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Court Case Basics

The court system is set up to decide disagreements by having a judge, sometimes a jury, decide the facts by listening to all sides of the case. Once the court has decided what actually happened, the court applies the law to the facts. Every court case is different. The information in this section is general to help you get an idea of the steps in a civil court case. For information about a specific type of court case (for example: Families and Children or Homes and Evictions, or Criminal) visit the topic that applies to you. For general information about the rules and procedures in Civil Court cases read How to Try or Defend a Civil Case When You Don’t Have a Lawyer.

Basic Steps in a Court Case
Read an overview of the basic court case.

How Court Cases Start
Learn basic information about starting and answering court cases (pleadings).

How Legal Papers are Delivered
By law, legal papers have to be delivered (served) to the other side the right way. Find out how to serve papers, about proof of service and common examples of bad service.

Preparing for Trial: Discovery
Find what you need to know about sending and collecting information about the case to and from the other side to prepare for trial.

Preparing for Trial: Evidence
Learn about the rules to follow for witnesses and other evidence.

Trial
Find out the basic steps in a trial, including how to make objections.

Judgments
Learn about the judgments, final decision of the court after trial, inquest, default, stipulation or motion. Read about entry and satisfaction of judgments.

Settlements
Most cases never have a trial because both sides agree to the outcome of the case in a settlement.

How to Ask the Court for Something
If you want to ask the court for something in your case you must do it in writing. This section tells you how to make written court papers called a motion and an order to show cause.

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