The Delaware trial court system consists of Superior Courts, Courts of Chancery, Courts of Common Pleas, Family Courts, Justice of the Peace Courts, and Alderman's Courts.
Superior Courts have general jurisdiction over civil and criminal cases, but typically only handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts. The Courts of Chancery handle complex commercial cases involving matters of equity and most probate cases. The Courts of Common Pleas, Family Courts and the Justice of the Peace Courts have limited jurisdiction over certain types of cases.
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Delaware Superior CourtsSuperior Courts have original and general jurisdiction over all civil and criminal cases, except for equity cases that are within the jurisdiction of the Court of Chancery. Superior Courts typically handle cases that are beyond the jurisdiction of other courts.
Superior Courts have exclusive jurisdiction over felony criminal cases and most drug-related offenses. Superior Courts have no limits on the amounts that can be disputed in a civil case. Superior Courts also handle appeals from some administrative agency decisions.
Superior Courts generally do not handle probate, equity or domestic relations cases.
Delaware Courts of ChanceryCourts of Chancery handle complex commercial cases and most probate cases. Courts of Chancery have jurisdiction over equity cases, which involve disputes that have no adequate remedy in common law or statute.
Cases typically handled by Courts of Chancery include corporate matters, trusts, estates, fiduciary issues, disputes over the purchase and sale of land, disputes over title to real estate and other commercial and contracts cases.
Courts of Chancery also handle certain types of technology disputes, certain types of business disputes, and certain types of disputes involving deed covenants or restrictions.
Delaware Courts of Common PleasCourt of Common Pleas have limited jurisdiction over certain types of civil and criminal cases.
Courts of Common Pleas have criminal jurisdiction over most misdemeanors and preliminary hearings in felony cases. Some drug-related offenses and some traffic offenses can not be heard in Court of Common Pleas.
Courts of Common Pleas have civil jurisdiction over most general civil cases with less than $50,000 in dispute, exclusive of interest. Courts of Common Pleas also have jurisdiction over counterclaims, cross-claims and third-party claims that are filed, and can order judgments on these claims in an amount greater than $50,000.
Courts of Common Pleas also have jurisdiction over any case a Superior Court may assign it. There is no right to a jury trial in Courts of Common Pleas, and if any party besides the party that first filed the case makes a proper request for a jury trial, the case will be transferred to a Superior Court.
Delaware Family CourtsFamily Courts have jurisdiction over most cases involving family or juvenile matters, including some criminal cases.
Civil cases handled by Family Courts include divorce, annulment, child custody and visitation, child support, most juvenile delinquency matters, child neglect, abuse prevention for families, some disability rights enforcement, and the division of jointly-owned real property for persons no longer married to each other.
Criminal cases handled by Family Courts include misdemeanors committed against a child, non-felony offenses committed by one family member against another family member, non-felony offenses committed against a peace officer during a family altercation, misdemeanor non-support, interference with custody, sexual assault on a child, sale or delivery of alcoholic beverages or weapons to a child, and violations of protective orders.
Family Courts do not have jurisdiction over criminal cases joined with felony cases, adults charged with felonies, or juveniles charged with certain serious crimes.
Family Courts share jurisdiction with the Justice of the Peace Courts for alleged curfew violations arising from any municipal ordinance.
Delaware Justice of the Peace CourtsJustice of the Peace Courts have limited jurisdiction to hear certain types of civil, criminal and juvenile cases.
Criminal cases handled by Justice of the Peace Courts include certain misdemeanors, most non-felony motor vehicle cases and preliminary hearings for all crimes.
Civil cases handled by Justice of the Peace Courts include contracts, torts, damage or taking of personal property, injury to real property, trespass on land, summary possession (eviction) and distress for rent. Civil jurisdiction is generally limited to claims for less than $15,000, excluding interest on the amount of money involved in a claim.
Justice of the Peace Courts have jurisdiction to handle cases for penalties or forfeitures arising from a provision of a statute, bylaw or ordinance, only if the amount sought is less than $15,000, exclusive of interest.
Justice of the Peace Courts share jurisdiction with Family Courts over municipal curfew ordinance violations and some truancy cases.
Delaware Alderman's CourtsAlderman's Courts have jurisdiction within their city or town limits to hear minor civil cases, some misdemeanor criminal cases, and traffic and parking cases.
The specific jurisdition of each Alderman Court, and the selection and qualifications of Aldermen, are set by city or town charter with the approval of the General Assembly. Some charters require the Aldermen to be lawyers, while others do not.
Aldermen may be full- or part-time. If an Alderman's Court is without an Alderman for any reason for any period of time, cases are transferred to the nearest Justice of the Peace Court.
Where to find court cases in DelawareThe chart below gives general information on the types of cases heard in each type of court in Delaware.