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Legal Information

Starting the Court Case

How do I start a court case?

Most court cases start when one party files a complaint, petition, or other legal documents with the court clerk. Usually the party that starts the court case is called the “plaintiff” or the “petitioner” and the party being sued is the “defendant” or “respondent.” After you have filed the documents, the other party must be “served” with the documents; this is also known as “service of process.” The person that you are suing will get a summons or notice of petition (legal notice to appear in court) and copies of the documents that you filed, which usually includes the petition and affidavit. This will give the other party notice of the court case itself and of any court dates that are scheduled. In some cases, the court clerk might arrange for service and sometimes the plaintiff him/herself must arrange for service on the other party.