WHEN YOU RECEIVE YOUR DOCUMENTS:
Check your documents thoroughly for any errors -- especially check for correct name spellings, addresses, and telephone numbers. Also make sure that the information you gave the legal document preparer was recorded on the form correctly. We are happy to make minor revisions and corrections at no extra charge.
In general, everything you file with the clerk of court, for civil court cases and family law cases, must also be provided to the other party. If you are filing a Petition, Supplemental Petition, Motion for Contempt/Enforcement, and a few other filings they must be personally served on the other party. Service, (service of process) must be done by a Sheriff in the county where the other party resides or by a private process server licensed in that county. You may not serve the papers yourself to the other party.
Signatures: Many of these forms must be notarized or signed in the presence of the clerk of court. You may wait to sign your forms in front of the clerk of the court when you go to the courthouse to file them. Or you may have them notarized ahead of time. Most banks provide notary services at no charge.
Where to file: If you have an existing case you must file your documents in the circuit which retains jurisdiction. If this is a new case that you are initiating, generally, you can file your documents in the circuit where you reside.
Serving the other party: The documents that you file with the clerk of court, must also be provide the same documents to the other party. A sheriff or private process server can do this for you. If the other party resides in the same county as you, the clerk of court may assist you by forwarding the documents for service of process to the sheriff's for service of process.
Answers, Responses, and most Motions do not require delivery by personal service -- (service of process). These may be mailed to the other party via regular mail, after filing the originals with the clerk of court.
It is recommended, but not required, that a Motion for Contempt/Enforcement be served by personal service -- service of process.
After the Other Party Has Been Served: Usually you will receive verification of service of process in the mail after the other party has been served. (Including a self addressed stamped envelope with the documents for service of process will ensure that "proof of service" is returned to you.) Sometimes the process servers and sheriffs provide the verification of service only to the clerk of court, so check with the clerk of court to make sure.
Twenty Calendar Days: Once the other party has been served the other party has 20 calendar days to respond, answer, agree, or disagree with the document(s) that you filed. Begin counting 20 days from the day after the party was served. Calendar days includes weekends, but not holidays. If the twentieth day falls on a Sunday, then the twentieth day is extended to the following Monday; and if that Monday is a holiday then the twentieth day extends to the Tuesday.
Other Party Does Not Respond: If you have received verification that the other party was served; but the other party has not responded within 20 days, contact the clerk of court. Find out if the other party filed their response with the clerk of court; but failed to send a copy to you. If, after 25 days, the other party has not responded; then you may file a Motion for Default and continue your case without the other party.
Other Party Responds: If the other party responds within the 20 days and agrees with everything in your petition you may schedule a hearing. If the other party responds within the 20 days and disagrees with your Petition and/or has filed a Counter Petition -- you may schedule a hearing. You can also file an Answer to the Counter Petition; or wait until the hearing and explain everything to the judge.
The Hearing: Be on time. Dress appropriately, as if you were going to a job interview for an office position. When it is your turn to speak, be as concise and clear as you possibly can. Take all of your documents with you to refer to if necessary, or show to the judge if necessary.
As of June 21, 2014, pro se litigants can e-file their documents for new or existing cases. You are not required to e-file and may elect to continue to file in person or through the mail. Keep in mind, that if you choose to e-file you also agree to receive court notices and pleadings via e-mail. To learn more about e-filing go to: