Small Claims Court in Cook County

In Cook County, IL small claims cases are typically filed in the Small Claim Court. Cook County has six courthouses that handle small claims, serving different jurisdictions.

Squabble is here to assist you in navigating the small claims court system and filing a claim with ease. We recognize that not everyone is a legal expert, and our goal is to simplify the process for you. This guide will answer your questions about filing claims in the Cook Court System.

Small Claims Court

Small Claims Court is a venue where individuals can file lawsuits against others or businesses for amounts up to $10,000. Cases may arise from agreements or instances where someone has caused harm to you or your property.

n Small Claims Court, judges can only issue judgments for monetary compensation; they cannot enforce actions, halt actions, or order the return of property.

Reasons to File a Small Claims Suit

Small claims court can handle various types of claims, including:

  • Money debts
  • Personal injury
  • Property damage
  • Tenant/Landlord Dispute
  • Stolen Property
  • Auto Repair
  • Poor Construction
  • Product Defect
  • Broken Contracts or Verbal Promises

Before Filing

Before filing a Small Claims Complaint, consider attempting to resolve the issue outside of court. Direct communication with the other party may lead to a resolution, saving time, effort, and expenses. Contact the other party to explain your position and desired settlement.

Also, assess whether the defendant has the financial means to satisfy a judgment. If they lack money, income, or property, even if the court rules in your favor, collecting may prove challenging.

Who Can Sue in Small Claims Court?

Any individual aged 18 or older may file a complaint, with or without legal representation. However, individuals under 18 must have legal representation. Corporations can also file complaints but must be represented by a lawyer.

Small Claims Cost

There are fees associated with filing a Small Claims Complaint, including the filing fee and costs related to filing and serving the Small Claims Summons.

If you're unable to afford the filing fee, you can request the court to waive or reduce the fee by submitting an Application for Waiver of Court Fees, available at

When filing a Small Claims Complaint, ensure the defendant is correctly named. If the defendant's name is incorrect, you cannot collect money against them. Identify if your lawsuit is against an individual or a business:

  • For individuals, use their full name to the best of your knowledge.
  • For incorporated businesses, use the full legal name and address, which can be found in the online database of the Illinois Secretary of State.
  • For unincorporated businesses, sole proprietorships, or general partnerships, name the owner of the business with "d/b/a" (doing business as) if applicable.
  • File your Small Claims Complaint in the county where the defendant resides or where the events of the case occurred, such as where the accident happened or where the contract was signed.
  • Indeed, a business can be sued in any county where it conducts business or maintains an office. You can determine their locations by visiting their website or contacting them directly.

Once you identify the appropriate county to file your case, submit it to the clerk of the circuit court in that county. Filing your claim in the wrong county may lead to dismissal or transfer to the correct courthouse. If you're uncertain about the correct county, seeking legal advice is advisable.

Initiate Your Case

To initiate your small claims case, you'll need several forms:

  1. Small Claims Complaint: This form requests a money judgment from the court and provides essential case information. Ensure to provide an email address and mailing address where important legal documents will be sent. It's advisable to use a personal email account that you check regularly.

  2. Small Claims Summons: This form notifies each defendant that you're seeking a money judgment against them.

  3. Letter to Sheriff: This form is necessary when suing a defendant located outside the county where you filed your Small Claims Complaint or outside Illinois.

  4. Application for Waiver of Court Fees: This form is only required if you're unable to pay the filing fee. It allows you to request the court to waive or reduce the fee.

You can find these forms on the Illinois Courts website at

When completing your Small Claims Complaint:

  • Enter your name as the Plaintiff at the top.
  • Write the name of the person or business you're suing as the Defendant.
  • Ensure to include the correct legal name, address, and phone number of the Defendant. For incorporated businesses, use their legal name.
  • Outline the facts explaining why the Defendant owes you money. Specify the amount requested (up to $10,000) without including court costs, as these may be awarded separately.
  • Sign the Small Claims Complaint at the bottom before filing.

Let the other party know about your case

Here are some important things to remember about a Summons:

  1. You have to send the Summons to the other party within a certain number of days. You can find out how many days from the clerk's office at the court where you filed.
  2. There are specific ways you can send the Summons. Check out the instructions for serving a Summons for step-by-step guidance.
  3. Serving a Summons usually costs money. The cost depends on how you choose to serve it.
  4. If you don't give the other party a Summons within the required time, your case might get dismissed because they didn't know about the lawsuit.

Court Fees

When filing a small claims case, plaintiffs are responsible for a filing fee and a service fee. The filing fee depends on the amount you are claiming:

  • For claims of $0.01 - $250.00: $119.00
  • For claims of $250.01 - $1,000.00: $172.00
  • For claims of $1,000.01 - $2,500.00: $177.00
  • For claims of $2,500.01 - $3,000.00: $227.00

Service Fee

The service fee covers the cost of notifying the defendant that they are being sued. This process is known as serving. Accepted forms of payment are cash, credit card, money order or cashier's check. You can choose between two methods of service:

  1. *Certified Mail:
    • $12.30 per service to an individual residence
    • $20.59 per service to a business or storefront
  2. Sheriff Service:
    • $60.00 per service

Time and Place of Your Trial

Court Dates:

  • Court dates, or trial dates, are set for 14 days after the return date.
  • The "return date" is located at the top right-hand corner of the complaint form, usually printed in bold letters. This is the date by which the defendant or their legal representative must file an appearance with the Clerk’s office. They do not see a judge on this date.

Presentation of Your Claim:

  • Below the "return date" is the court date or trial date, which is 14 days after the return date. On this date, both the plaintiff and the defendant appear before the judge.
  • If the defendant is not properly served after the first attempt, you must try again. If the defendant does not receive the summons, the staff at the Pro Se Filing Desk can help you complete and submit an alias summons. This will have a new return date and trial date, 14 days after the new return date.

Going To Court

When it comes to going to court:

  • If you filed your lawsuit in Cook County, you can skip going to court on the return date.
  • For lawsuits filed in any other county in Illinois, you usually need to show up on the return date. But, you might be able to appear via phone or video call. Check with the circuit clerk when you file your complaint to be sure.
  • Dress sharp, like you're going to a big business meeting.
  • Arrive early at court just in case, and check in with the clerk when you get there.

On Your Trial Date:

  • Court begins promptly at 9:30 a.m. Ensure you are signed in before 9:30 a.m. To sign in, approach the clerk with all necessary paperwork and provide your name and case number. After signing in, take a seat and wait for your name and case number to be called.

If Your Case is Dismissed

If your case is dismissed, you have 30 days to file a motion to vacate the dismissal, reinstate the case, and request an immediate trial. The pro se staff will assist you in preparing this motion and notice. If You Cannot Attend a Scheduled Court Date If you cannot attend a scheduled court date due to hospitalization, illness, or another valid reason, you may file a motion to postpone the case. The pro se staff will help you prepare this motion and notice.

Important Steps:

You are responsible for notifying the other parties involved. If you and your opponent agree on a new date, the judge will try to accommodate you. Regardless, you or your legal representative should appear in court on the scheduled date. The judge will then decide whether to grant or deny your motion for a continuance.

What to Bring on Your Court Date

Bring the Following:

  1. Witnesses: Any persons who can help your case.
  2. Documents: Such as leases, contracts, sales or rent receipts, letters from or to the plaintiff or defendant, paid repair bills, three estimates for repairs, canceled checks, photographs, and merchandise (like damaged clothing) that support your position.

Note: Your papers cannot help you if you do not have them with you. If you're unsure whether certain documents will be needed, bring them just in case.

If the Case is Continued: Bring all your materials and witnesses to the next court date. Communicating with the Judge, Court Officer, or Other Party.

Presenting Your Case:

  • Calmly and clearly explain who, what, when, where, and why regarding your case to the judge.
  • Do not argue with the other party.
  • Show the judge your papers, damaged clothing, or any other merchandise that supports your case.
  • Bring paid bills as evidence for repaired items or items that replaced damaged ones, or to show the fair market value of the property before and after the damage occurred.
  • If suing for damages to property that hasn't been repaired, bring three estimates of the repair costs.

Rights and Obligations of the Defendant

Appearance Options:

  • Defendants may appear in court without a lawyer (pro se) or with a lawyer.

If You Do Not Appear:

  • If you are properly served with a summons or notice to appear in court on the trial date and do not show up, an “ex-parte” judgment may be entered against you unless the court continues (postpones) the case.
  • If you cannot attend, you (or your legal representative) should come to court to request a continuance.

Contesting the Claim as a Defendant.

Requesting More Time:

  • If you need more time, you or someone authorized to act on your behalf (such as an attorney) must come to court and ask for a continuance.

Filing an Appearance:

  • The defendant must file an appearance as directed in the summons. Filing an appearance means acknowledging that you received the court documents and are aware of the case pending against you. The fee for filing an appearance is payable to the clerk in Room 602 of the Daley Center. Keep your receipts.

Appearance Fees:

  • For claims of $0.01 - $1,500.00, the appearance fee is: $176.00
  • For claims of $1,500.01 - $3,000.00, the appearance fee is: $186.00

Additional Information for Defendants

Trial Date:

  • Defendants must be in court for the trial. The trial date is 14 days after the “Return Date,” which is shown near the top of the Pro-Se Complaint as the “Trial Date.”
  • If the defendant does not appear at the trial, a judgment may be entered for the plaintiff.

Courtroom Protocol:

  • Defendants appearing in the Courtroom are not required to submit a written response addressing the allegations in the complaint.

Filing a Counterclaim:

  • If you believe the plaintiff owes you money, you may file a counterclaim against the plaintiff.
  • The pro se staff in Room 602 will help you prepare a counterclaim.


After hearing both the plaintiff's and the defendant's arguments, the judge will issue a ruling (or judgment). Here are the five general outcomes of a pro se small claims trial:

  1. Judge Rules in Favor of Plaintiff: A judgment will be entered, and the defendant is responsible for the judgment amount plus court costs if so ordered by the court.
  2. Judge Rules in Favor of Defendant: The case will be dismissed.
  3. Plaintiff Does Not Appear on Trial Date: The case will be dismissed.
  4. Defendant Does Not Appear on Trial Date: The judge may enter an “ex-parte” judgment (meaning one-sided). If the ex-parte judgment is not set aside by the court (on a motion filed by the defendant within 30 days after the judgment is entered), it is open to collection.
  5. Settlement: The parties may be given an opportunity to meet with a mediator to resolve their case. Mediators are volunteers who help the parties reach an agreement but do not render decisions. If the dispute is not resolved in mediation (generally allotted 40 minutes), the case will proceed to trial.


Both parties can try to settle the case at any time. The judge can also help the parties reach a settlement. Most cases involving lawyers end in settlements. Remember, a bad settlement could be better than a good lawsuit.


Responsibility for Collection:

  • The judge and clerks do not collect money. It is the plaintiff's responsibility to collect any money awarded to them.
  • However, the court and the pro se staff in Room 602 will assist you with the payment process.

Collection Process:

  • Collecting a judgment requires time and patience.
  • The plaintiff has the right to contact the defendant at reasonable times regarding the collection of money.

5 Ways to Collect a Judgment

  1. Memorandum of Judgment (MOJ): Submit a motion for a memorandum of judgment. If the judge grants it, a lien is placed on the title of any real estate owned by the defendant.
  2. Wage Deduction: A wage deduction order can be sent to the defendant’s employer, requiring a certain percentage of wages to be withheld over a specified number of weeks to pay the judgment.
  3. Garnishment: A garnishment order can be entered against anyone owing money to the defendant (such as a bank, tenant, or debtor). This means that the money owed to the defendant should be paid to the plaintiff, either in total or in installments.
  4. Citation: A citation may be issued, requiring the defendant, banks, employers, or other entities to come to court or answer questions about bank accounts, money, real estate, or other assets from which the judgment may be paid.
  5. Attachment (After Citation): If a citation is issued and a rule to show cause takes place, an attachment may be issued for the defendant’s arrest if:
    • The court issued a citation.
    • A ruling to show cause occurred.
    • The court deems an arrest to be appropriate.

Who Pays Court Costs:

The judge will generally order the losing party to pay the court costs. Additionally, the defendant may have to pay the plaintiff interest on the unpaid judgment at the statutory rate.

Let Squabble Help You With Your Small Claim at Cook County

Don't allow the intricacies of the legal system to discourage you from pursuing justice and compensation for your claim. With Squabble, you have a dedicated partner to streamline the process and guide you toward resolution. Whether you're contemplating filing a claim at Cook County small claims court, Squabble is here to support you at every stage. Reach out to us today to commence your journey toward justice and compensation. Get started today and become one of the 95% of our customers who won or settled their case.

Courthouses Location:

  1. First Municipal District (Chicago)

    Richard J. Daley Center
    50 West Washington Street, Room 601
    Chicago, IL 60602
    (312) 603-2000


    • Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., except court holiday
  2. Second Municipal District (Skokie)

    Skokie Courthouse
    5600 Old Orchard Road, Room 136
    Skokie, IL 60077
    (847) 470-7200
    (847) 470-7250 Clerk of the Circuit Court


    • Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., except court holiday
  3. Third Municipal District (Rolling Meadows)

    Rolling Meadows Courthouse
    2121 Euclid Avenue, Room 121
    Rolling Meadows, IL 60008
    (847) 818-2287
    (847) 818-3000 The Clerk of the Circuit Court


    • Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., except court holiday
  4. Fourth Municipal District (Maywood)

    Maywood Courthouse
    1500 Maybrook Drive, Room 236, Maywood, IL 60153
    (708) 865-6040 The Clerk of the Circuit Court


    • Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., except court holiday
  5. Fifth Municipal District (Bridgeview)

    Bridgeview Courthouse
    10220 South 76th Avenue, Room 121
    Bridgeview, IL 60455
    (708) 974-6500 The Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court


    • Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., except court holiday
  6. Sixth Municipal District (Markham)

    Markham Courthouse
    16501 South Kedzie Parkway, Room 119, Markham, IL 60428
    (708) 232-4444
    (708) 232-4551 The Clerk of the Circuit Court


    • Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., except court holiday
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