How to File a Small Claims Action
Legal Disclaimer: The following is basic legal information, provided as a public service by Wyoming’s lawyers. The information provided is not a substitute for speaking to an attorney. Only an attorney can give you legal advice regarding your specific situation. Click here for help finding a lawyer.
- What kind of claim can I file?
- Do I need a lawyer?
- How do I start?
- How much does it cost to file?
- How soon will my Court date be set?
- How do I serve the Affidavit and Summons?
- Can I File a Small Claims Action by Mail?
- How do I prepare for my court date?
- Can I make a witness show up?
- What happens if I miss the trial?
- What happens if the Defendant does not show up?
- What happens at the trial?
What kind of claim can I file?
Small Claims Court is for money damages or debts up to $6,000.00. That is the most you can receive in Small Claims Court. If your claim is for more than the limit, you must:
- Give up your right to receive more money; or
- File your suit in another Court. Learn more about the Circuit and District Courts.
Do I need a lawyer?
No, you are not required to have a lawyer for Small Claims Court. There will be a hearing before a Judge. There is no jury. However, you may have a lawyer if you wish. Click here for help finding a lawyer.
How do I start?
If you are filing the suit, then you are the Plaintiff, and the other person you are suing is the Defendant. In order to start an action, you must file the Small Claims Affidavit and Summons at the Circuit Court. The Defendant must be located in the county where you are filing your suit.
You can get a copy of the Affidavit and Summons forms at the Circuit Court office. Click here for the Circuit Court Directory. You may also use the forms on this website. The Small Claims Affidavit and Summons are easy to understand and fill-in. Please read all of the information on this page, and/or any additional instructions provided to you from the Circuit Court office.
How much does it cost to file?
The cost for filing in Small Claims Court is $10.00.
However, the Sheriff’s Office or private process server also will charge a fee for service of each Summons. You should contact the Clerk’s office for process server options, fees, and payment instructions. Click here for the Circuit Court Directory.
If you are suing two people in the same case, you will pay separately for service for each Defendant.
How soon will my Court date be set?
When you file your Small Claims suit, the Court Clerk will schedule a hearing date for your case. This is when you and the Defendant will present your case in Court before the Judge.
The Clerk will tell you available dates and you can choose from those dates. Most cases are set within about a month’s time. Some courts only hear Small Claims cases on a certain day of the week, like Tuesdays or Wednesdays. You should check with your Clerk for available dates. Click here for the Circuit Court Directory.
Important: The Court date must allow enough time to serve the Affidavit and Summons on the Defendant. According to Wyoming Court Rules, the Defendant has to be served in a nine-day window (3 to 12 days) before the scheduled court date. If the Defendant is not served in those nine days, the hearing cannot be held on your scheduled date. If that happens, you can ask the Clerk to issue an Alias Summons with a different court date. However, you will have to pay separately for each attempt to serve the Defendant.
How do I serve the Affidavit and Summons?
The defendant must be served in person, meaning that the papers must be handed to the defendant. If the papers are not given to the defendant correctly or during the required time period, your case cannot go forward.
Most people use the Sheriff’s office or a private process server because they know how to serve the papers according to the law. The Sheriff’s service is available in all counties. However, not all counties have a private process server. You can check with your Circuit Court’s office to find out what service options are available. Click here for the Circuit Court Directory.
The Clerk will give a copy of the Affidavit and Summons to the process server. The server will make every attempt to serve the papers on your Defendant during the nine-day period required. You will need to call the court to check on the status of service. The Defendant must be served in time, or your case cannot go forward.
If the process server is successful in serving the Defendant, the server will sign and return the original Summons to the court and your case will go on as scheduled.
If the process server is not successful in serving the Defendant, you can ask the Court Clerk to issue an Alias Summons with a different Court date. This will give the process server another chance to serve the papers. However, you will be required to pay a separate service fee for each attempt to serve the Defendant.
Can I File a Small Claims Action by Mail?
Yes, but you should check with your Clerk’s office to learn available Court dates and any special instructions. Click here for the Circuit Court Directory.
Important: You can file by mail, but you must show up in Court to argue your claim. If you do not show up, your case will be automatically dismissed!
If you are filing your claim from outside your county, you must call the court before your court date to see if the Defendant was served. If the Defendant has not been served, you can request an Alias Summons with a new court date. You will also need to send another service fee for the process server.
If you have questions, call the Court Clerk’s office before completing the forms. If you do not fill out the forms correctly, the Clerk will return the forms to you, which may delay your court date.
How do I prepare for my court date?
The most important thing is to be there on time.
- You should get together any papers, documents, bills, receipts or pictures that might have something to do with the case, and you should bring them with you when you appear for your trial.
- You must bring three (3) copies of any evidence you wish to give to the Judge. You will give one copy to the Judge (the original, if possible); keep one copy for yourself; and give one copy to the other party.
- You may also bring witnesses who can help explain why you are entitled to the money you are suing for. Make sure your witnesses know the exact date and time for the trial, and then make sure they show up!
Can I make a witness show up?
If you need to have a witness show up and you do not think that he or she will appear voluntarily, you can ask the Clerk for a subpoena. The subpoena must be served at least five (5) days before your trial date. You will need an exact physical address for the witness, and the Sheriff or process server will charge you to serve each subpoena.
What happens if I miss the trial?
If the Plaintiff does not appear for the trial on the scheduled Court date, the case will be dismissed.
What happens if the Defendant does not show up?
If the Defendant does not appear, the Plaintiff will be sworn-in and will testify about the claim. Usually, this will result in a Default Judgment.
A Default Judgment means the Plaintiff has won the case for the amount claimed in the Affidavit (up to the limit of $6000.00, plus court costs), and the money must be paid by the Defendant. Court costs include the $10 filing fee plus any service fees paid to the sheriff or private process server.
What happens at the trial?
Remember, there are no juries at a Small Claims hearing. It is a simple, informal hearing before the Judge.
If both parties appear at the hearing, the Plaintiff will first tell his or her story to the Judge.
- The Plaintiff has the burden of proof, meaning that you must tell the Judge why every penny and item of the claim is due to you.
- If you have papers, documents, photos or witnesses to help explain your case, use them
- You must bring three (3) copies of anything you want to give to the Judge as evidence.
When the Plaintiff has finished, the Defendant then gets a chance to tell his or her side to the Judge.
- The Defendant may also use papers, documents, photos or witnesses.
- Remember to bring three (3) copies of any papers, documents or photos that you want to give to the judge.
- Should be clear and concise.
- Should prepare your arguments in advance.
- Should not be afraid to talk to the Judge, he is there to be fair to you.
After listening to both sides and seeing their evidence, the Judge will make a decision as to who is right and who is wrong, and who owes money to whom. If the Judge makes his or her decision immediately, the Clerk will give you (or arrange to mail to you) a copy of the Judgment.
If the Judge does not make a decision right away, the Judge will take the matter under advisement, which means that the Judge needs more time and that you will be notified later, by mail, of the decision.