Frequently Asked Questions

FAQs for Civil Division


To file a lawsuit, you must complete a Complaint form, a Summons form, as well as a Civil Division Action Cover Sheet. These forms are available in the Civil Division of the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County (Clerk’s Office) in Room 601 of the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 West Washington Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60602.

Also, you will have to serve the Defendant either through the Sheriff’s Office or by Certified Mail. You may serve by Certified Mail, if your claim does not exceed $10,000 (Check box for Certified Mail on Summons.)  You may refer to “How do I serve the Defendant” below for information on serving the Defendant.

The Complaint and Summons forms can be downloaded HERE
Yes, you will be required to pay a filing fee. The fee will vary depending on the amount of your claim. You may pick up a schedule of filing fees at the Customer Service Counter in the Civil Division in Room 601 in the Richard J. Daley Center, or go to the Civil Division page and view the fee schedule on the bottom-right of the page.
Yes, you will be required to pay the Clerk’s Office a nominal fee to serve by Certified Mail. NOTE: You may only choose to serve by Certified Mail if your case is under $10,000.  Certified Mail fees are subject to be changed by the U.S. Postal Service. 
After you have completed the Complaint, Summons and Civil Division Action Cover Sheet, get a Return Date from the blackboard in 601 or 602 of the Richard J. Daley Center. You will need to put a Return Date on both the Complaint and Summons forms. The Return Date is important because this is the date by which the party you are suing (the Defendant) must respond.
No.  The Plaintiff does not need to come to court on the Return Date unless you are filing a Forcible Detainer (Eviction), Replevin, Detinue or Revival of Judgment case. The Return Date is only important for the Defendant, the person or party you are suing-- because the Defendant must respond to the lawsuit on or before the Return Date. Think of the Return Date as a response date by which the Defendant must respond to your lawsuit.

Note: The return date is an actual court date when filing the following types of lawsuits: Forcible Detainer (Eviction), Replevin, Detinue or Revival of Judgment.
Pay filing fee and get a case number. Take your completed Complaint, Summons and Civil Division Action Cover Sheet to the cashier at Station 3 in Room 602 of the Richard J. Daley Center to pay the proper filing and Certified Mail fees. You will then be assigned a case number (for example, 04 M1 123456).

NOTE: If serving by Certified Mail leave the Complaint and Summons forms with the cashier. (You may only serve by Certified Mail if the case is under $10,000).
After you have paid your filing fee and/or Certified Mail fee (if serving by Certified Mail) and have been issued a case number, you must serve the Defendant with a Complaint and Summons. It is important that the Defendant is served with your lawsuit (a copy of the Complaint and Summons) within 30 days of the date you filed the lawsuit. Once the Defendant is served with your lawsuit, by law, he or she must file an answer or Appearance in Room 602 in the Richard J. Daley Center on or before the Return Date or Response Day.
You may serve the Defendant through the Sheriff’s Office or by Certified Mail through the Clerk’s Office.

Service by the Sheriff’s Office --- if you want the Sheriff's Office to serve the Defendant then you must take one copy of the Complaint and Summons to the Sheriff’s Office in Room 701 in the Richard J. Daley Center. You will be required to pay a fee. You may determine the fee by visiting the Sheriff’s Office or by calling (312) 603-4915.

Service by Certified Mail --- You qualify to serve by Certified Mail if your claim is under $10,000.  If you wish the Clerk's Office to serve the Defendant by Certified Mail inform the Cashier when you file your lawsuit.

Return the completed forms to Room 602 of the Richard J Daley Center to the Cashier and the Clerk's Office will charge you a nominal fee for service by Certified Mail.
If you served through the Sheriff’s Office, you may learn if the Defendant was served by calling 312-603-4922. If you served by Certified Mail through the Clerk’s Office, you may find out if the Defendant was served by calling 312-603-5116.  You may also view the activities by searching for the court case.
Note that a summons is valid for only 30 days. Consequently, if the defendant is not served within 30 days of filing, the first summons (or a previous summons) will then have expired. If this is the case, you must then complete, file and issue a second summons known as an Alias Summons.  Thus, if the Defendant has not been served within 30 days of filing your lawsuit, you have two options: 1) First, you may complete an Alias Summons form and serve the Defendant through the Sheriff’s Office, by Certified Mail, or Special Process Server with Judge's approval. You may get an Alias Summons form from the Clerk's Office in Room 601 of the Richard J. Daley Center or you may download the form from this website.
If the Defendant was served within the 30 days of your filing date, you may get a court date two (2) days after the Return Date, if an appearance was filed. To get this court date, call the Clerk’s Office at (312) 603-5116 or check the website.

NOTE: The Clerk’s Office cannot help you complete any court forms. If you cannot complete your court forms, take them home and have family or friends help you complete them. Then return to Room 602 in the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 West Washington Street, Chicago, Illinois 60602 with the completed forms.

If you cannot complete the forms because of a disability, and there is no family member or friend to help you, then you may ask a manager about assistance in special circumstances for the disabled.
Whenever anyone files a lawsuit against you, you are “summoned” to answer to the lawsuit on or before the Return Date as indicated on the Complaint and Summons. This means you must file with the court in Room 602 in the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 West Washington Street, Chicago, Illinois 60602 in the Civil Division, a document called an “Appearance.” By filing your Appearance, you are letting the court know that you are appearing to defend or respond to the lawsuit.
Yes. You must complete and file an “Appearance” form.
You may get an Appearance form in Room 602 in the Richard J. Daley Center, or you may download a copy of the Appearance form from this website.
Yes. You must pay an Appearance fee when you file your Appearance.
Any person who uses the court system, or who is brought into the court system through a lawsuit, must pay court fees. If you are the person being sued, you are the Defendant and must pay an Appearance fee to file your answer (defend your case).

The court system, like other state and federal government offices, sustains its operations through the collection of court fees.
No, regrettably we cannot help you complete your forms. If you cannot complete your court forms, take them home and have family or friends to help you complete these forms. Then return to Room 602 in the Richard J. Daley Center with the completed forms.

If you cannot complete the forms because of a disability, and there is no family member or friend to help you, then you may ask a manager about assistance in special circumstances for the disabled.
The Return Date is NOT a Court Date unless your Appearance is for a Forcible Detainer (Eviction), Replevin, Detinue or Revival of Judgment case. In all other cases, think of the Return Date as a Response Date. That is, the Defendant  is required by law to respond to the lawsuit on or before the Return Date by filing an Appearance form.

Note: If this is a Forcible Detainer (Eviction), Replevin, Detinue or Revival of Judgment case, the return date is your court date. If this is the case, you must file an appearance form and appear in court on the return date.
If you fail to respond to the lawsuit by filing an Appearance form on or before the Return Date, you risk being found liable by default (i.e. the Judge may require you to pay the amount in controversy and additional court costs). Once you are before the judge, you can explain the facts of your case.
The person suing you is known as the Plaintiff. It is possible that the Plaintiff may have sued the wrong person. It is also possible that the case filed against you involves a dispute from your past and about which you have forgotten. For more information about the lawsuit, you should call the Plaintiff or his/her attorney.

NOTE: Nonetheless, you must file an Appearance by the Return Date or you risk being found liable by default (i.e., for not filing your Appearance). If this happens, you may incur additional court costs. Once you are before the judge, you can explain the facts of your case.

If, in fact, the Plaintiff sued you in error, you may ask the Judge (when you are in front of the Judge) for an order for the return of your Appearance fee or for an order requiring the Plaintiff to reimburse you for your Appearance fee.
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