An Overview of the Courts in Fairfax County

If you are the plaintiff or defendant (suing or being sued) in a Fairfax County Court or are being sued by someone, you should understand a few things:

There are three different court systems or branches in the Fairfax County Courthouse:

1. General District Court: These courts handle traffic cases, felony preliminary hearings, local ordinance violations, criminal misdemeanors and civil claims. Also known as “GDC,” these courts have exclusive jurisdiction over cases of less than $4,500. They have concurrent jurisdiction with the Circuit Courts to hear cases where the amount in controversy is between $4,500 and $25,000. There are three divisions within the General District Courts: 1) Civil/Small Claims; 2) Traffic; and 3) Criminal. There are currently 10 GDC judges.

2. Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court: These courts may have exclusive jurisdiction over cases involving minors. Also known as “JDR” or “JD&R,” these courts typically handle many domestic matters but cannot grant divorces. Unmarried parties and separated spouses who haven’t filed for divorce may settle their disputes here.

3. Circuit Court: The Fairfax County Circuit Court is a more formal court. There are 15 judges currently assigned to hear cases and a handful of retired judges. If you want a jury trial, you need to be in this court. Circuit Courts have jurisdiction over felony cases, divorces and other pending family law issues and civil cases where the amount in controversy exceeds $25,000. Circuit Courts also have jurisdiction over appeals from GDC and JDR courts.

Once you arrive to the courthouse, you must go through security. Plan to arrive to the courthouse at least 30 minutes before your trial. Parking in the garage will take a few minutes, and you will have to grab a time-stamped ticket which allows you to pay at the self-service pay stations before you leave the garage.

If you are not an attorney, you must leave your cellphone with a security guard attendant. You will receive a numbered metal tag that will allow you to retrieve your cellphone before you leave the courthouse. If you are an attorney, you can typically bring your cellphone through security if you show your Virginia Bar Card and a picture ID. There are also ways for attorneys to bypass security altogether, but this involves applying for a security badge.

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