After the Small Claims Trial

After the Trial

The court may have ordered one party to pay money to the other party. The party who wins the case and is owed the money is called the judgment creditor. The party who loses the case and owes the money is called the judgment debtor.

Automatic Stay

The prevailing party must wait 30 days from the date of the mailing of the Notice of Entry of Judgment before taking any action to collect the judgment.  During this period (30 days), the opposing party has a right to appeal. If the opposing party was not present at the small claims hearing, they have no right to appeal, but may file a motion to vacate. If the opposing party does not file an appeal or a motion to vacate within 30 days of the Notice of Entry of Judgment, then the prevailing party may begin collection proceedings on the 31st day.


Only the defendant, or plaintiff on a defendant's claim, has a right to appeal. The appeal must be filed within 30 days of the date the clerk mailed the Notice of Entry of Judgment. An appeal is a new hearing that shall include the claims of all parties who were parties to the small claims action at the time the Notice of Appeal was filed. 

To file an appeal, fill out the Notice of Appeal (SC-140) form and pay the correct fees with the clerk. The appeal will be scheduled and all parties will be notified by mail of the appeal hearing date. A small claims appeal is called a trial de novo. A de novo hearing means the appeal court will hear the case without regard to what happened at the first hearing. An attorney may represent any party at the appeal hearing. Judgment on the appeal is final.

Motion to Vacate

If you did not appear at the first hearing and judgment was entered against you, you may file a motion to vacate. If you were served with notice of the lawsuit, the motion to vacate must be filed within 30 days of the mailing of the Notice of Entry of Judgment. If you did not receive any notice of the lawsuit, you must file the motion to vacate within 180 days of discovery that judgment was entered against you.

File the Notice of Motion to Vacate Judgment and Declaration (SC-135) and pay a fee with the clerk.

At the motion to vacate hearing, you must explain to the court why you were not at the first hearing. You cannot argue the facts of the underlying case unless your motion is granted and all parties are present and agree to have the case heard at that time. If the motion to vacate is granted and all parties are not present, the case will be continued.

If the motion to vacate is denied, you have (10) ten days to appeal the denial. This appeal is not an appeal of the underlying case; it is only an appeal of the denial of the motion to vacate. However, a plaintiff filing a motion to vacate has no right to appeal if the motion is denied.

Judgment Debtor's Credit Report

Be aware that the judgment will appear on your credit report. The credit reporting bureaus go to each courthouse and get information for their records. Once the judgment is paid in full, send a certified copy of the Acknowledgment of Satisfaction of Judgment to the credit reporting agencies so the judgment will appear on your credit report as satisfied.