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I've filed a claim with the Small Claims Court online service. What happens next?
You must give the defendant a copy of your claim and all supporting documents within 6 months of your claim being issued. This is called serving the defendant.
When you file your claim online, it is issued when the court clerk emails it back to you signed, dated, and with a court file number and the court seal on it.
The defendant then has 20 days to respond to your claim by filling out a Defence. They can:
- agree to pay the full amount of your claim
- agree to pay part of your claim, but explain why they don't think they have to pay the rest
- explain why they think your claim is not correct
- file a claim of their own against you or someone else
If the defendant does not respond to your claim within 20 days, you can ask the court to note them in default. This means the court officially recognizes that they missed the deadline for responding, and they won't be allowed to take part in the court case.
Ontario residents who speak French have the right to bilingual proceedings at Small Claims Court. You can ask for bilingual proceedings in your Plaintiff's Claim or by filing a requisition form or a written statement.
You don't need a lawyer or paralegal to go to Small Claims Court. But you'll probably understand the process better if you talk to a paralegal or lawyer.
There are a lot of rules you must follow when you sue someone in Small Claims Court. If you don't follow the rules or do things within specific time limits, the court may not deal with your claim, and you may have to pay money to the person you sued.
If you earn a low income, you may be able to get legal help from Pro Bono Ontario. They offer services in some court locations in Toronto and Ottawa, and a legal advice hotline where you can get up to 30 minutes of free legal advice.