California – Filing in Civil Court


DIFFICULTY: Legal help required

Initial Filing Fee: $370-$435

In California, general civil court cases are those which do not fall under a more specific category, such as the case with divorce or small claims court. Civil court cases are used when one party wants to take legal action against another and is seeking damages of more than $10,000 (the highest amount one can seek in small claims court). Because civil court cases cover such a wide range of subjects, it is highly recommended that you seek legal counsel to help organize your specific case. A qualified attorney can help you file your complaint with the county clerk, advise you in the best way to handle your case and help you argue your points in court.

Step 1: File original complaint and Civil Case Cover Sheet

File your original complaint along with a Civil Case Cover Sheet. The cover sheet gives the clerk basic information about the type of case you are filing, your attorney’s name, and the amount of money you are seeking. Your attorney will help draft your original complaint which will contain information about the person you are suing (the defendant) and more specific details about your complaint.

 • Civil Court Complaint
 • Civil Case Cover Sheet

Step 2: Pay Filing Fees

Pay your first papers filing fee. Depending on the amount you are demanding and the complexity of your case, first filing fees can range from $370 to $435. Additional fees will likely occur as the case progresses and more forms are filed. Once your forms have been processed, the clerk will notify you of your court date. Processing typically takes less than 24 hours.

Step 3: Attend Hearing

Attend your hearing with copies of all forms you have submitted, your attorney and any evidence you need to help argue your case. Depending on the defendant’s response, your case may reach a settlement at this time or continue on. Your attorney will help guide you through the rest of the civil court proceedings.

Additional Resources

 • Orange County Superior Court’s “Tips for Filing in Civil Court – FAQ”
 • California Civil Court Filing Fees