $ 255.00
  Subpoena $ 10.00 $   80.00 $    90.00
  Writ of Garnishment $ 51.00 $ 150.00 $ 201.00
  Turnover Order $ 51.00 $ 150.00 $ 201.00

****These fees are subject to change without notice.

NOTE:  Out of county service costs must be ascertained by the Plaintiff and paid upon filing the lawsuit.

To begin the process, click on the link below to fill out the debt claim petition:

Debt Claims Petition Form

Statement of Inability to Afford Payment of Court Costs or an Appeal Bond -  Fill out this form if unable to pay the court fees.  Please read the additional information about this form - click here.