Wisconsin Small Claims Court Process

Wisconsin Small Claims Court Process

Last Updated: January 20, 2023 by Ashley Porter

Quick Facts Answer
Small Claim Maximum $10,000
Deadline to File 3 years – Security deposit claims

6 years – Unpaid rent, lease violation

Filing Fees $94.50 (+$20 for electronic filing)
Appeal Deadline 15 days

Small Claims Court Basics in Wisconsin

Small Claims Court is an informal court designed for minor cases limited to a maximum claim amount. The plaintiff and defendant present their case to the judge (or court commissioner), who makes a decision unless either party requests a jury.

Common suits filed by landlords include:

  • Recovery of unpaid rent
  • Damages that exceed the amount of the security deposit
  • Failure to uphold the responsibilities of the rental agreement
  • Early termination of a lease

Common suits filed by tenants include:

  • Failure to return the security deposit correctly
  • Failure to uphold the responsibilities of the rental agreement
  • Overcharging for damages

How Long Does the Small Claims Court Process Take in Wisconsin?

A typical small claims case in Wisconsin takes two to four months, from the date of filing, but can be longer if there are problems serving the defendant, the trial is continued, or other delays occur.

How Much Can You Sue For in Small Claims Court in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, the maximum amount that can be recovered in a civil claim through Small Claims Court is $10,000.

To attempt to recover a higher amount, the suit must be filed as a civil case in the Circuit Court.

How Long Do You Have to File a Small Claims Case in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, you have up to 3 years to file a small claims case for the return of a security deposit. You have 6 years from the date of the dispute to file a case for most other landlord-tenant issues including unpaid rent and breach of a lease agreement.

Are Lawyers Needed or Allowed in Small Claims Court in Wisconsin?

Small Claims Court is designed to be simple and not require an attorney. However, either party can be represented by an attorney if they so choose.

Where are Small Claims Cases Filed in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, Small Claims Court is a division of Circuit Court. Small claims are filed in the Circuit Court for the county where the defendant lives or works or the rental property is located.

To determine the correct Circuit Court, you can use the court directory.

How to File a Small Claims Case in Wisconsin

Step 1: Complete the small claims forms by using the PDFs or the online questionnaire to generate and download completed forms.

Step 2: File the forms in person with the court clerk or electronically. If you use the online questionnaire to generate your forms, you will be directed to the electronic filing system after completing the interview.

If you file the case in person, check with the court clerk to determine how many copies of each form are required. The filing procedures vary by court.

Step 3: Pay the filing fees.

How Much Does it Cost to File a Case in Small Claims Court in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, the filing fee for a money judgment case in small claims court is $94.50 (+$20 if you file electronically).

What if You Can’t Afford to File a Case?

You can still file a case if you cannot afford the fees by filing a Petition and Order for Waiver of Filing Fees and Costs with the court clerk.

If you use the online questionnaire to complete your court forms, you will be given the option to complete these forms.

Small Claims Court Process in Wisconsin

After filing a small claims case in Wisconsin, the court clerk will determine a deadline for the defendant’s response (“return date”), you will need to serve the defendant and the case will be scheduled for a trial.

Step 1: Serve the defendant. You will need to serve a copy of the Summons and Complaint on the defendant at least 8 business days prior to the return date. The available methods of service on the defendant vary by court, but can typically be completed by sheriff, constable, process server, or certified mail.

Check with the court clerk to determine what methods of service they allow.

Once the defendant has been served, the court must receive the appropriate affidavit:

Step 2: Defendant files an Answer and Counterclaim. After the defendant is served, they can file an Answer and Counterclaim. In some counties, the defendant’s response is required and failure to respond may result in a default judgment.

Step 3: Gather witnesses. If you think it would help your case, ensure that any witnesses are available to attend the trial. For example, you may ask the apartment manager to serve as a witness to how clean you left the apartment after moving out.

You may need to subpoena a witness if you are unable to get them to attend voluntarily by filing and serving a Subpoena

Step 4: Attend the trial. On the trial date, you should bring copies of any evidence you have to support your claim. The judge (or court commissioner) will give you and the defendant an opportunity to provide your arguments before they decide to dismiss the case or issue a judgment.

Judgments are typically issued at the trial, but judges and court commissioners have up to 60 days to make a decision.

If the defendant does not attend the trial, the judge may issue you a default judgment.

Winning a Small Claims Judgment in Wisconsin

If you win the judgment in Wisconsin, the other party may appeal the case, you may be paid the judgment within the allotted time period, or you may need to pursue additional actions to recover the debt.

If a court commissioner issued the judgment, either party can request a trial by judge within 10 days by filing a Demand for Trial. Either party can appeal the decision of a judge within 15 days after the entry of judgment by filing a Notice of Appeal.


If the defendant was properly served but failed to attend the trial, the default judgment cannot be appealed. However, it can be reopened within 12 months.

The judgment debtor is required to file a Financial Disclosure Statement or pay the judgment within 15 days after the issuance of the judgment.

If they fail to do so, you can file a Motion and Order for Hearing on Contempt to proceed with a court-enforced collection of the judgment.

You have 20 years to collect or renew a judgment before it expires. A judgment collects interest at a rate established twice per year equal to 1% plus the prime rate, which is 8.5% for judgments entered from January 1 to June 30, 2023.