Generally, the judge's decision will be announced at the end of a small claims trial. After announcing his 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.
Sometimes the judge will want to take additional time to review the evidence or research case law before entering a final judgment. When this occurs, the parties will receive a copy of the final judgment in the mail.
If either party is dissatisfied with the judgment, that party may appeal the decision of the judge in a small claims case. This is a request for a review of the judgment by a higher court. The appeal must be filed with the state or superior court within 30 days after the judgment is entered.
Detailed instructions for filing a small claims appeal are available from the clerk of the court. Either party may also request a jury trial. The court that hears the appeal will charge a filing fee.
If the defendant files the appeal, the defendant will have to pay costs. The cost is usually the same cost the plaintiff had to pay when the action was filed. If the plaintiff wishes to appeal, the plaintiff may need to pay an additional cost to file an appeal.
Once the case has been appealed, the case will be heard again in its entirety.
No Appeals for Default Judgments
There is no appeal for a default judgment. A default judgment is when a judge hears and decides a case without hearing the defendant's side after the defendant fails to answer the plaintiff's claims or fails to appear at the hearing.
If the judge grants a default judgment, the plaintiff is entitled to the amount of money damages specified in the suit, plus court costs.
Collecting the Judgment
Even if you win a judgment, you may need to take measures to collect it if the other party does not willingly pay it. Many times collecting the judgment is harder than proving your case in court.
Questions for Your Attorney
- I did not receive a final judgment at my trial nor in the mail and it's been 30 days since my small claims trial - what should I do?
- What happens if the defendant does not appear at the trial?
- How long does it generally take to get the judge's decision by mail if the judgment wasn't announced at the trial?
Related Resources on Lawyers.comsm
- Start the process with our Georgia Small Claims Worksheet
- Next in the Small Claims series: Collecting the Judgment in Georgia
- Success in Small Claims Court
- Small Claims Court Terms
- Defending a Small Claims Case