Small Claims Information
Post Judgement Information
Self-Help Small claims Web site
This site is designed to guide you through the process of filling a small claims legal claim in Wisconsin. It takes you through a series of questions to create a small claims summons and complaint form. After filling out the small claims and summons form return to this page in order to obtain other information regarding procedures in Dodge County.
Before starting a small claims action it is suggested that you make a formal written demand for payment to the other party. Send a certified letter asking for settlement. Make it clear you intend to take legal action if settlement cannot be reached; informing them that all court costs will be added to the amount you are seeking. Allow a reasonable amount of time for the other party to contact you before commencing the action.
Where to file:
Small Claims actions are filed in the county where the defendant lives or where the action took place. Landlord/tenant disputes may be taken to court in the county where the property lies or where the defendant lives.
How to file:
In order to file a small claims action, you must provide the Clerk of Courts with the original paperwork, one copy for you to keep for your records, and two copies for each party that you are suing.
The filing fee for a small claims action is $94.50 and is payable upon filing the case at the Clerk of Courts office. Filing fees cannot be refunded if for any reason you cannot proceed with your action. All legal questions should be directed to an attorney. The Clerk of Courts office cannot give legal advice. For the statutes governing small claims actions see Chapter799 of the Wisconsin Statutes.
If your claim is for money, it must not exceed $10,000.00 EXCEPT for a $5,000.00 limit on personal injury, tort, and third party complaints. A corporation must be represented by an attorney or a full-time employee authorized to act on its behalf. Failure to appear by the plaintiff, plaintiff’s attorney or full-time employee authorized to appear will result in a dismissal of the case. When preparing your Summons and Complaint, if you wish to attach any proof to your claim you must provide the appropriate number of copies.
How to File an Answer to a Small Claims:
Pre-Judgment - Basic Steps for Filling an Answer to a Small Claims Report:
Dodge County Small Claims Court requires service of the summons and complaint on the defendant. Service by mail is permitted in small claims actions with exceptions. Service by mail is not permitted when the action involves a claim of over $5,000, when the action is for a replevin or an eviction, and when a defendant is outside of Dodge County. Those actions require personal service pursuant to Wis. Stat. 801.11.
When mail service is used, the Clerk of Courts shall prepare the envelope for mailing by regular mail with the Clerk's return address and with a request to return to the Clerk's office. A separate envelope with the pleadings shall be sent to each named defendant. The address(s) need to be specified for each defendant. There is a fee of $2.00 for each defendant to be served by mail that shall be paid at the same time as the filing fee. In the event there is a re-mailing, the additional $2.00 per mailing shall be paid before any Judgment is entered.
For personal service, you may contact a private process server or the Sheriff's Department of the County where the defendant lives to serve your papers. Some municipal police departments may also provide this service. Please contact the appropriate agency for service information and costs. In the event the person serving your paperwork is unable to locate the defendant within the statutory time limits, you will be provided with a certificate of non service. This paperwork must be filed with the court and an amended summons and complaint or intent to amend must be given to the clerk’s office before the return date.
The $94.50 filing fee, mailing fee, and/or the fee for having the papers served will automatically be added on to the total amount due to you if you win your case. As the plaintiff in your case, it is your responsibility to be sure service has been accomplished. Please telephone the clerk at 920-386-3568 to check on your case’s status.
Small Claims Court return dates are held at 8:30 am on Friday's at the Dodge County Justice Facility, 210 W. Center Street, Juneau, WI 53039. PLEASE CHECK IN WITH THE CLERK OF COURTS OFFICE BY 15 MINUTES BEFORE YOUR SCHEDULED HEARING TIME. PLEASE TRY TO FILE ALL PAPERWORK BY THIS TIME. If an answer is timely filed, neither plaintiff nor the defendant is required to appear except in eviction cases. Please check with the clerk any time to learn whether or not an answer has been filed (920-386-3568).
At the return date, if plaintiff appears and defendant does not appear, a default judgment may be granted by the court. If plaintiff and defendant appear, a pretrial will be held to see if any resolution can be made. If plaintiff does not appear and defendant does appear case will be dismissed.
Some parties will enter into a stipulated dismissal. This can happen when a written agreement is made between the parties. The judge will dismiss the action pending that the defendant follows through with this signed agreement
Pre-Judgment Information on Replevin, Rocovery of Money, or Eviction.
Basic Steps for Handling Small Claims:
Case for Replevin:
Case for Recovery of Money
Case for Eviction:
Post Judgment Information
NOTICE OF ENTRY OF JUDGMENT:
(This is the legal instrument you need before you can proceed with any of the following collection steps.) You have been awarded a judgment in small claims court. Because the court cannot advise you in this regard, you may wish to consult an attorney to determine which collection method you wish to pursue. The costs indicated are subject to change. All such collection costs are also collectible.
PETITION FOR CONTEMPT:
Within 15 days of entry of judgment, the INDIVIDUAL you have the judgment against is to furnish to you a financial statement. This statement will give you information as to where this person works and/or banks. (If you already know this information, you do not need to proceed with a contempt action.) If the financial statement is not completed and returned to you, a Petition for Contempt may be filed. This form is available in the Clerk of Courts office. All information must be filled out accurately, including the middle initial and date of birth. The sheriff, local police or a hired process server in the county where the debtor resides must personally serve the order to appear on the debtor. The server will charge a service fee. You must also appear at the contempt hearing scheduled before a judge. If the debtor does not file the financial disclosure statement or appear before the judge, a civil bench warrant can be authorized for their arrest.
Docketing the judgment puts a lien on any real estate transactions (in Dodge County only.) You can request to docket the judgment at the Clerk of Courts office. The current fee is $5.00. You can also request a transcript of judgment to take and docket in another county in Wisconsin for an additional fee of $5.00. You will then need to pay the receiving county $10.00 for receiving the transcript of judgment and docketing it. You may request a transcript of judgment at the Clerk of Courts office.
Basic Steps for Docketing a Judgment for Collection:
You can request an execution at the Clerk of Courts office. The current fee is $5.00, however the judgment must first be docketed for a fee of $5.00 before proceeding. An execution is a document that authorizes the sheriff to attempt to collect the funds that are owed to you. The sheriff will charge a service fee. The execution is valid for 60 days. A judgment creditor may ask the court for a Writ of Execution directing the sheriff to seize specific, non-exempt personal property belonging to the judgment debtor for purposes of satisfying a judgment. You may want to obtain professional advice to decide whether a Writ of Execution is appropriate for your case. If the execution is returned unsatisfied or is only partially successful, you may try another execution or any other means of enforcement.
Post Judgment: Basic Steps for Handling an Execution Against Property:
There are two types of garnishment actions, earnings and non-earnings. A non-earnings garnishment (bank accounts, etc.) is valid upon the date it is received only. (The first $1,000 is exempt except for business accounts.) An earnings garnishment is good for 13 weeks garnishing 20% of the judgment debtor’s wages. However, for employees of the state of Wisconsin or its political subdivisions, the earnings garnishment is continued until the debt is fully paid. The appropriate forms can be downloaded off of the state website. The current fee is $92.50 if the amount claimed is equal to or less than $10,000, and $210.50 if the amount claimed is greater than $10,000.
Post Judgment: Basic Steps for Handling a Small Claims Earning Garnishment (Recovery of Judgments totaling $10,000 or less):
Post Judgment State Forms:
Basic Steps in Collecting on a Judgment for Money:
Basic Steps in Collection on a Judgment for Replevin:
SATISFACTION OF JUDGMENT:
Once the judgment has been paid in full, it is the responsibility of the judgment creditor to provide a completed Satisfaction of Judgment to the judgment debtor to file with the Clerk of Courts Office to satisfy the judgment. The debtor must pay a satisfaction fee of $5.00 when filing the Satisfaction of Judgment form. The form (GF-129) is available at the Wisconsin Court System Website: http://www.wicourts.gov/ under “Forms.” The form is also available at the Dodge County Clerk of Courts Office.
Frequently Asked Questions about Small Claims Court
Q: How much can I sue for in Small Claims Court?
A: The limit is $10,000.00 for money judgments, replevins, attachments, garnishments and $5,000.00 for personal injury, tort, and third party complaints.
Q: What if I need to sue for over the limits? Can I break it up into two small claims cases?
A: You're restricted to the small claims jurisdiction per defendant. Anything over the limit amount is a large claims civil case.
Q: What's a replevin?
A: An action for the recovery of an item that hasn't been paid for or been wrongfully taken.
Q: Where do I get forms to file a lawsuit? Where do I file the case?
A: To initiate a Small Claims case, go to the Self-Help Small Claims Website to obtain and fill out the forms. If the case involves a consumer transaction, it should be filed in the county where the customer lives, or where the purchase was made, or where the collateral is located. For other types of cases, it should be filed in the county where the claim arose, or where the property is located, or where the defendant lives or does substantial business.
Q: Do I have to hire an attorney to help me in Small Claims Court?
A: It is your choice whether to retain an attorney. Representation is not required.
Q: How much does it cost to file a case in Small Claims Court?
A: Various fees must be paid, and many are subject to change. Presently the filing fee is $94.50.
Q: What if the defendant cannot be personally served?
A: You must fill out an amended summons and complaint to get a new court date. You can then proceed with personal service again or proceed with publication and mailing to the defendant. An affidavit of mailing must be filed with the court along with the proof of publication before the scheduled return date.
Q: What is a Stipulated Dismissal?
A: A stipulated dismissal is an agreement between the parties. If the agreement is not followed, the plaintiff can file an affidavit of default wherein the judgment can be entered without notice to the defendant(s). Cases ending in a stipulated dismissal are still listed in the CCAP/WCCA database.
Q: What is a default judgment?
A: A default judgment will be granted if the defendant does not appear for the initial return date of if the defendant fails to submit a written answer as so ordered by the court after a pretrial.
Q: What happens if I lose my case?
A: If you lose altogether or don't get all the money or property you wanted, you may take your case to the court of appeals. The appeal fee is $195, plus a $15 record transmittal fee. You must also pay for the preparation of the transcript. Since an appeal is complicated, you may wish to seek legal advice. Please see the citizens guide for fining an appeal at: http://wicourts.gov/ca/citizensguide.pdf
Q: What happens if I win my case?
A: If you win a money judgment, the Small Claims Court will order the party owing money under the decision to fill out a financial disclosure form and send it to you within 15 days after the judgment was filed. If the defendant doesn't pay, you may docket the judgment at the Clerk of Courts office. The docketed judgment then acts as a lien on the defendant's real estate owned in Dodge County. If the defendant fails to file the required financial disclosure form, you can ask the court to hold the defendant in contempt. One of several ways to try to enforce a judgment is by "garnishment." Garnishment is an action to withhold part of a person's wages or bank accounts to pay off the judgment. A garnishment can be filed in Small Claims Court, just as the original case was. Part of the judgment debtor's wages are exempt from garnishment.
Q: Can my court costs be reimbursed if I win my case?
A: Yes, but only some costs. You will not receive reimbursement for lost wages or transportation but you can receive reimbursement for the cost to file the case, the cost to serve the summons and petition, to subpoena witnesses, and for garnishment costs. You can also receive limited attorney fees. Please see the table in the Guide to Small Claims Court for the amount of reimbursement allowed for attorney fees.
Q: What can I do about a judgment listed on my credit report?
A: If the judgment has been satisfied, you may file a Satisfaction of Judgment form (mandatory form GF-129) and pay a $5.00 fee to clear the judgment.
Q: How do I get a money judgment for eviction?
A: In a nutshell:
Q: What if more than 15 days have elapsed from the date of entry of judgment and the judgment debtor has not returned the "Order for Financial Disclosure and Disclosure of Assets" or paid the judgment?
File for an eviction in Small Claims court.
Win the eviction action and obtain a judgment.
Pay a $5 docketing fee to have the Small Claims Court put a lien on person's property and pay a $5 fee for a writ of assistance for the Sheriff to serve so you can obtain possession of the premises.
File a motion for additional damages form with Clerk of Courts for your additional rent and damages within 90 days of the date that the judgment of eviction was granted.
Obtain an amended judgment for additional expenses if your motion is granted by the court.
A: If the judgment debtor does not provide the financial disclosure statement as required, you may petition a judge to have the judgment debtor found in contempt of court.
Q: How do I schedule a hearing for contempt?
A: Complete the contempt form at the Clerk of Courts office. The clerk will schedule the hearing with the next available judge on the appropriate schedule. You must have the defendant personally served.
Q: Do I need to appear at the contempt hearing?
A: If the debtor appears at the hearing, they will be instructed to complete the financial disclosure form. If the creditor does not appear at the hearing (or does not provide proof of service), the contempt can be dismissed. If the debtor does not file the financial disclosure statement prior to the hearing or appear at the hearing, the judge may issue a bench warrant.
Q: May I reopen a judgment? How?
A: A party may reopen a default judgment within 12 months. You must file a petition to reopen (no filing fee). A hearing will be set to consider the reasons for the request to reopen.
Q: What's a trial de novo?
A: A "trial de novo" is a retrial of a case. When a Small Claims case is heard by a commissioner, the commissioner will either make an oral decision at the hearing or mail a written decision within 30 days of the hearing. The commissioner will provide instructions for appealing a court commissioner's decision to all parties. A party may demand a new trial before a Circuit Court Judge (trial de novo demand) by filing a written demand for a new trial. The written demand must be filed within 10 working days of the commissioner's oral decision, or within 15 days of a written decision. The form "Demand for Trial De Novo" is available from the Clerk of Courts office.
Q: What is earnings garnishment and how does it work?
A: A creditor who is trying to collect an unsatisfied civil court judgment against a debtor may start a garnishment action to recover the money owed. This may include interest and other costs, which are deducted from earnings payable to the debtor. The employer, who makes payment directly to the creditor, is called the garnishee. For example, if a court finds that you (debtor) owe a former landlord (creditor) back rent, the landlord can ask the court to order your employer (garnishee) to pay part of the rent you owe directly to the landlord. There are limits to the amount that can be taken out of each paycheck. More garnishment information is in the Guide to Small Claims Court.
Didn't find an answer to your question? Contact the Clerk of Courts at 920-386-3570.