South Dakota Small Claims Court Process

South Dakota Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: April 4, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $12,000
Deadline to File 6 years
Filing Fees $20.76 to $38.76 ($8.76/each additional defendant)
Appeal Deadline N/A

Small Claims Court Basics in South Dakota

Small Claims Court is an informal court designed for minor cases limited to a maximum claim amount. The trial does not involve a jury. Instead, the plaintiff and defendant present their case to the judge, who makes a decision.

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 South Dakota?

A typical small claims case in South Dakota takes one to two 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 South Dakota?

In South Dakota, the maximum amount that can be recovered through Small Claims Court is $12,000.

To attempt to recover an amount of more than $12,000, the suit must be filed as a regular civil case.

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

In South Dakota, you must file a small claims case for most landlord-tenant issues within 6 years.

Are Lawyers Needed or Allowed in Small Claims Court in South Dakota?

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.

Where are Small Claims Cases Filed in South Dakota?

In South Dakota, a small claims case should be filed with the Clerk of Court in the county where the rental property is located or where the defendant lives. Use the court finder search to locate the appropriate Clerk of Court.

How to File a Small Claims Case in South Dakota

File the following documents in person with your local Clerk of Court with the filing fee:

If the defendant is a corporation or other business entity, the Affidavit of Military Status is not required.

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

In South Dakota, the filing fee for a small claims case ranges from $20.76 to $38.76 depending on the claim amount:

  • $100 or less – $20.76
  • $100.01 to $1,000 – $26.76
  • $1,000.01 to $3,999.99 – $36.76
  • $4,000 to $12,000 – $38.76
  • Plus $8.76 for each additional defendant

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

You can still file a case if you cannot afford the fees by filing a Motion to Waive Filing Fees. Contact your local Clerk of Court to obtain the appropriate form.

Small Claims Court Process in South Dakota

After filing a small claims case in South Dakota, the court will schedule a trial (or default hearing) date and the appropriate documents are served on the defendant.

Step 1: Serve the defendant. After you file the case, the clerk will issue a notice to be served on the defendant.

Service on the defendant can be completed by:

  • Certified mail by the court
  • Private process server
  • Sheriff

Your filing fees include service by certified mail, which will be handled by the court unless you select optional service methods on your Statement of Claim form. If service by certified mail is unsuccessful, you will need to serve the defendant by hiring a process server or contacting the sheriff’s office.

Step 2: Defendant files a Denial or Counterclaim. Once the defendant has been served, they are required to file a Denial/Counterclaim form with the clerk. If the defendant fails to file their response, a default judgment may be issued.


Some courts (like in Sioux Falls) hold default hearings before the case is scheduled for a formal trial. If a defendant attends the default hearing and the case cannot be settled, the case will be scheduled for a trial. If the defendant does not attend, a default judgment will be issued. You must attend the default hearing.

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 South Dakota

If you win the judgment in South Dakota, you may be paid the judgment within the allotted time period, or you may need to pursue additional actions to recover the debt. Decisions made in South Dakota Small Claims Court cannot be appealed.

Judgments are due immediately unless the judge determines a time period for repayment. 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, you can ask the Clerk of Court to issue an execution, which instructs the sheriff to attempt to collect your judgment. If you know where the judgment debtor is employed, you can seek garnishment of wages by filing a garnishment with the Clerk of Court.

A judgment gains interest at a rate of 10% annually. You have 10 years to collect or renew a judgment before it expires.