Small Claims

A small claims action may be filed if the claim does not exceed $10,000. All eviction cases and replevins are filed in small claims court. You are responsible for presenting your own case or you may seek legal counsel. It is not necessary to be represented by an attorney. The Clerk of Circuit Court, court commissioners and other court personnel are not authorized to provide legal advice. Small Claims procedures are contained in Chapter 799 of the Wisconsin Statutes. 

Venue

For most claims, the proper county to file your lawsuit is:

  1. Where the claim originated.
  2. Where the defendant resides.

*Please note, it is your responsibility to review the facts of your case and to decide where to file your action.

Forms

Small claims summons and complaint forms and garnishment packets may be obtained from the Clerk of Circuit Courts office, 1 S. Oneida Ave, Rhinelander, WI 54501. The original summons and complaint must be filed with the Clerk of Circuit Courts office. Forms are also available online. Please refer to the Quick Links or Forms icon.

Setting a Hearing Date

All Small Claims actions are scheduled by the Small Claims Clerk. Make sure that you allow adequate time to accomplish timely service. Remember that Saturdays, Sundays and holidays are not included in computing the number of days required for proper service. In eviction actions, the court date cannot be more than 30 days from the date you “issue” the summons. You “issue” the summons when you sign and date it. The defendant must be served at least five (5) days prior to the return date (first court date, also known as the return date). For all other Small Claims cases, the court date cannot be more than 30 days from the “issue” date. The defendant must be served at least eight (8) days prior to the return date.

Service of Summons

Summons and complaints can be mailed to the defendant if they live in the county and if the case is not an eviction or replevin action. All evictions and replevins must be served by the Sheriff Department or a process server. Other summons and complaint cases may also be served by the Sheriff Department or a process server. There are fees for service. A copy of the summons and complaint should be personally served on the defendant or a competent member of the defendant’s household. If, with reasonable diligence, the defendant cannot be personally served, the plaintiff may appear on the court date and ask for an adjournment to allow for service.  Proof of service must be filed with the Clerk’s office. For additional information please refer to the Basic Guide to Small Claims Service below.

Hearings

The Plaintiff is not required to appear at the return date (first hearing), with the exception of eviction or replevin actions. For these actions, the Plaintiff is required to appear on the return date.  If the defendant does not appear, a judgment will be granted. Future hearings will be set according to need if the case is contested.

Judgment

If a judgment is rendered by a judge after the final hearing or trial, it will be entered on the court record by clerk of circuit court staff and a Notice of Entry of Judgment will be mailed to each party at their last known address. This notice will state the amount of the judgment, including statutory costs.

Costs

State law directs the Clerk of Circuit Court to compute costs and insert them in the judgment in favor of the successful party as follows: filing fee, service fees, statutory attorney fees, witness fees, jury fees and any other costs which may be allowed by the court.

Disclosure of Assets

State law provides that a person obtaining a judgment for money is entitled to receive information regarding the financial status of the unsuccessful party within 15 working days after entry of judgment. Forms called Order for Financial Disclosure are available online or at the Clerk of Courts office. Failure of the judgment debtor (unsuccessful party) to provide this information in writing to the judgment creditor is punishable by court imposed sanctions. 

Collection

A court judgment in your favor does not automatically result in the payment of money. You must first initiate collection of a judgment. Further court procedures are necessary. The primary method available to small claims litigants for enforcing the payment of judgment are (A) Garnishment and (B) Writs of Execution. 

Docketing the Judgment

Once a judgment has been obtained, the judgment creditor may “docket” it with the Clerk of Court by paying a $5.00 fee. When a judgment is docketed, the effect is to place a lien on any real estate owned by the judgment debtor in Oneida County for 10 years. However, it is not required that a judgment be docketed to attempt collection from judgment debtor.

Reopening Judgment

The small claims court may reopen a default judgment. To reopen the judgment, a Notice of Motion and Motion to Reopen is prepared and filed with the Clerk of Court. A date and time of the hearing is obtained from the judicial assistant. A copy of notice of motion must be served on the opposing party before the motion date. The judge will determine whether the judgment will be set aside and a hearing held on the merits of the case.