To initiate a civil case in the Trial Court, you must file a complaint and pay a filing fee with the clerk’s office of the court in the county where you will be filing your case. The complaint is not a pre-printed form, but is a document you have to write yourself. For information on how to draft a complaint, see Drafting a Complaint in Massachusetts . The filing fee will vary depending on the court department in which you file your complaint. Everyone who files a civil complaint must follow the Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure (and other court department rules and standing orders); these can be complicated and confusing.

However, if the claim is for $7000 or less, a person can file a form called a “Statement of Claim and Notice” (rather than a complaint) in the Small Claims department of the District Court, Boston Municipal Court, or Housing Court, where the court procedures are simpler and easier to follow.  See Small Claims Information for information on filing a Small Claims case. The rules governing small claim cases are governed by the Uniform Small Claims Rules .

Once a complaint (or Statement of Claim) is filed, it must be “served” on the other party who will then have an opportunity to file an answer, raise defenses, and file counterclaims. (For a description of steps involved in filing a case, see Represent Yourself in Court; see also Small Claims Information for additional information on filing a small claims case in the District Court.

In civil cases other than a small claims case, after the answer is filed, the court will set case management deadlines for the filing of discovery and other motions and set dates for a pretrial conference and a trial. The Massachusetts Rules of Civil Procedure and other court department rules and standing orders govern the process by which a court manages a case.