Small Claims Court

Small Claims Court

Small claims are lawsuits for $3,000 or less. Renters can file for a return of a security deposit of $5,000 or less in small claims court.

Examples of small claims:

  • 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.
  • You bought a product that doesn’t work.
  • 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. NOTE: The limit for security deposit returns is $5,000 in small claims court.

Cases that cannot be filed as small claims:

  • 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 small claims case?

Small claims are simpler than other case types. Most people are able to file and present their cases without an attorney.

Things to think about before representing yourself in court

Small claims — no auto damage

How to Sue in Small Claims Court up to $3,000

This kit has all of the forms and instructions for self-represented litigants to file a small claims case. There is a separate kit if your case is the result of a motor vehicle accident.

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

8 steps to file a small claims case

  1. File the Small Claims Complaint with the court.
  2. Complete the Small Claims Summons.
  3. Include the current address of defendant .
  4. Attach the filing fee or request a fee waiver:
    • One defendant: $42
    • Each additional defendant: $12
  5. Check forms to make sure they are completed. Sign the forms.
  6. Make copies of all documents you will submit to the court and put them in a safe place.
    You must remove all personal identifiers from the copies you will submit to the court. Keep those identifiers on the copies you keep.
  7. Mail or deliver the complaint , the summons and the fee to the county Superior Court where the person or business is. Certified mail is recommended.
    *Note: If the defendant does not file an answer, you will need to pay for the papers to be hand delivered.
  8. You will receive a postcard in the mail with your court date. If you cannot come to court on your assigned date, call the court right away. Your case might be dismissed if you do not come to court.

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).

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

Preparing for trial

Both the plaintiff and defendant will be asked to give testimony in court.

You can bring witnesses. The court cannot accept written statements. You must bring your witnesses to court with you.

Bring all of the documents you need to prove your side of the case at the trial. The court cannot use text messages or emails on your mobile phone. You must print them out and bring them with you.

You will be questioning your witnesses and the witnesses brought by the other person. Write down your questions and bring them to court with you.

Bring to court 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.

Your day in court

  • Your court notice will tell you when you must come to court. Bring all witnesses and evidence needed to present your case.
  • The court will help you try to settle your case through a settlement conference. A staff member will try to help the plaintiff and the defendant reach an agreement.
  • If a settlement cannot be reached, your case likely will be heard by the judge This might happen on your court date, or on a later date.

Settling your case before trial

If you are able to settle the case with the defendant before the trial date, call the Special Civil Part Office right away to tell them that the case has been settled.

Small claims — auto damage

How to Sue for Motor Vehicle damage in Small Claims Court Up to $3,000

This kit has all of the forms and instructions for self-represented litigants to file a small claims case for a damage caused by a motor vehicle accident.

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

8 steps to file a small claims case

  1. File the Small Claims Complaint with the court.
  2. Complete the Small Claims Summons.
  3. Include the address of the person(s) or business you are suing.
  4. Attach the filing fee or request a fee waiver:
    • One defendant: $42
    • Each additional defendant: $12
  5. Check forms to make sure they are completed. Sign the forms.
  6. Make copies of all documents you will submit to the court and put them in a safe place.
    You must remove all personal identifiers on the copies that you submit to the court. Keep those identifiers on the copies that you keep.
  7. Mail or deliver the complaint, the summons and the fee to the county Superior Court where the person or business is. Certified mail is recommended.
    *Note: If the defendant does not file an answer, you will need to pay for the papers to be hand delivered.
  8. You will receive a postcard in the mail with your court date. If you cannot come to court on your assigned date, call the court right away. Your case might be dismissed if you do not come to court.

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).

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

Preparing for trial

Both the plaintiff and defendant will be asked to give testimony in court.

You can bring witnesses. The court cannot accept written statements. You must bring your witnesses to court with you.

Bring all of the documents you need to prove your side of the case at the trial. The court cannot use text messages or emails on your mobile phone. You must print them out and bring them with you.

You will be questioning your witnesses and the witnesses brought by the other person. Write down your questions and bring them to court with you.

Bring to court 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.

Your day in court

  • Your court notice will tell you when you must come to court. Bring all witnesses and evidence needed to present your case.
  • The court will help you try to settle your case through a settlement conference.A staff memberwill try to help the plaintiff and the defendant reach an agreement.
  • If a settlement cannot be reached, your case likely will be heard by the judge This might happen on your court date, or on a later date..

Settling your case before trial

If you are able to settle the case with the defendant before the trial date, call the Special Civil Part Office right away to tell them that the case has been settled.

Small claims — security deposits

How to Sue for the Return of a Security Deposit up to $5,000

This kit has all of the forms and instructions for self-represented litigants to file for the return of their rental security deposit.

To see the return of more than $5,000, you must file a Special Civil case.

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

8 steps to file a small claims case

  1. File the Small Claims Complaint with the court.
  2. Complete the Small Claims Summons.
  3. Include the current address of the person(s) or business you are suing.
  4. Attach the filing fee or request a fee waiver:
    • One defendant: $42
    • Each additional defendant: $12
  5. Check forms to make sure they are completed. Sign the forms.
  6. Make copies of all documents you will submit to the court and put them in a safe place.
    You must remove all personal identifiers on the copies that you submit to the court. Keep those identifiers on the copies that you keep.
  7. Mail or deliver the complaint , the summons and the fee to the county Superior Court where the landlord lives OR where the rental property is. Certified mail is recommended.
  8. You will receive a postcard in the mail with your court date. If you cannot come to court on your assigned date, call the court right away. Your case might be dismissed if you do not come to court.

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).

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

Preparing for trial

Both the plaintiff and defendant will be asked to give testimony in court.

You can bring witnesses. The court cannot accept written statements. You must bring your witnesses to court with you.

Bring all of the documents you need to prove your side of the case at the trial. The court cannot use text messages or emails on your mobile phone. You must print them out and bring them with you.

You will be questioning your witnesses and the witnesses brought by the other person. Write down your questions and bring them to court with you.

Bring to court 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.

Your day in court

  • Your court notice will tell you when you must come to court. Bring all witnesses and evidence needed to present your case.
  • The court will help you try to settle your case through a settlement conference.A staff memberwill try to help the plaintiff and the defendant reach an agreement.
  • If a settlement cannot be reached, your case likely will be heard by the judge This might happen on your court date, or on a later date..

Settling your case before trial

If you are able to settle the case with the defendant before the trial date, call the Special Civil Part Office right away to tell them that the case has been settled.

If you are being sued in small claims court

  • You are the defendant in a lawsuit.
  • You will receive a summons from the court with the date and time to come to the courthouse.
  • You must appear in court on the date stated on the notice.
  • If you do not come to court, a money judgment may be entered against you.
  • If you cannot come to court on the date you were given, you must call the number on the notice. You can ask for a new date.

Do I need a lawyer to defend myself in a small claims case?

Small claims are simpler than other case types. Most people are able to file and present their cases without an attorney.

Things to think about before representing yourself in court

Preparing for trial

Both the plaintiff and defendant will be asked to give testimony in court.

You can bring witnesses. The court cannot accept written statements. You must bring your witnesses to court with you.

Bring all of the documents you need to prove your side of the case at the trial. The court cannot use text messages or emails on your mobile phone. You must print them out and bring them with you.

You will be questioning your witnesses and the witnesses brought by the other person. Write down your questions and bring them to court with you.

Bring to court 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.

Your day in court

  • Your court notice will tell you when you must come to court. Bring all witnesses and evidence needed to present your case.
  • The court will help you try to settle your case through a settlement conference.A staff memberwill try to help the plaintiff and the defendant reach an agreement.
  • If a settlement cannot be reached, your case likely will be heard by the judge This might happen on your court date, or on a later date..

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 defending might have to pay all or part of the money claimed in the lawsuit.

Filing fees in small claims court

  • To sue one defendant :$42
  • Each additional defendant:$12

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 case 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 a fee waiver

When to file an application for a fee waiver

File your fee waiver request when you file your court case.

Under Court Rule 1:5-6, the court clerk cannot file your case unless the required fee is included.

Fee waivers in appeals of Superior Court cases

To apply for a fee waiver in the Appellate Division of Superior Court:

Step 1: You must submit your application in the Superior Court in the county where your case was first filed.

Step 2: If your application is denied in Superior Court, you then have 20 days to apply for a fee waiver in the Appellate Division.

Fee waivers in appeals of agency determinations

File directly with the Appellate Division of Superior Court in Trenton if you want to request a fee waiver in your appeal of an administrative agency determination.

For fee waiver questions, call the Superior Court Clerk’s Office at 609-421-6100.

Frequently Asked Questions about Small Claims Court

Small Claims Frequently Asked Questions

What is small claims court?

The Small Claims Section of the Special Civil Part Court is where you can sue a person or business (the defendant) to collect a small amount of money that you believe is owed to you. You can sue for up to $3,000 in small claims court, or up to $5,000 if the lawsuit is based upon the return of a tenant’s security deposit.

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What types of cases are handled in small claims court?

Examples:

  • 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.
  • Claims for back rent.
  • Return of a tenant's security deposit (Not to exceed $5,000 if suing for the defendant’s failure to return a tenant’s security deposit).

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What claims cannot be filed in small claims court?

Examples of cases that cannot be filed are:

  • 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

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Who can file a complaint in small claims court?

To sue in small claims, a person must be 18 years of age or older. If the person suing is under the age of 18, the complaint must be filed by the parent or guardian.

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Do I need an attorney to file a case in small claims court?

Since small claims court is simpler than in other courts, most people file and present their cases without an attorney.

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What if I want to sue for a larger amount of money?

If the amount of money you are trying to recover is more than the small claims money limits, but less than $15,000, your case should be filed in the regular Special Civil Part.

Cases in which damages are more than $15,000, must be filed in the Civil Part of the Law Division of the Superior Court.

If you believe you are entitled to damages greater than the money limits, but still wish to sue in small claims, you give up your right to recover damages over the money limits. The additional money cannot be claimed later in a separate lawsuit.

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Where do I file a small claims case?

A complaint must be filed in the Office of the Special Civil Part of 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 one of the defendants live or are 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.

Find a Special Civil Part office

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How do I file a case in small claims court?

The Judiciary has kit with forms and instructions for filing a small claims case and another kit for filing a small claims case for motor vehicle damage. The kits also are available in any New Jersey Special Civil Part Office in your county courthouse.

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”). 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 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 any other open court case involving both you and the other party(ies). If there is another case, list which court is handling it.
  • Do not provide any party’s 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 personal identifier is 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.

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How much does it cost to file a small claims case?

The cost for filing a complaint in Small Claims is:

  • One defendant : $42
  • Each additional defendant: $12

Make a check or money order payable to the Treasurer, State of New Jersey.

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

Can I ask the court to waive the filing fee?

You might be able to file your case without paying the filing fee if you qualify. Complete the Fee Waiver form and submit the required documents to the court to see if you meet the guidelines. You can apply for a fee waiver in any NJ state court: Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Superior Court and Tax Court.

Court filing and copy fees might be waived for litigants who

  1. Have income at or below 150% of the current poverty level (based on the number of people in the household); AND
  2. Have no more than $2,500 in liquid assets such as cash or bank accounts.

When to file an application for a fee waiver

File your fee waiver request when you file your court case.

Under Court Rule 1:5-6, the court clerk cannot file your case unless the required fee is included.

You can apply for a fee waiver even if you have a lawyer.

You can still request a fee waiver if your attorney either

  • works for Legal Services of New Jersey or an associated regional program; OR
  • works for a public interest or legal services organization, law school clinic or pro bono program that has been certified for fee waiver status by the Supreme Court under Court Rule 1:21-11.

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How do I Prepare for Trial?

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 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 might help you prove your case. Examples:

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

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 summons . If you do not, a default judgment might be entered against you, and you might 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 Special Civil Part Office right away to tell them that the case has been settled.

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What Happens on the Day of Trial?

  • Your court notice will tell you when you must come to court. Bring all witnesses and evidence needed to present your case.
  • The court will help you try to settle your case through a settlement conference.A staff memberwill try to help the plaintiff and the defendant reach an agreement.
  • If a settlement cannot be reached, your case likely will be heard by the judge This might happen on your court date, or on a later date.

If you win your case and need information on how to collect your judgment , you can find that information in our “Collecting a Money Judgment” brochure. The brochure is available in any New Jersey Special Civil Part Office in any county courthouse.

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Can I Appeal?

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

When to file an appeal

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, however, the appeals process can be confusing and it is a good idea to get a lawyer if you can.

Things to think about before representing yourself in court

Steps to file an appeal

  1. File a Notice of Appeal.
  2. Request a transcript 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.

Download appeals forms and instructions

Filing Fees

  1. $250 must be submitted with the Notice of Appeal. This is the cost of the appeal.
  2. $300 must be submitted with to the clerk of the Appellate Division within 30 days of filing the Notice of Appeal. This will be refunded if you win your appeal. If you lose your appeal, the money can be used to pay settlement or court costs.
  3. Transcript fee. Once you request a transcript, you will be contacted with the estimated cost.

Do you qualify for a fee waiver ?

If you received a fee waiver in your small claims case, you can attach a copy of the order and a signed letter that says your finances have not changed since the case was filed.

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 deliver your appeals documents to:

Appellate Division of Superior Court
Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex
P.O. Box 006
Trenton NJ 08625

Send copies of your appeals document to:

  1. All parties in the case who appeared in court
  2. The local Superior Court office that handled your small claims case
  3. The judge who decided your small claims case

Keep a copy of each document for yourself.

Questions about your appeal?

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

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Appealing a small claims case

Either party can appeal a decision in small claims 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

Steps to file an appeal

  1. File a Notice of Appeal.
  2. Request a transcript 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 How to File an Appeal self-help kit.

Filing Fees

  1. $250 must be submitted with the Notice of Appeal. This is the cost of the appeal.
  2. $300 must be submitted with to the clerk of the Appellate Division within 30 days of filing the Notice of Appeal. This will be refunded if you win your appeal. If you lose your appeal, the money can be used to pay settlement or court costs.

Do you qualify for a fee waiver ?

Did the small claims 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 of Superior Court
Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex
P.O. Box 006
Trenton NJ 08625

Send copies of your appeals document to:

  1. All parties in the case who appeared in court
  2. The local Superior Court office that handled your small claims case
  3. The judge who decided your small claims 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 a Money Judgment

If you were awarded a judgment in small claims court, 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 your 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. Mileage: You will be charged for the distance the special civil part officer has to travel from the county courthouse to the judgment debtor’s home or place of business.
  • Mileage: You will be charged for the distance the special civil part officer has to travel from the county courthouse to the judgment debtor’s home or place of business.
    See the special civil part officer mileage rates.
  • 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 copy 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 in 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 a 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 immediately be 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% commission and send the rest to you.

If the money is not collected

If the debt is not collected within two years, the debtor can choose to:

  1. Request a new writ of execution from the court by following the same procedures you followed 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 your judgment is recorded in the Superior Court, the debtor cannot sell with clear title any real estate owned in New Jersey until your 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
    • Clerk of the Superior Court
    • Richard J. Hughes Justice Complex
    • PO Box 971
    • Trenton, NJ 08625

Glossary of Terms

Breach of Contract:   A breach of contract is a failure to perform a promise that is a part of a written or oral contract.

Brief:  A 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 with the court, swearing that you believe the information contained in the 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.

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

Default:  When the defendant does not appear in court to respond to the complaint or does not file an answer, a judge could order in your favor. This is called a default. Also, if you do not show up in court, the court could dismiss your 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 to begin the court’s consideration of your request.

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

Litigant:  A litigant is person in a court case.

Motion:  A 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, governmental agency, etc., 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 party who starts the lawsuit.

Redact:  To redact is to remove or to hid parts of a written document.

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

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

Summons:  A 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.

Tort:  A tort is when someone has harmed you and you want them to pay for it.

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

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