Which Court Do I File In: The Virginia Court Tiers Explained

When you are ready to file a case in the Virginia Court System, the first thing you need to consider is: which Court do I file in? The Virginia Court system is set up as the Small Claims Court, General District Court, Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court, Circuit Court, Virginia Appeals Court, and the Virginia Supreme Court.

Small Claims Court

The Small Claims Court is run by the General District Court, but has a maximum judgment amount of $5,000. Additionally, you cannot be represented by an attorney in Small Claims Court. So, you would only file in Small Claims if you were seeking a money judgment or the return of personal property less than $5,000 and neither you nor the other party were represented by an attorney.

General District Court

General District Court has a maximum judgment amount of $24,000. The General District Court also handles Unlawful Detainers (evictions). In this Court, you can sue another party for possession of property or for a money judgment. Attorneys are allowed to represent clients in this Court, but are not required. Also, if you are filing for a protective order against a non-family member, it would be done here.

Juvenile & Domestic Relations Court

The J&DR Court is unlike any other Court in Virginia. Its hearings are not open to the public and it handles specific types of cases. If you are filing for child custody, visitation, support, or spousal support alone, outside of a divorce case, then you would file that case in the J&DR Court. If you are filing for a divorce and including other family issues, then you would file the entire case in Circuit Court. Other cases heard in J&DR Court are name change petitions and family member protective orders.

Circuit Court

The Virginia Circuit Court handles all matters with a judgment over $24,000, divorce cases and appeals from the General District Court and the J&DR Court. Once a Judgment is given in the General District Court or the J&DR Court you have the automatic right to an appeal to the Circuit Court and a new trial will be held. Make sure you file your appeal within the time limits allowed.

The Virginia Court of Appeals and Virginia Supreme Court

The Court of Appeals and Supreme Court handle appeals cases from the Circuit Court. The Court of Appeals handles appeals of divorce matters, the Supreme Court handles appeals of other matters. You have no right to appeal a case up to one of these courts, you have to prove that the Circuit Court Judge did not follow the law when making a Judgment. If you are thinking about appealing to one of these higher courts, there is a time limit you need to be aware of.

If you’re ready to get a file your case, or just want advice on the matter, Contact Keithley Law, PLLC today by calling (703) 454-5147 and schedule an initial consultation in our Fairfax law office with one of our Virginia attorneys. We can walk you through the steps to get the most out of your case.

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