How Do I Start?

Your Small Claims suit can be eFiled or also done by filing an original and three copies of the original complaint. This section will give you a quick overview of these methods.

The eFiling system allows members of the Bar, who are authorized to practice law, and self-represented (pro se) litigants to initiate approved civil cases, view and submit documents, and pay filing fees electronically. The Lake County Clerk expects that the eFiling application will provide a user-friendly, convenient, and cost effective method for submitting documents to the Lake County Judicial Circuit. Benefits of eFiling include: more accurate and timely information sharing, faster turn-around times, email notification of case events, and online viewing of active case documents.

Attorneys and self-represented (pro se) litigants who want to use the eFiling system must register online to obtain a username and password. To register, the application can be accessed at the following location: Simply select the Register button and follow the instructions to start the registration process.

While there is no fee to use the eFiling system, users will still be required to pay the standard filing fees for new cases and documents as well as a small convenience fee for processing of credit card payments.

Complete instructions are available in the Circuit Clerk’s Electronic Filing Manual located on the Clerks website.

To begin your Small Claims suit filing paper copies:

A. Fill out an original and three copies of the Small Claims complaint and a Small Claims summons (available from the Small Claims Division of the Circuit Clerk’s Office or from the Center for Self- Representation), file them with the clerk, and pay the filing fee.

B. Arrange to notify the defendant of the suit. This can be done in one of three ways:

     1. If the defendant has a mailing address within the state of Illinois,you may choose to give notice by serving the summons by certified mail, return receipt requested. You should fill out and sign the AFFIDAVIT FOR SERVICE BY CERTIFIED MAIL found on the reverse side of the Small Claims summons. Only the clerk, not you, may mail the summons. This method is less expensive than the second. However, if the letter carrier is unable to obtain the necessary signature on the postal receipt (green card), you will have to ask the clerk to issue a second (alias) summons.

     2. If you choose to have the Sheriff serve the summons, place the summons (one original, two copies, each having attached a copy of the complaint) with the Sheriff for hand delivery to the defendant. If the defendant is to be served in Lake County, deliver the summons to the Civil Process Division of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office is located at 25 South Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, Waukegan, Illinois. If the defendant is to be served somewhere outside Lake County, you must arrange to deliver the summons to the Sheriff of the appropriate county and state.

     3. Place the summons and copies with a licensed/registered private detective for hand delivery to the defendant.

NOTE: Regardless of which of the three methods you choose, you must include with the papers with the papers to be served on the defendant(s) the Appearance form.