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Fees for filing a case in small claims court are very moderate–usually not much more than $50. In some states, people with very low incomes can ask to have court filing fees waived. Normally, a defendant doesn't have to pay anything unless the defendant files a claim against the plaintiff (often called a counterclaim). There is usually an additional fee for serving papers on the opposing party, unless you are in a state that allows personal service to be carried out by a nonprofessional process server and you have a friend who will do it for you without charge. (See Chapter 11.) Most states allow service by certified or registered mail, which doesn't cost much. In a few situations, you may have to hire a professional process server. How much this costs will depend partly on how hard it is to find the person you need to serve. You can get your filing fees and service costs added to the court judgment if you win. (See Chapter 15.)

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