Get Your Papers Ready to File
This guide is intended to provide simple instructions on how to copy, assemble, and serve an Answer or General Denial in a civil lawsuit filed in a California Superior Court. These instructions are based on the Sacramento County Superior Court's procedures. Please keep in mind that each court may have different requirements.
In the Sacramento Superior Court, because documents are scanned into a computer, any multiple page original documents are left unstapled, while each copy is stapled.
Before you can file your Answer or General Denial with the Court, you must first serve a copy of the Answer or General Denial on the Plaintiff's attorney (or the Plaintiff, if the Plaintiff does not have an attorney). Fortunately, this service can be done by mail. All you need is a copy of your Answer or General Denial, a Proof of Service form, and someone over the age of 18 who is not a party in this lawsuit (i.e., not you).
Step 1: Make Copies
Make two (2) copies of your Answer or General Denial. One of these copies is to be served on the Plaintiff's attorney (or the Plaintiff if he or she doesn't have an attorney); the original and the other copy are to be filed with the court. The court will keep the original and return the copy, now stamped or "endorsed" by the court, for your records.
If you are filing a fee waiver, make two (2) copies each of the Request to Waive Court Fees (FW-001), and the Order on Court Fee Waiver (FW-003).
Step 2: Serve the Answer or General Denial
The person who is serving your Answer or General Denial for you must complete a proof of service form, typically, the Proof of Service by First Class Mail (POS-030). Instructions for completing the Proof of Service by First Class Mail are on the second page of that form (the back, if double-sided).The proof of service form should be completely filled out, but not signed. Make a copy of the unsigned proof of service before proceeding.
The person over the age of 18 who is not a party to the case must then mail a copy of the Answer or General Denial along with a copy of the unsigned proof of service form on the Plaintiff's attorney (or Plaintiff, if he/she has no attorney). The proof of service form can typically be attached as the last page of the Answer or General Denial. The person doing the mailing then signs the Proof of Service form, and gives the signed Proof of Service to you.
Step 3: Copy the Signed Proof of Service
Make one (1) copy of the Proof of Service. It is not necessary to copy the instruction page.
Step 4: Assembling
Assemble your packet as follows:
- Request to Waive Court Fees (FW-001) plus one (1) copy beneath it, if requesting fees to be waived. The original will be unstapled in Sacramento, while the copy is stapled.
- Order on Court Fee Waiver (FW-003) plus one (1) copy, if requesting fees to be waived. The original will be unstapled in Sacramento, while the copy is stapled.
- Answer/General Denial/Response to Petition with all pages, plus one (1) copy. The original will be unstapled in Sacramento, while the copy is stapled. The Petition might be on Judicial Council forms or might be on 28-line pleading paper.
- Completed Proof of Service Form, typically Proof of Service by First-Class Mail (POS-030). The original plus one (1) copy. This proof of service can be attached as the last page of the Answer/General Denial/Response to Petition when filing. If this is the case, then the original Proof of Service should be attached to the original Answer/General Denial/Response, and the copy of the Proof of Service should be attached to the copy of the Answer/General Denial/Response.
Step 5: Filing/Fees
You should take your completed packet to the Gordon D. Schaber Courthouse at 720 Ninth Street in downtown Sacramento.
No filing fees will be collected at the time of filing if you have filed a Request to Waive Court Fees. You should receive the Order on Court Fee Waiver in about five court days.
If you are not requesting your fees to be waived (or if your fee waiver is denied), your filing fee is based on the amount asked for in the Complaint. Check the current fee schedule at http://saccourt.ca.gov/indexes/fees-forms.aspx.
This first appearance fee is only paid with the first paper that you file in a lawsuit. Most other documents filed later do not have a filing fee, or a much lower filing fee.