• The People Clerk Team

Steps Further Filing a California Small claims Lawsuit

Once you file your small claims court lawsuit, the next step is to notify the defendant that they have been sued. This is called "service of process" (also known as "service"). You must serve the defendant at least 15 days before trial if the defendant lives in the county you are suing in. If the defendant lives outside the county you are suing in, then you must serve the defendant at least 20 days before trial.

In this article, learn about:

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or click here to get started.

Service of Process is the step in the small claims court process that most plaintiffs get wrong so place close attention while reading this article. 🛑

Step 1: Select the Person Who Will be Doing the Serving

Ask a friend:

  • Costs: Free (but you will probably need to treat your friend to lunch 😉).

  • Your friend must be over 18 years old and cannot be a party to the case (aka they can't be a plaintiff).

Ask the Court Clerk

  • Costs: Around $10-$15 (costs differ depending on the county).

  • The court clerk notifies the defendant of the lawsuit by mailing the documents using certified mail. Only the Court Clerk can serve using certified mail.

  • The defendant must sign the certified mail receipt clearly (if no signature or illegible signature, then service is invalid).

We do not recommend this option as it is only successful 50% of the time (and according to some sources it is only successful 5% of the time) 🛑.

Hire a Process Server

  • Costs: Around $60- $125 (costs differ depending on the county).

  • A process server is an individual licensed to serve your case documents.

  • They are experts at serving court documents and are highly successful at completing the service of process. 🕵️

Ready for People Clerk to be your small claims assistant?

or click here to get started.

Ask the Sheriff

  • Costs: $40- $60 (only available in some counties, costs differ depending on the county).

  • Only the Sheriff located in the county where the defendant resides will be able to serve the defendant. However, not all sheriff’s offices provide this service. 👮

Step 2: Provide the person who you selected to serve the defendant a copy of the Plaintiff’s Claim and Order to Go to Small Claims Court (SC-100).

Step 3: Once the defendant is served, you will have to file Proof of Service (Form SC-104) (unless you selected the Court Clerk to serve your case).

Ready for People Clerk to be your small claims assistant?

or click here to get started.

Check out our other articles:

How to File Your California Small Claims Court Case

Quick List of Forms for California Small Claims Court

How to Write a Demand Letter

California Small Claims Court Filing Fees

Small Claims Courts by County:

San Francisco Small Claims

Los Angeles Small Claims

Monterey Small Claims

Mercedes County Small Claims

Riverside Small Claims

Orange County Small Claims

We have your back

with California Small Claims Disputes.


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Courtam, Inc dba People Clerk is not an attorney or a law firm, therefore, People Clerk does not provide legal advice. People Clerk uses technology to reduce the costs of pursuing a small claims dispute. People Clerk can only provide self-help services at your direction. 

People Clerk is not affiliated or endorsed by the California Judicial Branch or any government agency. Blank small claims court forms are available for free on the California Courts website


People Clerk does not sell your information to third parties. 

People Clerk is registered in San Mateo County, California as a bonded legal document assistant (2020-1). We can be reached at (650) 385-8507.

© 2020 by Courtam, Inc.