Delaware Small Claims Court Process

Delaware Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: April 3, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $25,000
Deadline to File 3 Years
Filing Fees $35 – 45
Appeal Deadline 5 or 15 Days

Small Claims Court Basics in Delaware

Small Claims Court is an informal court designed for minor cases limited to a maximum claim amount. The plaintiff and defendant present their case to the judge, who makes a decision, unless either party requests a jury trial.

Common suits filed by landlords include:

  • Recovery of unpaid rent
  • Damages that exceed the amount of the security deposit
  • Failure to uphold the responsibilities of the rental agreement
  • Early termination of a lease

Common suits filed by tenants include:

  • Failure to return the security deposit correctly
  • Failure to uphold the responsibilities of the rental agreement
  • Overcharging for damages

How Long Does the Small Claims Court Process Take in Delaware?

A typical small claims case in Delaware takes two to three months, from the date of filing, but can be longer if there are problems serving the defendant, the trial is continued, or other delays occur.

How Much Can You Sue For in Small Claims Court in Delaware?

In Delaware, the maximum amount that can be recovered through Small Claims Court is $25,000.

To attempt to recover an amount of more than $25,000, the suit must be filed in the Court of Common Pleas.

How Long Do You Have to File a Small Claim in Delaware?

You must file a small claims case regarding a residential lease agreement in Delaware within 3 years.

Are Lawyers Needed or Allowed in Small Claims Court in Delaware?

Small Claims Court is designed to be simple and not require an attorney. However, either party can be represented by an attorney if they so choose.

Corporations and other business entities must submit a Certificate of Representation if they are not represented by an attorney.

Where are Small Claims Cases Filed in Delaware?

In Delaware, Small Claims Court is a division of Justice of the Peace Court. A small claims case should be filed in the civil division of the Justice of the Peace Court where the defendant lives.

You can use the court directory to locate the nearest Justice of the Peace Court with a civil division.

How to File a Small Claims Case in Delaware

File an original plus three copies of a Complaint in person or by mail at your local Justice of the Peace Court. Add one additional copy for each additional defendant. If you file by mail, you must include a check or money order for the filing fee.

How Much Does it Cost to File a Case in Small Claims Court in Delaware?

The fee for filing a case in Small Claims Court in Delaware varies from $35 to $45 depending on the type of case filed:

  • Claims under $1,000 – $35
  • Claims for $1,000 to $5,000 – $40
  • Claims over $5,000 – $45
  • Eviction cases – $45

What if You Can’t Afford to File a Case?

You can still file a case if you cannot afford the fees by filing an Application to Proceed In Forma Pauperis.

Small Claims Court Process in Delaware

After filing a small claims case in Delaware, the appropriate documents are served on the defendant and the defendant files an Answer before the case is scheduled for a trial.

Step 1: Serve the defendant. After you file the Complaint, the appropriate documents are served on the defendant.

The following documents must be served on the defendant:

  • Complaint
  • Summons
  • Answer

    Service on the defendant can be completed by:

    If you selected court service when filing, the cost of service is included in the filing fee. The court will serve the defendant.

    If you selected special process server, you will need to pay an additional fee for service. Contact one of the process servers approved by the court to proceed.

    Step 2: Defendant files an Answer. Within 15 days of receiving the Complaint and Summons, the defendant must file their Answer. Once the Answer has been filed, the court clerk will schedule a trial.

    If the defendant fails to file their Answer, the court will instruct you to submit a Statement in Support of Default Judgment.

    Step 3: Attend the trial. On the trial date, you should bring copies of any evidence you have to support your claim. The judge will give you and the defendant an opportunity to provide your arguments before deciding to dismiss the case or issue a judgment.

    If the defendant does not attend the trial, the judge will issue you a default judgment.

    Winning a Small Claims Judgment in Delaware

    If you win the judgment in Delaware, the other party may appeal the case, you may be paid the judgment within the allotted time period, or you may need to pursue additional actions to recover the debt.

    If the defendant disagrees with the outcome of the trial, they have 15 days from the issuance of the judgment to appeal to the Court of Common Pleas by filing a Notice of Appeal. However, eviction cases must be appealed within 5 days.

    Once the appeal period expires, you can proceed with a court action to enforce payment. In the best case, the judgment debtor pays their debt within this period.

    If the debtor is delinquent on their payment or refuses to pay, there are multiple court actions available to recover the debt. The most common methods are garnishment of wages or placing a lien on real estate. To initiate these processes, you would need to file a case through the Justice of the Peace Court to seek court-enforced payment of the judgment.

    The judge will state the annual interest rate on the judgment. You have 10 years to collect or renew a judgment before it expires.