Special Civil Court

Lawsuits for amounts up to $20,000 are called special civil cases. They are filed in Superior Court, in the special civil part of the civil division.

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Essential Forms

The following forms are used to begin a case:

These forms are used after a judgment is entered to help collect money:

Use these from to defend yourself against collection:

Examples:

  • A person or company failed to comply with a written or oral contract.
  • Your car was damaged in an accident.
  • You paid money as a down payment and want it returned.
  • Your property was damaged or lost.
  • Merchandise you bought is defective.
  • Work you paid for was faulty or not completed.
  • You want to be paid for work you did.
  • Someone wrote you a bad check.
  • You gave a landlord a security deposit that was not returned.

Cases not eligible:

  • Malpractice claims against doctors, dentists, lawyers, or other professionals
  • Claims for child support or alimony
  • Cases involving wills and inheritance
  • Claims seeking anything other than money from the defendant

Do I need a lawyer to file a lawsuit in the Special Civil Part?

The court system can be confusing, and it is a good idea to get a lawyer if you can. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you can contact the legal services program in your county to see if you qualify for free legal services.

Legal Services of New Jersey maintains a directory of regional legal services offices.

The NJ State Bar Association also maintains a list of county referral services that might be helpful.

Things to think about before representing yourself in court

While you have the right to represent yourself in court, you should not expect any special treatment, help, or attention from the court. You must still comply with the Rules of the Court, even if you are not familiar with them. The following is a list of some things the court staff can and cannot do for you. Please read it carefully before asking the court staff for help. 

  • We can explain and answer questions about how the court works.
  • We can tell you what the requirements are to have your case considered by the court.
  • We can give you some information from your case file.
  • We can provide you with samples of court forms that are available.
  • We can provide you with guidance on how to fill out forms.
  • We can usually answer questions about court deadlines.
  • We cannot give you legal advice. Only your lawyer can give you legal advice.
  • We cannot tell you whether or not you should bring your case to court.
  • We cannot give you an opinion about what will happen if you bring your case to court.
  • We cannot recommend a lawyer, but we can provide you with the telephone number of a local lawyer referral service.
  • We cannot talk to the judge for you about what will happen in your case.
  • We cannot let you talk to the judge outside of court.
  • We cannot change an order issued by a judge.

Filing a Special Civil Suit

How to sue for an amount of money up to $20,000

This kit has all of the forms and instructions for self-represented litigants to file a special civil case for money damages

Note: You must be 18 to file a court case. If you are under 18, your parent or guardian must filed the case for you.

8 steps to file a special civil case

  1. Complete the Special Civil Part complaint (Form A in the Kit).
     
  2. Complete the top part only of Special Civil Part Summons (Form B in the Kit). Do not include personal identifiers such as social security numbers on the copy of the documents that you file with the court. Complete the forms, make a copy, and then redact or black out the personal identifiers on the copies you will submit to the court.
     
  3. Include the current address of the person you are suing.
     
  4. Attach the filing fee or request a fee waiver:
     
    Suing one defendant up to $5,000:  $ 50
    Suing one defendant for more than $5,000:  $ 75
    Each additional defendant: $  5
    Mail service fee for each defendant: $7
    If requesting a jury trial:  $100
    Checks should be made payable to “Treasurer, State of NJ”
     
  5. Check forms to make sure they are complete. Sign the forms.
     
  6. Make copies of all of the documents you will submit to the court and put them in a safe place. Check that you have redacted the personal identifiers on the copies you prepare for court
     
  7. Upload the documents into the Judiciary Electronic Document Submission (JEDS) system. You can pay the fee with a credit card. You can upload the fee waiver request form if needed. You also can mail the complaint , the summons and the fee to the county Superior Court where the person or business is. Certified mail is recommended. 
     
  8. The defendant can file a written answer to the court within 35 days of getting the court summons.
     
  9. If the defendant files an answer, the court will send you a notice with a date to appear in court. If the defendant does not file an answer, you might be entitled to a default judgment Contact the court if you cannot come to court on your assigned date. Your case might be dismissed if you do not appear for trial.

Serving the papers on the defendant

Your case cannot move forward unless the defendant receives the complaint and summons from the court.

The court will mail the complaint and summons to the defendant(s). The defendant must then file an answer.

NOTE: You must give the court the correct address for the defendant or your case can not move forward.

Defending yourself in a suit

If you are being sued in a special civil case

  • You are the defendant in a lawsuit.
  • You must file an answer with the court. If you do not file an answer, a money judgment might be entered against you.
  • You will receive a summons from the court with the date and time to attend your trial.
  • You must attend your trial on the date stated on the notice.
  • If you do not attend your trial, a money judgment might be entered against you.
  • If you cannot attend your trial on the date you were given, you must call the number on the notice or contact the Special Civil Part office where the case was filed to ask for a new date.

Do I need a lawyer to defend myself in a Special Civil Case?

The court system can be confusing, and it is a good idea to get a lawyer if you can. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you can contact the legal services program in your county to see if you qualify for free legal services.

Legal Services of New Jersey has a list of regional legal services offices.

The NJ State Bar Association has a list of NJ list of county referral services that might be helpful.

Corporations, limited liability corporations and limited partnerships must be represented by an attorney if the lawsuit is more than $5000.

Do not ignore the summonsEven if you do not have a lawyer, it is better to try to defend yourself in court than to ignore the summons.

Things to think about before representing yourself in court

While you have the right to represent yourself in court, you should not expect any special treatment, help, or attention from the court. You must still comply with the Rules of the Court, even if you are not familiar with them. The following is a list of some things the court staff can and cannot do for you. Please read it carefully before asking the court staff for help. 

  • We can explain and answer questions about how the court works.
  • We can tell you what the requirements are to have your case considered by the court.
  • We can give you some information from your case file.
  • We can provide you with samples of court forms that are available.
  • We can provide you with guidance on how to fill out forms.
  • We can usually answer questions about court deadlines.
  • We cannot give you legal advice. Only your lawyer can give you legal advice.
  • We cannot tell you whether or not you should bring your case to court.
  • We cannot give you an opinion about what will happen if you bring your case to court.
  • We cannot recommend a lawyer, but we can provide you with the telephone number of a local lawyer referral service.
  • We cannot talk to the judge for you about what will happen in your case.
  • We cannot let you talk to the judge outside of court.
  • We cannot change an order issued by a judge.

How to file an answer in the Special Civil Part.

Defendants must file a written answer to the complaint within 35 days of the date shown on the summons.

Each defendant must file a separate answer.

If you have evidence showing that you do not owe the amount claimed, such as receipts, attach copies of those papers to every copy of your answer. Keep copies of all the original documents and bring them to the trial.

You also can choose to file a counterclaim, cross-claim or want to file a third-party complaint

6 Steps for filing an answer to a lawsuit in the Special Civil Part

  1. Complete the answer form and write your explanation why you think you do not owe the money that the person suing you is asking for. Do not include personal identifiers such as social security numbers on the documents filed with the court. Complete the forms, make a copy, and then redact the personal identifiers on the copies you will submit to the court.
     
  2. Attach the filing fee of $30. Pay by credit card (for filings made through JEDS), use a check or a money order payable to "Treasurer, State of NJ."

  3. Check to make sure forms are completed and signed.

  4. Make copies of all documents you submit to the court and put them in a safe place. Check that you have redacted the personal identifiers on the copies you prepare for court.

  5. Upload the documents into the Judiciary Electronic Document Submission (JEDS) system. You can pay the fee with a credit card. You can upload the fee waiver request form if needed. You also can mail the documents to the county Superior Court where the person or business is. Certified mail is recommended.

    You must also mail or bring your answer to the plaintiff and to any other parties in the case. If any party is represented by an attorney, send the information to the attorney instead.

  6. You will get a notice with a date to attend the trial.. Contact the court if you cannot attend the trial on your assigned date due to circumstances beyond your control. If you do not  attend the trial, the court might find you in default and a money judgment might be entered against you.

You might receive a list of questions, called interrogatories , from the plaintiff. You must answer the questions and return them to the plaintiff within 30 days. Read more about preparing for trial.

Filing Fees and Fee Waiver

To sue one defendant : $75
Each additional defendant $5

All checks must be made payable to Treasurer, State of NJ

Do you qualify for a fee waiver?

You might not have to pay to file your cases if your income and assets are low enough. Fill out the Fee Waiver form and give it to the court along with the required documents.

You can apply for a fee waiver in any NJ state court: Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Superior Court and Tax Court.

Request and learn more about fee waivers.

Preparing for Trial

Watch the video on preparing for trial before you come to court.

Both the plaintiff and defendant will be asked to give testimony at the trial.

You can present witnesses. The court cannot accept written statements. You must have your witness available to testify on the trial date.

Submit all of the documents you need to prove your side of the case at the trial using Electronic Evidence Submission The court cannot use text messages or emails on your mobile phone. You must submit them to the court in advance of the trial date, either through Electronic Evidence Submission or by mail.

You will be questioning your witnesses and the witnesses brought by the other person. Write down your questions and have them available on the trial date.

Be prepared to present records of any transactions that may help you prove your case. That could be

  • Cancelled checks, money orders, sales receipts
  • Bills, contracts, estimates, leases
  • Letters
  • Photographs
  • Other documents proving your claim

Interrogatories

The parties in a court case are able to ask each other for information about the evidence  they will use at trial.  The questions are called interrogatories. The interrogatories are sent directly to the other party and not to the court. If there is more than one defendant in a case, separate interrogatories can be sent to each of them.

Deadlines

Plaintiff: You have 30 days after receiving a defendant’s answer to send your interrogatories to that defendant.

If you are suing for personal injury or automobile negligence, you must demand interrogatories in the complaint.

Defendant: You have 30 days after receiving a copy of the complaint to send your interrogatories to the plaintiff.

All parties:   Whether you are a plaintiff or a defendant, all interrogatories must be answered within 30 days of when you received them.

If you do not return your answers to the other parties within 30 days, the court might rule against you by suppressing your answer.

If you miss the deadline, your filing is “stricken,” or removed, from the court record. You must pay a $25 fee within 30 days to have the case reinstated and your filing accepted.

After 30 days, the restoration fee goes up to $75.

After 45 days, the court might make the suppression order final, and then you will lose the case.

Use this kit for interrogatories for contract and debt collection cases over $5,000.
Use these instructions if your case involves an auto accident or personal injury.

Settlements

The court will ask that you try to settle your case so that you can avoid a trial. You might also want to contact the other party, or the other party’s lawyer, to talk about settling the case.

Your day in court

  • The plaintiff and the defendant must attend the trial at the time at the time and date stated on the summons, unless otherwise notified by the court.
  • Be prepared to present all witnesses and evidence needed to present your case.
  • On the day scheduled for trial, the court will help you try to settle your case through a settlement conference with a trained neutral third person. This person will try to help the plaintiff and the defendant reach an agreement. The neutral third person is not a judge.
  • If a settlement cannot be reached, your case likely will be heard by the judge on the same day.

If the plaintiff does not appear, the judge could dismiss the case.

If the defendant does not appear, the judge could enter a default judgment and the defendant might have to pay all or part of the money claimed in the lawsuit.

Appealing a Special Civil Case

Either party can appeal a decision in Special Civil court. You should consider whether the amount at stake in your case is worth the cost of filing an appeal.

When to file

The appeal must be filed in the Appellate Division of Superior Court within 45 days of the court’s decision.

Do I need a lawyer to file an appeal?

You do not have to have a lawyer to appeal your case. But the appeals process can be confusing. You will have to convince the appeals court that the judge made a mistake. It is a good idea to get a lawyer if you can.

Things to think about before representing yourself in court

While you have the right to represent yourself in court, you should not expect any special treatment, help, or attention from the court. You must still comply with the Rules of the Court, even if you are not familiar with them. The following is a list of some things the court staff can and cannot do for you. Please read it carefully before asking the court staff for help. 

  • We can explain and answer questions about how the court works.
  • We can tell you what the requirements are to have your case considered by the court.
  • We can give you some information from your case file.
  • We can provide you with samples of court forms that are available.
  • We can provide you with guidance on how to fill out forms.
  • We can usually answer questions about court deadlines.
  • We cannot give you legal advice. Only your lawyer can give you legal advice.
  • We cannot tell you whether or not you should bring your case to court.
  • We cannot give you an opinion about what will happen if you bring your case to court.
  • We cannot recommend a lawyer, but we can provide you with the telephone number of a local lawyer referral service.
  • We cannot talk to the judge for you about what will happen in your case.
  • We cannot let you talk to the judge outside of court.
  • We cannot change an order issued by a judge.

Steps to file an appeal

  1. File a Notice of Appeal.
  2. Request a transcript [link forthcoming] of your case from the Appellate Division. You must have the official transcript in order for your appeal to be considered.
  3. Complete a Case Information Statement.

Use the Appellate Division Practice Checklist

Filing Fees

  1. $250 must be submitted with the Notice of Appeal. This is the cost of the appeal.
  2. $500 must be submitted with to the clerk of the Appellate Division within 30 days of filing the Notice of Appeal. This amount is a deposit for the cost of the transcript. The total cost of the transcript is $500 for each day or part of a day that your trial was held.

Do you qualify for a fee waiver ?

Did the special civil court waive your fee? If so, you can attach a copy of the order and a signed letter that says your finances have not changed since the case was filed.

Use the Certified Statement in Support of a Motion to Proceed as an Indigent

If you did not receive a fee waiver in your small claims case, you can submit a request for a fee waiver with your appeal.

Mail or bring your appeals documents to:

Appellate Division Clerk’s Office - Administrative Office of the Courts
Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex
P.O. Box 006
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0970

Send copies of your appeals document to:

  1. All parties in the case who appeared in court
  2. The local Special Civil Part office that handled your special civil case
  3. The judge who decided your special civil case

Keep a copy of each document for yourself.

Preparing your appeal

You will need to prepare a brief , which is a document that explains why your appeal should be granted.

Questions about your appeal?

Call the  Appellate Division Clerk’s Office  at  609-815-2950 .

Collecting Your Money

If you were awarded a judgment in Special Civil part, you are a judgment creditor .

You should contact the person who owes you the money, the judgment debtor, to talk about payment.

The court cannot guarantee payment

Although the court will try to help you collect the money owed to you, it cannot guarantee the debt will be paid.

Fees and other costs for writs of execution

The filing fee is $35.

Other Costs:

  • Ten percent fee: The special civil part officer will charge the debtor an extra ten percent on top of whatever money is recovered for you.
  • Service fee: $7 fee for the Special Civil Part Officer to deliver service of process (e.g., complaints, writs and wage executions) to defendant(s). 
  • Sales and Advertising: If the special civil part officer sells personal property to get the money you are owed, you might be charged for things like advertising the sale.

Writ of Execution

Read our brochure on How to Collect a Money Judgment

A writ of execution is a court document that gives a special civil part officer the right to collect money from a judgment debtor’s bank account or personal property. Real estate cannot be used to collect money owed in the Special Civil Part.

Seizing a motor vehicle

You must be able to show that the vehicle is registered in the debtor’s name. You will need either:

  1. A certified of the title, or
  2. A certified lien search from the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission.

The debtor might have an outstanding loan or debt on the car. You must determine if there is value or equity in the debtor’s car before you ask a special civil part officer to take it.

Other items that could be used to satisfy a writ include:

  • Office or sports equipment
  • Household items
  • Jewelry
  • Clothing

The debtor can keep $1,000 worth of personal property and clothing. If the debtor does not have more than $1,000 worth of personal property, this method cannot be used by the special civil part officer to satisfy your judgment and to collect the money owed to you.

Bank levy (taking funds from a bank account)

Use packet How to File a Motion to Turn Over Funds

You can ask a special civil part officer to collect the money from the debtor’s bank account if the account is in New Jersey.

Special civil part officers are not required to search for the debtor’s bank accounts. You must provide the name of the bank, the address and no more than the last 4 digits of the account number, if possible. Do not provide the Special Civil Part Office with the debtor’s entire active financial account number. Provide it to the officer directly if necessary.

After the money has been levied upon by the special civil part officer, it is considered frozen. You must then file Motion to Turn over Funds with the court and serve a copy upon the debtor and the bank. If the court grants the motion, the judge will sign an order that the special civil part officer will deliver to the bank. The officer will take the money from the bank, deposit it into an official business trust account, and then mail a check to the creditor or creditor’s attorney by the 15th day of the following month.

Execution against wages (garnishing a debtor’s salary)

Use packet How to File a Wage Execution

The judgment creditor can request an execution against a person's wages if the debtor works in New Jersey and earns more than $217.50 per week. To request a wage execution, send a Notice of Application for Wage Execution to the debtor by regular and certified mail. File a copy of the application and a statement of how you mailed the application to the debtor with the Office of the Special Civil Part in the county where the case was heard.

If the debtor objects to the wage execution, a hearing will be immediately scheduled by the court. If the debtor does not object or the court does not allow the objection, the court will order a wage execution to be delivered to the debtor's employer by the special civil part officer. The employer will hold back a portion of the debtor's wages and will send this money directly to the officer. The officer will deduct a 10 percent commission and send the rest to you.

If the money is not collected

Writs for wage executions can last for 20 years, but other writs expire in two year. After two years, the debtor can choose to:

  1. Request a new writ of execution from the court by following the same procedures used the first time in order to have the special civil officer keep trying to get the money; OR
  2. Request to have the judgment recorded as a lien against any real estate owned by the debtor. Once the judgment is recorded in the Superior Court, the debtor cannot sell with clear title any real estate owned in New Jersey until the debt is paid.

To get a lien, a Statement for Docketing from the Special Civil Part Office where the case was heard. You can send the Statement for Docketing, plus a $35 filing fee payable to Treasurer, State of New Jersey, to

Appellate Division Clerk’s Office - Administrative Office of the Courts
Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex
P.O. Box 006
Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0970

Frequently Asked Questions

    • Q. What Is the Special Civil Part?

      Special Civil is a court in which you may sue a person or a business (the defendant) to collect an amount of money up to $20,000 that you believe is owed to you. If your claim is $5,000 or less, you may sue in the Small Claims Section. This segment on Special Civil explains how to file a complaint, answer a complaint, file an appeal and gives general information about Special Civil. It is not intended to provide or take the place of legal advice or to answer every question you have about this court. For legal advice about your rights, you should contact a lawyer. If you do not have a lawyer, you may contact the Lawyers' Referral Service of your County Bar Association. If you cannot afford a lawyer, you may contact the Legal Services Program in your county to see if you are eligible for free legal services.

      Special Civil is one of three sections within the Special Civil Part Court. The other two sections are Landlord Tenant and Small Claims. Special Civil is limited to cases in which the demand is $20,000 or less. If you believe you are entitled to recover more than $20,000, your case should be filed in the Law Division of the Superior Court.

      If you believe you are entitled to damages greater than $20,000, but still wish to sue in Special Civil, you give up your right to recover damages over $20,000. The additional money cannot be claimed later in a separate lawsuit

    • Q. What Claims Are Typically Filed in Special Civil Part?

      Following is a general list of claims that may be filed in Special Civil:

      • Breach of a written or oral contract.
      • Return of money used as a down payment.
      • Property damage caused by a motor vehicle accident.
      • Damage to or loss of property.
      • Consumer complaints for defective merchandise or faulty workmanship.
      • Payment for work performed.
      • Claims based on bad checks
      • Return of a tenant’s security deposit.
    • Q. What Claims Cannot Be Filed in Special Civil Part?

      • Claims arising from professional malpractice (for example, alleged malpractice by a doctor, dentist or lawyer).
      • Claims for support or alimony from a marital or domestic dispute.
      • Claims arising from a probate matter.

      Please remember that if you believe you are entitled to damages greater than $20,000, but still wish to sue in Special Civil, you give up your right to recover damages over $20,000. The additional money cannot be claimed later in a separate lawsuit.

    • Q. Where Do I File a Complaint with Special Civil?

      A complaint must be filed in the Office of the Special Civil Part in the county where at least one defendant lives or where the defendant's business is located. A business defendant is considered located in a county wherever it is actually doing business or in the county where its registered office is located. If there is more than one defendant, the complaint can be filed in the county where any of the defendants live or is located. If none of the defendants live or are located in New Jersey, the complaint must be filed in the county where the cause of the complaint occurred. A list of all of the Special Civil Part Offices, addresses and phone numbers in New Jersey is available on the Internet at njcourts.gov.

    • Q. Who May File a Complaint with Special Civil?

      To sue in the Special Civil Part, a person must be 18 years of age or older. If the person suing is under the age of 18, the claim must be filed by a parent or guardian. A plaintiff or defendant that is a corporation, partnership, (any business entity other than sole proprietors) must be represented by an attorney when the claim is greater than $5,000. An officer, trustee, director, agent or employee of a corporation may present or defend against a claim of $5,000 or less.

    • Q. How Do I File a Complaint with Special Civil?

      A Special Civil complaint form and accompanying instructions is available in any New Jersey Special Civil Part Office and is available on the Internet at njcourts.gov. The summons and complaint can be filed through the mail or in person at the appropriate Special Civil Part Office (See “Where Do I File a Complaint?” Question). When filing a complaint, you, as the plaintiff, must:

      • Give your full name, address and telephone number.
      • To ensure proper service of the complaint, give the correct name(s) and address(es) of the person(s) or business(es) named as the defendant(s) in the complaint. It is important that the defendant(s) be properly identified as an individual, a sole proprietorship, a partnership or a corporation.
      • State the amount of money for which you are suing.
      • State the reason why the defendant(s) owes you money.
      • State whether there is, at this time, another case involving both you and the other party(ies) and, if so, the name of the court.
      • Do not provide any party’s *“confidential and personal identifiers” in the complaint or in any other submission to the court unless specifically required under law, court order, rule or administrative directive.
      • Sign and date the completed form.
      • Pay the correct filing and service fees when filing the complaint with the Office of the Special Civil Part.

      * A “confidential personal identifier” is defined as a social security number, driver’s license number, vehicle plate number, insurance policy number, active financial account number or active credit card number. You can provide the last 4 digits of a party’s active financial account if it is the subject of the lawsuit and cannot otherwise be identified.

      After you have filed a complaint, a trial date will not be set unless the defendant files an answer in writing, along with the proper fees, to the Office of the Special Civil Part within 35 days from the date the complaint was served upon that defendant. If the defendant responds in writing within the 35 days, a trial date will be scheduled. All parties will be notified by the court.

      If a defendant does not respond within the 35 days, the Court will enter a default. The plaintiff can apply to the Special Civil Part Office for the entry of a “judgment by default” within 6 months from the date that default was entered. After this six month period, they must file a motion in order to obtain the judgment by default. Through a judgment by default request, the court decides the amount of money, if any, to be awarded to a plaintiff because the defendant did not answer the complaint in time or come to court. You are required to submit an affidavit and other documents verifying the amount of your claim and prove to the Court that the individual defendant is not an active member of the U.S. military. Proof of military service does not apply to business defendants. A hearing may be held in court to allow you to prove your claim where the amount you claimed cannot be proved from your documents. A packet for self-represented litigants on how to apply for a default judgment is available in any New Jersey Special Civil Part Office and is available on the Internet at njcourts.gov.

      • If the complaint is for money damages caused by a motor vehicle accident and the judgment requires a defendant to pay more than $500, the defendant must pay within 60 days.
      • If the defendant does not pay within the 60 days, the plaintiff may request, through the Office of the Special Civil Part, that the Motor Vehicle Commission stop the defendant's driving privileges until the judgment is paid. There is no fee for this request.
    • Q. What Is the Fee for Filing a Complaint with Special Civil?

      The costs for filing a complaint in Special Civil are:

      • $50 for a complaint where the amount claimed is $5,000 or less.
      • $75 for a complaint where the amount claimed is more than $5,000.
      • $5 for each additional defendant.
      • The fee is $7 for each defendant served by certified and regular mail. A $7 fee is charged for one defendant if the complaint is reserved personally by a court officer. Each additional defendant that you may want a court officer to personally serve is another $7 fee. Make a check or money order payable to the Treasurer, State of New Jersey.
      • An additional $100 fee is required for requests for a jury trial by six jurors.

      If you cannot afford to pay the filing fees, you may apply to the court to qualify as an indigent and your filing fees may be waived by the judge.

    • Q. Can I File an Answer to a Complaint with Special Civil?

      If you have been named as a defendant in a case, you must file a written answer to the complaint with the Office of the Special Civil Part in the county in which the complaint was filed within the number of days stated in the summons (35 days). You also must hand deliver, or send by regular mail, a copy of this answer to the plaintiff's attorney or send it by regular and certified mail to the plaintiff if they do not have an attorney. An answer packet for self-represented litigants, with accompanying instructions, is available in any New Jersey Special Civil Part Office and is available on the Internet at njcourts.gov.

      If you believe that the plaintiff owes you money, you must add a counterclaim to the answer. If you believe that someone else named as a defendant in the complaint owes the money, you must add to the answer a cross-claim against that defendant. Finally, if you believe that a party not named in the complaint owes the money, you must add a third-party complaint to the answer. When filing an answer, be sure to give the following information:

      • The docket number and caption of the case which appears on the complaint.
      • Your full name, address and telephone number.
      • The correct name(s) and address(es) of the plaintiff(s).
      • The reason(s) you are disputing the plaintiff's claim. Include the amount of money for which you are suing, if you are including a counterclaim, cross-claim or third-party complaint with your answer.
      •  Do not provide any party’s “confidential and personal identifiers”* in the answer or in any other submission to the court unless specifically required under law, court order, rule or administrative directive.
      • You must complete the summons form if you are filing an answer that includes a third-party complaint (a new party is being added to the lawsuit by you). You must also pay the applicable service fees, as the court is required to serve the answer and third party complaint, on your behalf, upon the new party(ies) that you are adding to the lawsuit.

      You also must sign the answer, and pay the correct fling fees, when filing the answer with the Office of the Special Civil Part.

      If you do not respond to the complaint in writing within the number of days listed on the summons, a "judgment by default" may be entered against you. Through a judgment by default, the court decides the amount of money, if any, to be awarded to the plaintiff because you did not answer the complaint in time. If you have answered the complaint on time, the court will notify you by mail of the trial date.

      * A “confidential personal identifieris defined as a social security number, driver’s license number, vehicle plate number, insurance policy number, active financial account number or active credit card number. You can provide the last 4 digits of a party’s active financial account if it is the subject of the lawsuit and cannot otherwise be identified.

    • Q. What Is the Fee for Filing an Answer in Special Civil?

      • $30 for an answer.
      • $50 for an answer with a counterclaim, cross-claim or third-party complaint where the amount is $5,000 or less.
      • $75 for an answer with a counterclaim, cross-claim or third-party complaint where the amount is more than $5,000.

      Note: The Clerk will also charge an additional fee for serving the third-party complaint upon the new party(ies) that you are adding to the lawsuit.

      If you cannot afford to pay the filing fees, you may apply to the court to qualify as an indigent and your filing fees may be waived by the judge.

    • Q. How Do I Prepare for Trial in Special Civil?

      Interrogatories

      The Rules of Court provide for an exchange of information by the parties. Whether you are the plaintiff or the defendant, questions from the opposing party, called "interrogatories," must be answered within 30 days from the date you receive them.

      Plaintiff

      If you are the plaintiff, you must prove your case. Arrange to have any witnesses and records you need to prove your case at the trial. A written statement, even if made under oath, cannot be used in court.. Only actual testimony in court of what the witness(es) heard or saw will be allowed. Prepare your questions in advance. Bring to court records of any transactions that may help you prove your case. Such records may include:

      • Cancelled checks, money orders, sales receipts.
      • Bills, contracts, estimates, leases.
      • Letters.
      • Photographs.
      • Other documents proving your claim.

      If you are able to settle the case with the defendant before the trial date, call the Special Civil Part Clerk's Office immediately to confirm that the case should be marked settled.

      Defendant

      If you are the defendant, you should prepare your side of the case as the plaintiff prepared his or her case. Bring all necessary witnesses and documents to court with you on the scheduled trial date. You must come to court at the time and date shown on the trial notice. If you do not, a default judgment may be entered against you and you may have to pay the money the plaintiff says you owe.

      If you are able to settle the case with the plaintiff before the trial date, call the court immediately to confirm that the case should be marked settled.

    • Q. What Happens on the Day Of Trial in Special Civil?

      The defendant and the plaintiff must come to court at the time and date stated on the trial notice, unless otherwise notified by the court. Bring all witnesses and evidence needed to present your case. On the day scheduled for trial, the court may help you settle your case through mediation with a trained mediator or a settlement conference with a neutral third person. This person will try to help the plaintiff and the defendant reach a satisfactory agreement. The mediator or neutral third person is not a judge. If a settlement cannot be reached, every effort will be made to have your case tried by the judge on the same day. If you win your case and need information on how to collect your judgment, you can find that information in our brochure entitled “Collecting a Money Judgment.” This brochure is available in any New Jersey Special Civil Part Office as well as on the Internet at njcourts.gov.

    • Q. Can I Appeal a Special Civil Court?

      If you, as a plaintiff or as a defendant, disagree with the court's decision, you may appeal the case to the Appellate Division of the Superior Court within 45 days from the date when the final decision is rendered. (The information is available on njcourts.gov) You must file a Notice of Appeal, a copy of the Request for Transcript and a Case Information Statement within the 45 days with the Clerk of the Appellate Division (located at the Hughes Justice Complex, Trenton) and deliver copies to:

      • All parties to the case who appeared in court.
      • The Office of the Special Civil Part from which the appeal is taken.
      • The judge who decided the case.

      You must pay a filing fee of $250 with the Notice of Appeal and deposit $300 with the Clerk of the Appellate Division within 30 days of the Notice of Appeal. This deposit may be used to pay settlement or court costs if the appeal is lost. If the appeal is successful, the deposit will be refunded.

      You also must obtain a transcript (a copy of the record of what happened in court) of the trial. The request for a transcript should be made to the Office of the Special Civil Part in the county in which the case was tried. You must deposit with the Clerk the estimated cost of the transcript (as determined by the court reporter, Clerk or agency preparing it) or $300 for each day or part of a day of the trial. You must file three copies of the transcript with the Appellate Division Clerk’s Office . Questions concerning an appeal should be directed to the Appellate Division Clerk’s Office  at 609-815-2950  or to an attorney.

Glossary

Answer :

An Answer is a written response that explains why the defendant thinks they do not owe the money to the plaintiff in a court case.

Appeal :

An appeal is a written request asking a higher court to look at the decision of the judge and change that judge’s decision.

Breach of Contract :

breach of contract is a failure to perform a promise that is a part of a written or oral contract.

Brief :

brief is document submitted to the court to explain your side of the case.

Certification :

A certification is a written statement made to the court when you file papers, swearing that the information contained in the filed papers is true.

Complaint :

 A complaint is a document in which you briefly tell the court the facts in your case and the relief you want the court to grant.

Counterclaim :

A Counterclaim is a claim added to defendant’s answer which asserts an affirmative claim for damages against the plaintiff.

Damages :

The amount of money the plaintiff sues for in a lawsuit is called damages.

Default :

When the defendant does not appear for trial to respond to the complaint or does not file an answer, a judge could rule in the plaintiff's favor. This is called a default. Also, if the plaintiff does not appear for trial, the court could dismiss the plaintiff's case.

Defendant :

The defendant is the person or business against whom a case is filed.

Fee waiver :

The court does not charge a filing fee for litigants who can prove that their income is no more than 150% of the current poverty level and that they have no more than $2,500 in cash and bank accounts.

File :

To file means to give the correct forms and fee to the court.

Interrogatories :

Interrogatories are written questions to the other party or parties in a lawsuit whose purpose is to get information that can be used at trial.

Judgment :

A judgment is the official decision of a court in a case.

Judgment creditor :

A person who is owed money as a result of a court order.

Judgment debtor :

A person who owes money as a result of a court order.

Lien :

lien is the legal right of a creditor to claim a debtor’s property until a debt is paid.

Litigant :

A litigant is party in a court case, either suing or being sued.

Motion :

motion is a written request in which you ask the court to issue an order, or to change an order it has already issued.

Order :

An order is a signed paper from the judge telling someone they must do something.

Party :

A party is a person, business or governmental agency involved in a court action.

Personal Identifier :

A personal identifier is any personal information that is unique to an individual, including Social Security number, military status, driver’s license number, license plate number, insurance policy number, active bank account and credit card numbers. This information could be used to steal someone’s identity or their money. All documents filed with the court are available for public inspection. Therefore no personal identifiers should be included on documents filed with the court

Plaintiff :

The plaintiff is the person who starts the lawsuit by filing the complaint.

Proof Hearing :

the judge or court can direct the plaintiff  to submit written documents or tell their story in a proof hearing to support or prove the how much the defendant owes.

Redact :

To redact is to remove or to hide parts of a written document.

Return Date :

The return date is the date the plaintiff and defendant are told to appear in court.

Service :

Service is mailing or delivering copies of your papers to the lawyer for the other party or to the other party directly if they have no lawyer.

Service of Process :

Service of Process is the official delivery of the papers to the other party.

Summons :

summons is the paper that notifies the defendant that he or she is being sued and briefly explains the steps they need to take once they have received this notice.

Testimony :

Testimony is an oral statement given by a witness at a trial or hearing.

Tort :

A tort is an act or failure to act that causes an injury or harm to another that forms the basis of a lawsuit for damages.

Transcript :

transcript is a written record of everything that was said during a court hearing.

Writ :

A writ is a document issued by a court that orders a person, or organization to do something.