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First read the The Small Claims Booklet, complete the form according to the instructions attached to the form, and then file the claim with court.
Complete the form "Motion for Installment Payments". There is a 14-day waiting period after the motion is mailed. If there are no objections, the order is entered on the 15th day and the garnishment is suspended. If there is an objection filed, you may have to come to court for a hearing on your motion.
Read #2 on the front of the Summons. An "Answer" to the Summons and Complaint must be filed with the Civil Division of the Court within 21 days of the date you were served. You must also serve a copy of your Answer on the opposing party / attorney.
Before you file an Ex Parte Petition with the Court, Petitioner and Transferee will need to:
After your Ex Parte Order is entered the Transferee will need to give the Secretary of States Office a certified copy of this order.
A certificate of mailing is a receipt that provides proof of the date your mail was given to the post office for mailing.
Certified mail requires a signature from the tenant / recipient. If the tenant does not sign for the certified mail, the Court may not consider the tenant properly served.
You can file an answer. If you were served personally, you have 21 days to file an answer. If you were served by mail or outside the State of Michigan, you have 28 days to file an answer.
If you do not file an answer, the plaintiff can file a Default Judgment against you. A Default Judgment is a judgment in favor of one party based on the other party’s failure to take action. For example, the plaintiff may request a default against a defendant because the defendant does not respond to a summons or because the defendant failed to appear.
The Court does not keep account of money owed from Civil Judgments. Please contact the Plaintiff / Plaintiff’s attorney for the amount owed. Payments are made to the Plaintiff / Plaintiff’s attorney.
If filed timely, you may file an Objection to a Garnishment.
Generally, a defendant has 14 days from the date the Writ of Garnishment was mailed to him/her to file an objection. If you have questions regarding the timeliness of the filing, you may contact the Court at 269-982-8683 (Saint Joseph) or 269-684-5274 (Niles).
You may also file a Motion for Installment Payments.
Please bring income information and a list of monthly expenses for the Court to consider when filing a Motion for Installment Payments. After filing a Motion for Installment Payments, a copy of the motion is sent to the plaintiff or their attorney. The plaintiff has 14 days to object to the entry of an Order for Installment Payments. If the plaintiff objects, there will be a hearing in front of the Judge. If you are being garnished, the garnishment does not stop until a Judge signs an order to stop it. If the Judge signs an Order for Installment Payments, you are then responsible to make your payment to the plaintiff or their attorney.
If you have a signed Satisfaction of Judgment, send a copy to all three of the credit bureaus. If you do not have a signed Satisfaction of Judgment, contact the plaintiff or plaintiff’s attorney for entry of a Satisfaction of Judgment.
Eviction is a three step process. Visit our eviction page for more information.
To contact your court-appointed attorney, contact the Public Defender’s office at 269-982-8698.
If a police agency contacts you and advises you that a warrant has been issued for your arrest, you must appear in court for arraignment. The police agency will advise you when to appear for arraignment either in St. Joseph at the courthouse or in Niles at the South County Building. However, you may be arrested on the warrant at any time prior to arraignment.
If, in the past, you were given or received a notice to appear in court for a hearing on a specific date and time for a misdemeanor criminal offense, a misdemeanor traffic offense, or a felony criminal offense and you didn't appear, a warrant would have been issued for your arrest. You must appear for arraignment either in St. Joseph at the courthouse or in Niles at the South County Building. Call the court at 269- 982-8682 in St. Joseph or 269-684-5274 in Niles. You may be arrested on the warrant at any time prior to arraignment.
You must come to the court and tell the Judge before your next payment is due or before the time you were ordered to complete a program. You must check in at the arraignment counter so your file can be obtained and sent into the courtroom for the Judge. If you fail to come to the court voluntarily to tell the Judge, a bench warrant will be issued for your arrest for failure to pay and/or failure to complete a program(s).
You must appear on or before the date you were told to appear or given a written notification to appear. If you have questions, or an emergency arises, you may call the court to explain your emergency. If you do not appear a warrant will be issued for your arrest.
The notice is to inform you of the defendant's (your friend or relative) next court date. If the defendant does not appear, the bond money that you posted will be forfeited. The notice makes you aware of the court date so you can make sure that the defendant appears for his/her hearing at the court.
Changes were made to Michigan's drunk driving laws in 1999 (commonly called "Repeat Offender Legislation") that require the Judge to immobilize the vehicle involved in certain drunk driving offenses, regardless of who owns the vehicle.
You may call the court for information on how to file a motion and schedule an "innocent owner" hearing. The court will set a date and time for you to come to court and explain to the Judge why your vehicle should not be immobilized.
You can contact an attorney, or purchase The Michigan Divorce Book from a local bookstore. You can also purchase a divorce packet by calling the Self Help Legal Resource Center at 269-983-7111, Ext. 8793 or go to the Michigan Courts website.
To open a case without children $175. With children $255. This is just a filing fee. There may be other costs incurred throughout the proceeding.
You must file a motion with the courts and request a hearing. You can get forms to do this from the Friend of the Court or Family Division of the County Clerk's office. The cost to file a motion varies from $20 to $100, depending on the circumstances of the case.
You can obtain a copy from the County Clerk's office. The cost is $1 per page and $10 for certification.
Criminal: all criminal cases start in District Court. If a criminal case is determined to be a felony, it is then bound over into Circuit Court. All misdemeanor cases stay in District Court.
Civil: District Court civil cases are damages under $25,000. Circuit Court civil cases are damages over $25,000.
Family: a domestic case is actually considered a civil matter, however due to the domestic / family issues these cases are filed in the Family Division. All Family Division cases are at Circuit level which include:
The Plaintiff is the person who files the case with the court. The Defendant is the person who the Plaintiff is filing a complaint against. Once a case is opened, this never changes. Any future filings by either party should always list the Plaintiff and Defendant just as the case was originally filed.
You are not required by the court to file an answer. If you choose to file an answer it must be in writing and filed in the County Clerk's office. If you are not sure whether you should file an answer or not, it is highly recommended that you contact an attorney for legal advice.
Criminal: District Court matters are on the 1st floor of the courthouse. Circuit Court matters are also on the 1st floor of the courthouse (County Clerk's office).
Civil: both District and Circuit Court matters are on the 3rd floor of the courthouse.
Family: all Family Division matters are located throughout the 4th floor of the courthouse. Domestic matters and Probate are located in the file room. Juvenile and Friend of the Court offices are located on the 4th floor also. Personal Protection Orders are filed in the County Clerk's Office on the first floor.
To be excused from jury duty for a medical reason, a letter must be submitted from your physician stating that you are unable to serve. This letter should be returned with your questionnaire no later than three weeks before your assigned week of service. These letters are forwarded to the presiding judge for consideration and you will receive verification if you are excused.
If you are permanently disabled, please be certain that your physician includes that information when writing your letter. If your physician does not specify a permanent condition your name may be drawn again the following year.
If you do not return your physician's note with your original questionnaire due to time considerations you are welcome to submit it via email the Jury Clerk or fax to 269-982-8643.
Individuals with hearing problems should participate in the jury selection so that they can hear the acoustics in the courtroom. If they cannot hear properly at that time they should advise the judge or bailiff and they will be excused.
By law, and employer cannot fire, discipline or threaten such action against an employee who is summoned for jury duty or chosen to serve on a jury, even for a long trial. Nor can employers force a worker to go beyond normal hours to make up for time spent on jury service. An employer who takes these actions could be guilty of a misdemeanor or held in contempt of court.
600.1348 Jurors; threats, discharge, or discipline by employer; requiring additional hours of work; misdemeanor; penalty.
(1) An employer or the employer's agent, who threatens to discharge or discipline or who discharges, disciplines, or causes to be discharged from employment or to be disciplined a person because that person is summoned for jury duty, serves on a jury, or has served on a jury, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and may also be punished for contempt of court.
If you are a college student, please provide verification that you will be in school during the time you are on call for jury duty. With verification, your jury service could be changed to a month when you are available.
If the child is not taking any supplemental feedings, a letter must be submitted by the pediatrician for you to be excused. If you do not return your physician's note with your original questionnaire due to time considerations you are welcome to submit it via email to Jury Clerk or fax to 269-982-8643.
Day care services are not available at the courthouse. Jurors are notified several weeks in advance of their week of jury service and this should give you ample time to locate a sitter or a daycare center who you are comfortable with.
Under Michigan law, jurors are paid as follows:
Jurors also receive mileage for their trips to and from court. Prospective jurors who are not selected to sit on a trial are still paid for their participation.
You can be held in contempt of court, fined or even jailed.
People over 70 may be exempted from service if they choose to do so.
You may be called for jury duty more than once, but you may only serve as a seated juror once per year. If you have served as a juror in a court outside of Berrien County and wish to claim this exemption we will require documentation to excuse you.
No, you may not serve. Complete your questionnaire accordingly. If you have been convicted in Berrien County, jury staff will search our records to verify conviction. If you were convicted in another county or state we require proof of sentencing to be forwarded for consideration. If you do not return your documentation along with your original questionnaire due to time considerations you are welcome to submit it via email to Jury Clerk or fax to 269-982-8643.
Jurors who have served less than 12 months ago are not required to serve. While we have procedures in place ensuring that jurors are not called twice in a 12-month period, people occasionally slip through because of name or identification number changes. If you served outside of Berrien County (In a state, federal, or other County's court) we require documentation to excuse you.
Juror information is provided to us by the Secretary of State Office in Lansing. These names are taken from the driver's license and state ID card listing which the Secretary of State's Office maintains. Names are then randomly selected by computer system.
Please advise us of which months you will be available to serve.
Contact the Jury Clerk.
Probation periods may be as short as 90 days or as long as a year or more. The judge and your progress determine the length of probation.
It means that you have either "pled guilty" or been "found guilty" of committing a crime. As a result, the Judge has placed you on "official probation", and is allowing you to remain at home with your parents under the supervision of the court and a Probation Officer.
First, you must fully understand the rules of Probation. If you do not understand them, be sure and ask your Probation Officer to review them with you and ask any questions that you may have.
Second, you must follow all of the rules of Probation. The goal of your probation can be reached by maintaining a good attitude and cooperating with the Court and your parents.
Third, a lack of cooperation, failure or refusal to abide by the rules, may lead to further Court appearances, and other sanctions.
A common violation of Probation is failure to follow the Probation rules. Your Probation Officer will warn you if you are not following the rules. If you fail to follow the rules in spite of the warning, your Probation Officer may charge you with "Violation of Probation" and you will have to appear before the Judge.
Violating the law is another form of probation violation. If you violate the law and are formally charged, you may be placed in the Juvenile Center pending further Court proceedings. You could be required to attend a program designed to assist you in making better choices and avoiding further trouble. You could also be removed from your home to some type of treatment facility depending on the seriousness of the charge or violation.
Yes. The law requires your file to remain in the Family Division of the Court until you have reached 30 years of age. At the time, the record can be expunged. However, certain life or criminal traffic offenses can never be set aside.
Read the information and follow the directions provided on the back of the traffic ticket and on the fines and costs sheet you received from the police officer. If your traffic offense is listed on the fines and costs sheet, you may pay the ticket by mail (exceptions will be noted) within 10 calendar days of the date on the ticket.
Sign the back of the ticket in the appropriate place, make your personal check, money order, or certified check out to the Fifth District Court, and mail the signed ticket / citation and payment to the court address on the front of the ticket.
If your offense is not listed on the fines and costs sheet or you have questions, call the court at 269-982-8680. Pay your ticket with a credit card via the internet or phone!
Read the information on the back of the ticket. In the third box, circle #1 if you want an informal hearing before a magistrate or circle #2 if you want a formal hearing before a judge. Sign your name in the box and return your ticket copy to the court within 10 calendar days from the date that you were issued the ticket. The court address is on the front of the ticket. In two or three weeks you will receive a notice in the mail with a hearing date for you to appear at the court. If you have questions, call the court at 269-982-8680 if your ticket has a court address in St. Joseph, MI. Call 269-684-5274 if your ticket has a court address in Niles, MI.
You must appear in person at the court within 10 calendar days of the date on the ticket. If you would like to plead not guilty by mail send a letter to be received by the court within 10 calendar days of the date on the ticket with that request. Include a copy of your ticket along with your request. If you have questions, call the court at 269-982-8680 for a ticket with a court address in St. Joseph, MI, call 269 684-5274 for a ticket with a court address in Niles, MI.
The money you gave the police officer is your bond money. If you decide to pay the ticket within 10 calendar days, that money will be applied to the total amount of fines and costs that you owe. Refer to the question that asks about paying a ticket for directions.
If you deny responsibility or plead not guilty your bond money will be held in trust at the court until your case reaches a final disposition.
If a police agency contacts you and advises you that a warrant has been issued for your arrest, you must appear in court for arraignment. The police agency will advise you when to appear for arraignment, either in St. Joseph at the courthouse or in Niles at the South County Building. However, you may be arrested at any time prior to arraignment.
If, in the past, you were given or received a notice to appear in court for a hearing on a specific date and time for a misdemeanor criminal offense, a misdemeanor traffic offense, or a felony offense and you didn't appear, a bench warrant was issued for your arrest. You must appear for arraignment either in St. Joseph at the courthouse or in Niles at the South County Building. Call the court at 269- 982-8682 in St. Joseph or 269-684-5274 in Niles. You may be arrested at any time prior to arraignment.
No, the Berrien County Trial Court does not have legal authority to order a traffic school in lieu of points on your driver's license.
Appear in person on or before your extension due date and explain the situation to the traffic clerk who may refer you to a magistrate. Second extensions are not granted over the phone without extenuating circumstances.
You can pay by mail, online, or in person. Visit our payment page for more information.
Assessment of costs is in addition to incarceration. Jail and prison time is not done in place of paying costs.
Assessments made by the court are due until paid in full. They do not go away as there is no statute of limitations in Michigan.
Bankruptcy does not erase court debts.
The only way an Order to Remit Prisoner Funds will be cancelled is to have the case paid in full.
Questions regarding the withholding of funds by the prison(s) must be directed to the prison.
If defendant makes a payment to restitution in which the victim is entitled the restitution is disbursed monthly on the third Thursday of the month. It is disbursed by check and mailed via United States Postal Service. We cannot do direct deposit and it cannot be put on your US Bank debit card (child support).
A license suspension fee of $45 may have been added if not paid timely.
A 20% late fee is assessed once after costs are added to the case and no payment has been received for a period of 56 days.