Civil claims can be filed in the General District Court for disputes involving up to and including $50,000, with certain exceptions (see below for details). Small Claims actions can be filed in the General District Court for disputes involving no more than $5,000.
Civil actions may be brought by warrant, summons, or motion for judgment. This directs the sheriff (or another process server) to summon the person against whom the claim is asserted to appear before the court on a certain day to answer the complaint.
Small Claims Actions
Small Claims actions may be brought by one of two methods, depending on the type of dispute:
Warrant in Debt, when the plaintiff is seeking money judgment of $5,000 or less
Warrant in Detinue, when the plaintiff is seeking recovery of specific personal property valued at no greater than $5,000.
Small Claims court is for pro se litigants only - neither side may be represented by an attorney. The forms must be filled out by the plaintiff who is representing themselves or is acting as a regular and actual employee of a corporation or partnership. (Code of Virginia 16.1-122.1 through 16.1-122.7)
There is no provision for unlawful detainer/eviction actions seeking possession of real property in the Small Claims Court. Unlawful Detainer cases are filed as a Civil Action.
Cases may be filed either in-person or the cases may be mailed to the court. Filing fees are due at the time of filing. Please see the Filing Forms and Fees page for details on the forms needed (i.e., DC-###) and the amount to be included with the filing. All forms can be found at the state's Civil Forms section.
Before You File
For new filings to be accepted by the Clerk's Office, all plaintiff's attorneys and pro se filers must come in person or call the Clerk's Office at 703-246-3012 to be assigned an available date and time for their filing(s). The Clerk's Office also needs an exact count of the cases that will be filed. After obtaining a date/time for your filing, you cannot increase your case count. If a document is filed without calling for an approved docket date/time, it will be returned and cause you delay. All unused, reserved slots must be cancelled 8 weeks prior to the court date.
Once you obtain a date/time for your filing, it will be held for you on the court's calendar. The Clerk's Office processes filings when they are received. They are not held to make sure they are not sent out for service more than 60 days in advance of the court date, so please factor that into when filings are submitted.
Cases are filed at the Civil Division Clerk's Office, Room 211.
You may print out and bring the forms with you, or the Clerk's Office can provide forms for you to fill out.
Please note that clerks cannot provide legal advice. Clerks can answer procedural questions (such as "Where do I put someone's name"), but may not suggest which form to use, or suggest a particular method of achieving something.
Fairfax County General District Court
Civil Division, Room 211
Fairfax, VA 22030
All of the other guidelines and requirements for an in-person filing must be followed by mail.
A check or money order for the appropriate amount of filing fees must be included.
If the filing is deficient in some fashion, it will be mailed back with a letter explaining the deficiency and asking you to correct it. If this deficiency is discovered after the filing fees have been receipted, a receipt will also be provided. You may return the filings with a copy of this receipt to indicate the fees were previously paid.
All filings exceeding 10 pages should be double sided.
All multiple-case filings not received in the clerk's office by 3:30 PM (especially Unlawful Detainer filings on Friday afternoons) will be reviewed, time stamped, and receipted by the clerk's office on the next business day. This may impact Unlawful Detainer cases in court if the service is not made on the defendant at least 10 days before the return date. The service process does not start until after the case has been receipted.
The Code of Virginia sets forth the jurisdiction of the General District Court. The jurisdiction includes:
Civil Claims for Money (Warrant in Debt): Disputes involving $50,000 or less, with exclusive jurisdiction involving cases of $4,500 or less. Between $4,500 and $50,000 may instead be filed with the Circuit Court if that is desired.
Eviction Claims (Unlawful Detainer) and Distress Warrants: Exclusive jurisdiction. These must be filed with General District Court, as well as any crossclaims or counterclaims arising from these actions.
Overweight Truck Violations: The liquidated damages and civil penalty on overweight vehicle violations may exceed the $50,000 jurisdictional limit.
Return Dates for Civil Cases
The return date on a Civil case is the first scheduled date for the case. It is chosen by the plaintiff when filing the case, under certain restrictions, including:
The return date must be within 60 days of service.
It must be set for a time segment provided by the Civil Division on a Monday through Friday, with Fridays reserved for Unlawful Detainer, Landlord/Tenant, and Small Claims cases only.