A Civil Lawsuit is brought by a plaintiff who believes that he or she has been harmed in some way by a defendant. These can range from personal injury to malpractice to divorce to libel and slander to anything that an individual believes has caused harm and injury to the plaintiff and which is caused by the defendant.
Due to their highly sensitive nature regarding families, certain records and documents contained in divorce actions are among those Circuit Court records that are not open to public scrutiny.
Any individual can represent himself or herself in court. However, as Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said, a lawyer who represents himself in court has a fool for a client. Certainly, it would be prudent in most cases for individuals to be represented by an attorney in court. A company, corporation, church, organization, town or other non-person entity must be represented by legal counsel in all actions in court.
Since many plaintiffs and defendants in divorce actions often represent themselves, generally because of the cost of obtaining legal counsel, the Circuit Clerk provides certain forms approved by the court for use by pro se parties, that is, parties who are not represented by legal counsel. The cost for these forms is $10.00. The filing fee for a divorce action is $135.00. The filing fee for any other civil case is $200.00. Many other court costs and fees, in addition to attorney fees, may be incurred during the course of any litigation.
Besides the subject matter, another huge difference between civil and criminal actions is the burden of proof that the court requires in order for a party to prevail. In criminal matters, the State must convince the jury "beyond all reasonable doubt" that the defendant is guilty before the defendant can be found guilty. In a civil action, on the other hand, generally the jury must only be convinced by a "preponderance of the evidence" (greater than 50%) that the defendant committed the acts charged or caused the damage done. In some civil actions, the proof is somewhere between a mere preponderance and beyond reasonable doubt, which is called "clear and convincing" evidence.