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Magistrate Court

Judge Joyette M. Holmes

Chief Magistrate Judge Joyette M. Holmes

FAQ Topics

Please note the following when paying citations online:
  • Tickets are payable on online after they have been received and processed by the court. This may take up to 10 business days.
  • Your on-line payment must be made no later than 7 p.m. two days before your court date. For example, a ticket for a Thursday court date must be paid no later than 6:59 p.m. on Tuesday. Citations are not payable on-line after the court date.
  • Non-payable citations will not be available on-line. If it has been at least 10 business days since you received your citation, and you are unable to access your citation on online please call (770) 528-7997 M-F between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Is paying my ticket online safe?

Making payments online is actually safer and more dependable than paying by mail. VitalChek has implemented a state-of-the-art secure network for processing payments. This system uses cutting-edge encryption technology to ensure that only those approved by you can have access to your confidential information.

What forms of payment can I use to pay a ticket online through VitalChek?

VitalChek accepts Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express for online payment of tickets.

What's a convenience fee in VitalChek?

This is a fee assessed by VitalChek for providing the ability to perform real-time Internet transactions in an easy, secure and reliable manner.

Will I receive a confirmation after made my payment?

After completing the payment process, a receipt page with a corresponding confirmation number will be displayed. You're encouraged to print this page for your records. You will be sent a return email confirming your payment.

What is the latest time I can submit my payment?

Your ticket payment must be made to the VitalChek online payment system no later than 7 p.m. two days prior to your scheduled court date. For example, a ticket for a Thursday court date must be paid no later than 6:59 p.m. on Tuesday. The county recognizes the date printed on the confirmation page as the date of payment.

Can I file my case in the Magistrate Court?

The Cobb County Magistrate Court is also referred to as small claims court. You can file a claim for which you are seeking $15,000.00 or less. If your claim exceeds $15,000.00 principal, the Magistrate Court does not have jurisdiction (the legal authority) to hear your case, and it must be filed in another court; such as, State Court or Superior Court. This limit applies to both the claim of the Plaintiff and any counterclaim of the Defendant. Interest and court costs do not affect the jurisdictional amount.

Are there any types of cases that cannot be filed in Magistrate Court?

Certain types of cases cannot be filed in Magistrate Court, regardless of the amount in recovery being sought, such as, divorce and family matters and any case in which the Court would be called upon to decide who is the legal owner of real estate. Furthermore, the Magistrate Court cannot issue an injunction, which is an order directing a party to take some action such as repairing or returning property.

Who may file a claim or have a claim filed against?

The party who files a claim is referred to as the "Plaintiff." The party who is sued is referred to as the "Defendant." A claim must designate the proper Plaintiff(s) and Defendant(s). The determination of the proper party will depend on whether the party is a person or a business and how that business is set up. Failure to name the proper parties may result in an unsatisfactory judgment.

  • Individuals - If the party is a person, you should designate that party by his or her legal name.
  • Minors - If the party is a minor (under the age of 18), the proper party depends upon whether the minor is the Plaintiff or the Defendant. A minor may not be a Plaintiff directly, but must be sued through the minor's parent or legal guardian. Example: "John Doe, a minor, by Joe Doe, next best friend." A minor may be sued directly or through the minor's parent or legal guardian.
  • Businesses - If the party is a business, you must name the proper legal entity. The proper legal entity is determined by how the business is set up. You can contact the Georgia Secretary of State at (404) 656-2817 to get information on a corporation. You can also check with the Cobb County Business License Office at (770) 528-8410 to find out who owns the business.
  • Sole Proprietorship - A sole proprietorship is a business owned by one person that is not in the form of a corporation. The person may or may not use a trade name in the operation of the business. In either case, the proper party is the individual owner. Example: "John Doe, individually and d/b/a John's Garage."
  • Partnership - A partnership is a business owned by two or more persons that is not in the form of a corporation. The proper parties are the actual partners. Example: "John Doe and Jane Doe, individually and d/b/a John's and Jane's Garage."
  • Corporation - A corporation is a legal entity separate and distinct from its owners. The proper party is the legal name of the corporation. Example: "John's Garage, Inc." You can obtain information on a corporation from the Georgia Secretary of State by calling (404) 656-2817. You should determine the correct legal name of the corporation, the County in which its registered office is located, and the name and address of the Registered Agent.
Where should I file my case?

You must file your case in the County in which the Defendant (the party you are suing) resides. This requirement is referred to as "venue."

  • Individual - For an individual, venue is the County of the person's legal residence.
  • Businesses - The type of business determines the proper venue for a business named as the defendant. For a sole proprietorship, the suit should be filed in the county in which the owner of the business resides. For a partnership, the suit should be filed in the county in which at least one of the owners resides. For a corporation, the suit should be filed in the county where the corporation has designated its registered office with the Secretary of State’s Office.
  • Multiple Defendants - For multiple defendants, you can file your case in any County in which venue would be proper for at least one of the defendants, if they are jointly and severally liable.
How do I file my case?

To start the process of filing a small claims case, you must first fill out a Statement of Claim Form. On this form, you will enter the name and address of the person or corporation you are suing, state the exact amount of money you are suing for, and explain why you are suing. You may represent yourself, act as an agent for your corporation, or you may sue on behalf of a minor should you be the guardian.

However, you cannot represent someone else if you are not an attorney. Remember that you must sue a corporation in the county where it is doing business or where it is incorporated. You may also sue a corporation in the county where the registered agent is located. (The registered agent is the party that should be served for the corporation.)

What happens if I file a case in the wrong court?

If you file a case in Magistrate Court over which the Court does not have jurisdiction or where venue is improper, the case will be transferred to a court that does have jurisdiction. An order will be entered transferring the case to the appropriate court. The order may contain a requirement that you pay a transfer fee within twenty (20) days.

How much does it cost to file a case?

If you are suing someone, you must pay a filing fee and a service fee. Court costs are county specific. The Cobb County Sheriff’s Department must serve the Complaint and Summons. (Example: sue one Defendant - you pay one filing fee and one service fee; two Defendants - you pay one filing fee and two service fees, etc.). At the Judge's discretion, if you win the case, the defendant typically reimburses the court costs.

Filing fees are set forth by the Georgia State Legislative body and are subject to change.

Can the defendant file a late answer?

On the thirty-first day after service on the defendant, the case goes into default. However, the defendant has additional fifteen (15) days to open the default by filing a late answer and paying all court costs along with the answer. No Answer may be filed beyond the forty-fifth day following service.

How does the plaintiff know that an answer has been filed?

The defendant must serve a copy of the Answer on the Plaintiff. Either personal delivery or first class U.S. mail may be used to file an Answer and all subsequent pleadings (court filings).

What happens after the defendant has filed an answer?

Once the defendant files an Answer, the Court will schedule the case for trial within a few weeks. All parties will receive notice by regular U.S. mail notifying them of the date and time of the trial.

I missed the time to file an answer. Can I file a late answer?

On the thirty-first day after service, the case goes into default. However, the defendant has an additional fifteen days to open the default by filing a late answer and paying all court costs along with the answer. An answer will not be accepted beyond the forty-fifth day following service.

If the last day to file my answer falls on a weekend, and Magistrate Court is closed, what can I do?

When the last day to file an answer falls on a weekend day or a legal holiday, then the answer may be filed by close of the next business day.

Is there a cost to filing an answer or a counterclaim?

No. The plaintiff pays court costs when the case is filed. However, the defendant may be ordered to pay these costs to the plaintiff if the Plaintiff wins his or her case.

How does the defendant know that he or she is being sued?

The Sheriff’s Department will serve the defendant(s) a copy of the complaint and summons that has been filed. These papers will inform the defendant of the nature of your suit. The defendant has thirty (30) days from the date that he or she was served with the complaint in which to answer the complaint.

If the defendant fails to file an answer to the complaint within thirty days, the law provides the defendant an additional fifteen (15) days in which to file an answer by paying all court costs along with the answer (totaling 45 days).

If the defendant answers the claim, the Clerk will notify all parties and their attorneys of the trial date by regular U.S. mail.

What happens after the defendant is served with the Statement of Claim?

The defendant has thirty (30) days from the date of service to file an answer with the Court. The day after the date of service is counted as day one. If the thirtieth (30th) day falls on a day when the Court is closed (a weekend or legal holiday), then the answer is due on the next day the Court is open.

I have been sued, what should I do?

Seeking legal advice is a good decision. You may also read books on representing yourself in court.

If you elect to represent yourself, you are responsible for filing an Answer with the Court within thirty (30) days of being served. The day after the date of service is counted as day one. If the thirtieth (30) day falls on a day when the Court is closed (a weekend or legal holiday), then the answer is due on the next day the Court is open.

You must serve a copy of the answer on the Plaintiff by either personal delivery or first class U.S. mail.

The party who sued me actually owes me money. What can I do?

Along with your answer, you can file what is called a counterclaim, which is essentially, a Statement of Claim filed by the defendant against the plaintiff. (See the information on Statement of Claim)

If your counterclaim exceeds the jurisdictional limits of the Magistrate Court, the case will be transferred to a court that has proper jurisdiction. Usually the entire case will be transferred. However, there may be some cases where the plaintiff's claim will remain in Magistrate Court and the defendant's counterclaim will be transferred separately.

How do I make witnesses come to court?

You can compel a witness to appear in court by serving a subpoena on that person. Generally, you can obtain a subpoena from the Clerk of Court. There is a County-specific charge for a subpoena. The witness must be served with the subpoena at least twenty-four (24) hours before the time scheduled for their appearance.

Subpoenas shall be issued, signed and sealed, in blank to a party who shall fill in the name and address of the witness and file it with the clerk at least six hours before appearance is required. The party subpoenaing a witness must pay the witness a fee.

If the witness must come from another county, the witness is also entitled to receive reimbursement for a roundtrip mileage from their home or residence to the courthouse. See O.C.G.A. § 24-10-24 for fees and mileage rates.

Can I bring letters or affidavits from witnesses to the court?

No. Live witnesses who have direct knowledge of the facts to which they testify must present all testimony. If the witness is not physically present in court, under oath, and subject to cross examination, their statements may not be presented to the Court. To do otherwise would violate the Georgia law against "hearsay" evidence.

When do I have to pay the witness?

For a witness from within the County, the appearance fee may be paid when the witness appears for court. For a witness from outside the County, the appearance fee and mileage reimbursement must be given to the witness at the time the subpoena is served on the witness. Payment must be made by cash, money order, certified check, or cashier's check.

What do I bring to court?

You should bring all persons who have direct knowledge of the facts related to your case and any documents, photographs, repair bills, receipts, samples, or other physical evidence which you feel would help the Court better understand your case.

Can I subpoena records and documents as well as persons?

Yes. There is a different type of subpoena for documents or things. This is known as a "subpoena duces tecum." It should be served on the custodian of the document being subpoenaed. Just let the Clerk of Court know the type of subpoena you want.

When do I find out who won the case?

After both sides have finished presenting their evidence, the Judge will usually decide the case and announce a decision from the bench. After announcing his or her decision, the Judge will give both parties a copy of the judgment, which is the document containing the Court's decision. The judgment will specify which side prevailed and if money damages are being awarded and the amount of those damages.

How do I get my Judgment paid?

A judgment is a finding by the Court that one party has a legal obligation to pay the other party a specified amount of money. It may not be redeemed with the Clerk of Court for money nor is it a Court order to pay that money by a date certain. However, the judgment does give you certain rights to try to collect that money from the other side using the assistance of the courts.

How long will the defendant be under Pretrial supervision?

Until completion of the case by plea, dismissal or verdict, or the Pretrial supervision is vacated.

Once the defendant is bonded out, are there any other fees?

Additional money is required for drug/alcohol testing, evaluations, counseling/treatment and electronic monitoring if ordered by the court.  Failure to pay will result in a bond revocation hearing. No money is collected in the Pretrial Office.

When do I get my 10% deposit back?

Upon completion of the case by dismissal, plea, or verdict.

Can Pretrial appoint an attorney or change a court date?

No. For an appointed attorney, contact the Circuit Defender’s Office (770) 528-1950. For court dates, contact the Superior Court Clerk’s Office (770) 528-1300 or the State Court Clerk’s Office (770) 528-1246.

What other bonding options are there if Pretrial is not able to assist with the release?

Cash, property, or bonding company.  For additional non-Pretrial bond information, contact the Cobb County Adult Detention Center (770) 499-4200.

I have been served with a summons for a dispossessory action. What can I do?

Upon service of a summons of a Dispossessory action, the Tenant has seven days to file an answer in the Magistrate Court Clerk's office. Failure to file the answer within seven days of service of the summons may result in a writ of possession being issued against the Tenant.

What are the requirements for a landlord filing a dispossessory action?

The relationship between the parties must be Landlord and Tenant. The Tenant must be either a Tenant holding over, Tenants at will, a Tenant at sufferance, or not paying rent as it becomes due. The Landlord must have made a demand for possession of the premises prior to commencement of the proceedings.

How much does it cost to file a dispossessory action?

If you are suing someone you must pay a filing fee and a service fee. Court costs are county specific. The Sheriff’s Department must serve the defendant the Complaint and Summons. (Example: sue one Defendant - you pay one filing fee and one service fee; two Defendants - you pay one filing fee and two service fees, etc.). At the Judge's discretion, if you win the case, the person you sue typically reimburses any court costs.

What items may be included in a dispossessory complaint?

The complaint may include a demand for possession of the premises, past due rents, utilities, late fees, attorneys' fees, and other damages related to the Landlord-Tenant relationship.

How does the tenant know that he or she is being sued?

You must have the Tenant(s) served with a copy of the Dispossessory Action. You must include this payment for service with the payment of the filing fee to the Clerk of Court who will forward the service fee to the Sheriff/Constable.

Filing fees are set forth by the Georgia State Legislative body and are subject to change.

How is the summons and dispossessory action served on the tenant?

Personal service on the Tenant of the Dispossessory complaint and summons must be attempted. In the event the Sheriff/Constable cannot serve the Tenant personally, the Sheriff/Constable may serve the Dispossessory complaint and summons, sui juris, that is, to any person residing at the premises of suitable age and discretion.

If the Sheriff/Constable is unable to obtain personal or sui juris service of the summons and Dispossessory complaint on the Tenant, the summons and Dispossessory complaint may be delivered by tack and mail, that is, posted on the door of the premises. On the same day of posting, the Sheriff/constable's office must mail a copy of the summons and Dispossessory complaint to the Tenant at the Tenant's last known address.

The tenant has filed his or her answer, when will the hearing be held?

After an answer is filed in a Dispossessory action, the court schedules the hearing for the next available Dispossessory calendar. Dispossessory Hearings are held on Tuesdays. Additionally, the hearings are heard at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Can I evict the tenant from my rental property?

No. A Landlord may legally remove a Tenant and the Tenant's property from rented premises only under the Dispossessory procedure. If a Landlord uses self-help to evict a Tenant without a Dispossessory, it is a tort for which the Tenant may recover damages in a civil action, and a Landlord who cuts off utilities may be subject to misdemeanor prosecution under OCGA 44-7-14.1.

If the last day to file my answer falls on a weekend, and the civil division of the Cobb County Magistrate Court is closed, what can I do?

When the last day to file an answer falls on a weekend day or a legal holiday, then the answer may be filed by close of the next business day.

If the tenant failed to file an answer within 7 days from service of the summons, what can I do?

When the Tenant fails to file an answer within 7 days of service of the summons, the Landlord may contact the Magistrate Court's office about presenting the writ of possession to a Judge for signature.

How do I file a garnishment?

Garnishment proceedings may be filed immediately if the judgment issued is a default judgment. Otherwise, a period of ten days must lapse before a garnishment is filed. The correct forms for filing a garnishment can be obtained via the Fees and Forms section or received from the Clerk’s Office.

A copy of the judgment should accompany all garnishments upon filing and:

Continuing (Wage) Garnishment:

  • Affidavit for Continuing Garnishment
  • Sheriff’s Entry of Service

Regular (Bank) Garnishment:

  • Affidavit for Bank Garnishment
  • Summons of Bank Garnishment
  • Information sheet
  • Sheriff's Entry of Service
How long does a garnishment last?

Wage garnishments last for 195 days after date of service from the Sheriff’s Department.

Bank garnishments are an immediate action, but one time service. Once the bank is served, the account is frozen. More than one bank garnishment may be filed until the judgment amount is collected.

How long is the Garnishee given to file an answer with the court?

A garnishee must answer no later than 45 days, but no sooner than 30 days after the date of service by the Sheriff’s Department.

What happens if the Garnishee does not answer?

If the garnishee does not file an answer before the 45th day, they have an additional 15 days in which they may file an answer. However, the garnishee must pay the original court cost to open default. If the garnishee does not file an answer within the 15 extra days, a default judgment may be obtained against the garnishee. In turn, the judgment would now be collected from the garnishee instead of the defendant.

Is the defendant served with the Garnishment?

The plaintiff is instructed to send the Notice and Summons, given by the court, to the defendant by certified mail. This must be sent to the defendant no later than three (3) days after service of the garnishee. The plaintiff will send the court the green card showing service or the unclaimed envelope showing service was attempted. A condemning letter will accompany the green card or unclaimed envelope. This letter simply states the plaintiff requests all present and future funds be paid to them.

What is a traverse?

Plaintiff’s traverse states that the garnishee’s answer is untrue or legally insufficient. The plaintiff may file a traverse no later than 15 days after the answer of the garnishee is filed in the court. Defendant’s traverse states that the affidavit of garnishment is untrue or legally insufficient. The defendant may file a traverse at anytime before a judgment is entered on the garnishee’s answer. The garnishee must withhold funds until the judge rules on the traverse. The funds are held in the registry of the court until the traverse is ruled upon. A traverse must be on a calendar within 10 days of the filing of the traverse.

What amount can I file for?

The principal amount on the judgment may not exceed $15,000.00 when filing a garnishment in Magistrate Court. If the principal amount of your judgment is over $15,000, the garnishment must be filed in a higher court. The court cost awarded for the civil filing, as well as, the cost for filing the garnishment may be included. As long as there is a balance on the awarded judgment, a garnishment may be filed.

What is a release?

A release is a notification to the garnishee stating that they are no longer liable for answering the pending summons. Therefore, the clerk signs a release when the garnishment becomes expired or has been paid in full. A garnishment will expire after 195 days from date of service by the Sheriff’s Department. The defendant may pay in full in cash to the clerk’s office to have a release signed immediately. In addition, a release may be signed if a judge has vacated the judgment.

Can the defendant pay off the garnishment?

Yes - the defendant may pay the full amount of the Summons to the clerk’s office in cash.

How do you get a default Judgment against the garnishee?

If the garnishee does not answer within 45 days of service by the Sheriff, an additional 15 days is given to open default. If the answer is filed within the 15-day period, the garnishee must pay the amount of court cost paid at the time of the initial filing. If the garnishee does not file an answer within the 60-day period, the plaintiff may request for a default judgment against the garnishee. The judge will issue a judgment against the garnishee for the amount claimed on the affidavit of garnishment.