NOTE: The information provided here is merely intended to give you a general idea of the procedures and meanings of court actions, and is not meant to be legal advice or legally binding.

Don't see your question listed?

Call (608)266-4311 Monday-Friday between 7:45 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Closed all County holidays.

What are the hours of the Clerk of Courts?

7:45 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Closed all County holidays. Customers should arrive in time to complete all business by 4:30. Branch offices are also closed 12-1 p.m. daily

Where is the Courthouse?

The Courthouse is located at 215 S Hamilton St and is between the streets of Wilson and Doty running parallel. There is one entrance on Hamilton Street, a one-way street connecting Wilson and Doty streets. 

Where do I park when I come to the Courthouse?

Parking can be a problem in the downtown area. There are several public parking ramps close to the downtown area. There is usually little or no street parking available during the work day, but there are handicapped-accessible parking spots or areas to drop people off on Doty Street (around the corner from the main entrance). 

What happens when I arrive at the Courthouse?

You will be required to go through Weapons Screening when you arrive at the Courthouse. You will have to pass through a metal detector and all items will be sent through an X-Ray machine. The whole process is very similar to the security screening at an airport so please plan accordingly. Allow extra time to get through Security prior to your hearing. 

Why won't any court staff help me fill out a form, tell me how to proceed in my case, etc?

Court staff cannot give legal advice. According to Supreme Court Rule 70.41, services such as legal research or assistance filling out a form can be considered legal advice. The worst case scenario places court staff in violation of unauthorized practice of law, an offense punishable by as much as $500 or a year in jail (according to WI Statute § 757.30(1) or both. 

How do I get a court interpreter?

A court interpreter will be provided for hearings UPON REQUEST. You must make the request, in writing, with the office of the court official assigned to your case. You may also make the request at the Clerk of Courts office, located on the first floor of the Courthouse. 

How do I get a copy of public records of court cases or files?

Contact the Record Center in the Clerk of Courts office for copies of cases and files. A brief description of cases and index of records is contained in the WI Circuit Court Access database at http://wcca.wicourts.gov/index.xsl

Where do I report for jury duty?

Room L1000 in the Courthouse. See the Juror Information page for more juror information. 

How do I search Dane County Court Cases?

Is the Courthouse accessible to people in wheelchairs or with other physical challenges?

Yes. The entrance has a ramp. There is a drop-off space for the wheelchair ramp on Doty Street. 

If I violated a city ordinance in a city in Dane County, will the case be in Circuit Court?

If the ticket was issued by a jurisdiction that has a Municipal Court, you will probably need to appear there to answer an ordinance violation. The City of Madison has a Municipal Court located in the City County Building Room 203 on the Second Floor. Contact the Clerk of Courts if you are unsure which jurisdiction or Court you need to visit. 

What are the local court rules for Dane County?

Local court rules are policies and procedures for court actions tried in Dane County. You need to be familiar with the local court rules if you are involved in court actions, even if you are not an attorney. You can view the Dane County Circuit Court Rules

What if I can't afford to pay the filing fee for a court action?

You may petition the court to have filing and service fees waived. You should use the Petition for Waiver of Filing and Service fees form. 

What if I can't afford an attorney?

There are several alternatives and programs that may be able to assist you. Visit the Court System's Self-Help Center legal assistance page for lists of resources and programs that offer no or low-cost legal aid and information that can help you determine if you can afford a lawyer. You may also choose to represent yourself. 

Am I supposed to behave a certain way while in Court?

Here are some general tips:

  • Be on time! The court has a very busy schedule. If you are late, your case might be postponed to another date or dismissed entirely.
  • Dress professionally, as you would for an important event. This means that your clothing should be neat and clean, and that you are well groomed.
  • Do not bring your children into court.
  • Do not chew gum.
  • Turn off electronic devices, including cell phones and pagers.
  • Be respectful to everyone in court. This includes the judge or court commissioner, court staff, the other party involved in your case, witnesses, court bailiff, and any other people in the area.
  • Address the judge as 'Your Honor'.
  • Do not use profanity, argue, or verbally react to answers given in court by the judge or commissioner, opposing party, or attorney. You will have your turn to speak.

I can't make my court date. How do I reschedule a court date?

It might not be possible to reschedule, but you can try calling. The number of the assigned judge hearing your case should be located on the notice of hearing. For Dane County Circuit Court, call 266-4311. Requests to adjourn small claims court hearings must be received, in writing, and a copy of the request MUST be provided to the other parties in the case.

How do I complain about an attorney?

The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) investigates grievances about attorney misconduct. OLR provides instructions on how to file a grievance, outlines the grievance process, and explains under what circumstances you may learn whether other grievances have been filed or whether the attorney has been previously disciplined. Information about the OLR is on their website

Where can I complain about a Court Commissioner?

Read Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 75.06. Contact information for the chief judge may be found in the Circuit Court Administrative Districts directory. The Wisconsin Judicial Commission provides an online complaint form

Where can I complain about a judge?

The Wisconsin Judicial Commission investigates allegations of judicial misconduct. They provide an online complaint form

Are there court forms specific to Dane County?

There are several court forms that are designed for use in Dane County only. Locate a court form here on our Court Forms page

How do I get a lawyer?

There are several ways for you to locate an attorney to assist you. One way is to call the WI State Bar Lawyer Referral and Information Service at (608) 257-4666. You could also search lawyer directories or the yellow pages. For more information, visit this topic on the Wisconsin State Law Library's Legal Topics page

How do I access legal information?

Online, a substantial amount of Wisconsin legal information can be found by accessing the Wisconsin State Law Library's website and searching its contents. Not all legal information is available on the Internet, nor is it all available for free. You may also visit the Dane County Legal Resource Center or WI State Law Library during normal business hours. Another option is emailing your question to dclrc.ref@wicourts.gov or calling (608) 266-6316 for more information and assistance. 

How do I file an Out of State Subpoena?

Out Of State Subpoenas


A Wisconsin clerk of circuit court may issue a subpoena for an out-of-state litigant who has submitted a properly issued foreign subpoena to the clerk in the county in which the discovery is sought.


1.         The foreign subpoena must be accompanied by an appropriate Wisconsin subpoena which shall include the following information:


a.                   List the Wisconsin county where discovery is to be conducted as the court from which the subpoena is issued;


b.                  Use the title of the action and its docket number from the foreign jurisdiction;


c.                   Incorporate the terms used in the foreign subpoena and include a copy of the foreign subpoena as an attachment;


d.                  Contain or be accompanied by the names, addresses and telephone numbers of all attorneys of record in the proceeding to which the subpoena related and any party not represented by an attorney; and


e.                   Advise the person to whom the subpoena is directed that “you have a right to petition the Wisconsin circuit court for a protective order to quash or modify the subpoena or provide other relief under s. 805.07(3).”


2.         When a party submits a foreign subpoena to the Clerk of Court’s office that is in compliance with the information required above, the clerk shall promptly sign and issue the Wisconsin subpoena for service upon the person to which the foreign subpoena is directed. There is no filing fee.


3.         The original subpoena is returned to the requester for service.  Copies of the documents are forwarded to the Appeals Clerk to be retained in a group file (GF0000__), scanned and entered on CCAP. 


4.         Alternatively, a party may retain an attorney who is licensed or otherwise authorized to practice law in Wisconsin to sign and issue the Wisconsin subpoena as an officer of the court. 


5.         Requesting issuance of a subpoena does not require an appearance in court.


GF-127A (Foreign Subpoena) (PDF)

GF-127A (Foreign Subpoena) (DOC)

GF-127A summary


Service and Enforcement of Subpoena


A subpoena issued must be served and enforced.  In issuing the subpoena, the clerk of circuit court may not collect a fee and should enter it as a group file (GF0000_) case number. The individual responsible for service shall deliver a certificate of service or affidavit to the party that requested the subpoena. The party must retain the certificate of service or affidavit and furnish a copy to any party or to the deponent upon request.


Deposition, Production and Inspection


When a subpoena issued commands a person to attend and give testimony at a deposition; produce designated books, documents, records, electronically stored information, or tangible items; or permit inspection of premises, the time and place and the manner of the taking of the deposition, the production, or the inspection must comply with Wisconsin's rules and statutes relating to discovery.


        Application to Court for Protective Order


            a.       Special Proceedings. An application to the circuit court for a protective order or to enforce, quash, or modify a subpoena issued under this section will commence a special proceeding. Applications and all other filings in the special proceeding must comply with the applicable rules or statutes of this state, including service, and must be filed with the circuit court in the county in which discovery is to be conducted. Applications to enforce a subpoena must include proof of service of the subpoena.


            b.      Fees; assignment of case number.

                    1. On filing an application under this section, a petitioner shall pay the large claims Civil no-money judgment filing fee.

                    2. The circuit court in which the application is filed shall assign it a CV case number.


c.   Reasonable attorney fees and expenses. The court in its discretion may award any prevailing party its reasonable attorney fees and expenses.


d.   Appeals. A final order granting, denying, or otherwise resolving an application under this subsection is a final order for purposes of filing an appeal.


Ref:  Wis. Stats. Chapter 887.24

Revised:  2/16


Which newspapers are certified to publish legal notices?

A list of certified newspapers by county, and their corresponding requirements, may be found here.


How can I protect my kids from the stress of divorce?

Divorce is hard on children, but there are things you can do to lessen the tension and conflict in your household.

Avoid blaming the other parent, arguing or fighting in front of children, discussing the court proceedings when the children are at home, involving children in decision making or choosing sides, or threatening to send the children to live with the other parent.

Work toward answering children's questions in an age-appropriate manner, making answers simple and clear, reassuring children that the divorce is not their fault, encouraging them to express their feelings such as fear and anger, giving them permission to continue to love both parents and not take sides, reassuring them that they will be taken care of, keeping the children's schedules as normal and typical as possible without major or drastic changes that are unsettling, and preparing the children for changes to their family. 

What if I don't want a divorce? Is there anything I can do to stop it?

The only basis for divorce in Wisconsin is that the marriage is "irretrievably broken." This means the husband and wife can find no way to work out their differences. A judge usually will find a marriage irretrievably broken even if only one spouse wants a divorce. 

How do I know what county to file for divorce in? Is it where I got married?

To file for a divorce in Dane County, one party must have lived in the State of Wisconsin for six months prior to the time the divorce is filed and in Dane County for at least thirty days before filing for divorce. Generally, you file for divorce in the county in which you are a legal resident. 

How long does it take to get a divorce?

Unless the court makes an exception for an emergency, which is very rare, at least four months (120 days) must pass between the serving of the initial papers (or filing of the joint petition) and the final hearing. Most divorces take longer than four months. Several factors affect the length of the process, including the complexity of the case, the ability of the spouses to agree on the issues, and the amount of other business before the trial court.

A divorce isn't effective until the final hearing. Even then, a "Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Judgment" form must be filed with the court within 30 days of the final hearing or the case may be dismissed. Once the divorce is final, both parties must wait at least six months before marrying other people. 

How do I change a legal separation into a divorce?

After one year, either spouse can seek to have a legal separation converted into a divorce without the other spouse's consent. Spouses who reconcile after a legal separation may apply to have the separation revoked. There are no specific court-approved forms for this process. 

What if I'm pregnant and going through a divorce?

Your husband is legally presumed to be the father of your child. You must notify the Court Commissioner or Judge of your pregnancy so that a lawyer can be appointed to represent the child's best interests. That lawyer, the guardian ad litem, must recommend to the judge whether genetic testing should be undertaken to determine whether your husband or another person is the father of your child, before you can be divorced. This often involves waiting until the child is born, when genetic testing can be performed. 

Can I get child support before a divorce is final?

The Judge or Court Commissioner may issue temporary orders that protect your rights during the divorce process. For example, temporary orders may determine child custody and physical placement, who lives in the family home, payment of maintenance and child support, or payment of debts. The parties may also complete a Stipulation for Temporary Order and submit it to the Court for approval. The forms can be found at our Family Court Forms page

Can I get a divorce if I don't know where my spouse is?

Yes, but you have to show the Court that you made reasonable and diligent efforts to locate your spouse. You also must publish a notice in a newspaper likely to give notice in the area or to the person affected [§985.02(1)], in an attempt to inform your spouse that you have started a divorce. You must also submit an Affidavit of Attempted Service at the last-known address.

What does the Court Commissioner need in order to advise the Judge that the case is ready for the divorce hearing?

Before the file can be forwarded to the Judge for the scheduling of a final divorce hearing, you MUST complete the Vital Statistics form (also known as Original Certificate of Divorce) ,the Confidential Petition Addendum, and provide proof of service of the divorce papers on the other party or proof of publication. You must also submit a completed Marital Settlement Agreement (MSA), if all issues in the divorce are agreed to. When there is not a complete agreement on all issues, the parties must request a status conference with the Court Commissioner Center. The Commissioner will determine which issues are not resolved and how much time the trial will take. The Commissioner will notify the Judge's office that the trial is ready to be scheduled and may suggest the appropriate amount of time for a trial of the issues to be decided. Parties may also file a partial MSA outlining any agreements they have been able to reach. Then, the remaining issues can proceed to trial. 

We don't have any property or children, do we still need to fill out the Marital Settlement Agreement?

Yes. Even if the parties have no property to divide, a Marital Settlement Agreement must be filed. The Marital Settlement Agreement available at the Dane County Legal Resource Center or our Family Court Forms page, outlines the potential issues in a divorce. There may be issues that need to be resolved that you have not thought of. As long as both parties sign the MSA and agree on the terms, the Judge will usually accept their agreement. 

When is my divorce final?

Your divorce is final on the date of the divorce hearing. Unless the Judge makes an exception for an emergency, at least four months (120 days) must pass between the serving of the initial papers (or filing of the joint petition) and the final divorce hearing. Most divorces take longer than four months. You are not free to marry, in Wisconsin or another State, for six months after the divorce is final. (Information regarding when your divorce is final can be found on the CCAP system) A "Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Judgment" form must be filed with the court within 30 days of the final hearing. If this document is not received, the action may be dismissed. 

I have a Paternity hearing and can't remember the date. How can I find the date?

Call the Child Support Agency at (608) 266-4031. 

I have a question regarding my Paternity case. Who can help me?

Either call the Child Support Agency at (608) 266-4031 or write to the office at Room 365, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, City-County Building, Madison, WI 53703. 

How can I tell if my spouse has filed a divorce action against me?

Check to see if a divorce action has been filed on the Internet at http://www.wcca.wicourts.gov/, or call (608) 266-4311. 

Where do I get a copy of my Judgment of Divorce or Divorce Certificate?

You may contact the Clerk of Courts Record Center in Room 1002 of the Dane County Courthouse or call (608) 266-4311 for information. Requests for copies may be made in person, by mail, by email at dane.courtrecords@wicourts.gov, or by fax at (608) 267-8859. No telephone requests are taken. There is a charge of $1.25 per page for copies. The Divorce Certificate can be obtained from the State of Wisconsin Office of Vital Records, PO Box 309, 1 W. Wilson Street, Madison, WI 53701-0309 or by calling (608) 266-1371. 

How do I change my name after I'm divorced? Do I have to go to court?

You usually do not need to go through a separate name change court proceeding in order to change certain documents if necessary language regarding use of maiden name is contained in the divorce judgment. Most agencies that hold documents that you need to change, such as the DMV or Social Security Agency, have internal forms for you to fill out. Some may require a certified copy of your divorce Judgment of Divorce (available from the Record Center in Room 1002 of the Dane County Courthouse). The Social Security Agency requires a certified copy of the Judgment of Divorce showing the Judge's signature, not the judge's stamped signature. Contact the individual agencies to see what they require. 

Does the Court offer counseling before a divorce is filed?

There are no Dane County Circuit Court family counseling services available prior to the filing of a divorce or legal separation. You may be able to use private sector providers, which may be covered by your health insurance, or other available family counseling services.

What's the difference between legal separation, annulment, and divorce?

  • Legal Separation: A legal proceeding that separates the parties' property and finances, and makes custody and placement orders regarding children, but continues their marriage. Legal separation is an alternative for people who wish to avoid divorce for religious or other reasons.
  • Annulment: Dissolves a marriage that was invalid from the beginning. A marriage may qualify for annulment only if it satisfies very limited statutory circumstances. See Wis. Stat. §767.313.
  • Divorce: A legal proceeding to dissolve an irretrievably broken marriage.


I need to reschedule my hearing before the Court Commissioner due to lack of service on the other party. What should I do?

If your hearing is in front of a Court Commissioner, call or write to the Court Commissioner Center at the address at the top of this page. A new date may be assigned and you can attempt service again. 

I have been served or mailed notice of a hearing before the Court Commissioner and cannot attend due to a conflict. What should I do?

First, contact the other party (his or her attorney if represented), and the Child Support Agency (if public assistance is involved), and request that the case be rescheduled. If they agree, write to the Court Commissioner Center to request a continuance and indicate that the other parties do not object. If the other parties will not agree, write to the Court Commissioner Center to explain your request. The Court Commissioner will either continue the hearing to another date or try to confer by telephone with both parties and decide whether the hearing is to be continued to a later date. 

How do I get a fee waiver?

Complete the Petition and Waiver of Fees/Costs, and attach the required documentation. Instructions for completion of this form may be found at our Family Court Forms page. You will be notified whether you qualify for a waiver of the fee. Fee waivers typically cover filing and service fees, but not fees for forms or copies. 

I lost my notice of the hearings. When and where is my hearing?

You can find out where and when the hearing is by accessing the Circuit Court Access System called the Consolidated Court Automation Program (CCAP) or by calling (608) 266-4311.

If your hearing is before a Judge, you can find out where and when the hearing is by accessing the Circuit Court Access System called the Consolidated Court Automation Program (CCAP). You could also call the Judge's office at the number listed in the public phone directory. 

How do I get copies from my file?

Contact the Clerk of Courts Records Center in Room 1002 of the Dane County Courthouse or call (608) 266-4311 for information. Requests must be made in person, by mail, by email at dane.courtrecords@wicourts.gov, or by fax at (608) 267-8859. Telephone requests are not allowed. There is a charge of $1.25 per page for copies. 

Where do I go for help with filling out forms? Are there services available in Spanish?

The Family Law Assistance Center is staffed by volunteer attorneys and family law experts who can help you fill out forms and answer general questions about family law. They cannot offer legal advice. It is a drop-in service only; no phone calls. The Center is available Wednesdays from 11:30-1:30 in Room L1022 of the Dane County Courthouse. Spanish speaking volunteers are available on the first and third Wednesdays of each month. 

How do I file for a change of venue?

There are no specific court-approved motions to change venue. You may need to consult an attorney. The rules as to when a change in venue is appropriate may be complicated. 

On the Summons I was served, it says I must respond with a written answer. If I agree to the terms and don't want to make a counterclaim or deny anything, must I respond with an answer before the hearing?

No. The Answer and Counterclaim is to be used to deny factual statements in the petition or make a counterclaim. If an answer and counterclaim is filed, copies must be provided to the spouse or their attorney. If you also want the action to continue, you must file a Counterclaim. Otherwise, if the Petitioner dismisses the Petition, the action will be dismissed too. 

How do I put custody or support orders in place? There's never been one before.

You can file a divorce, legal separation or paternity action. If there is already a court order of any sort related to the child(ren), you may file a Stipulation & Order to Amend Judgment for Support/Custody/Maintenance/Placement. If the parties do not agree, either party may file a Notice of Motion and Motion to Change Custody/Placement/Support/Maintenance. These forms and instructions can be found at our Family Court Forms page. If the child(ren) are not the product of a marriage, and if paternity has not been established, you may file a paternity case or request the assistance of the Child Support Agency, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Room 365, Madison, WI 53703. They are available by telephone at (608) 266-4031. There are no court-approved forms for initiating a paternity action. 

How to file for a temporary restraining order

The Records Center, located in Room 1002 of the Dane County Courthouse, has the forms to obtain a temporary restraining order and injunction.

  • Domestic Abuse
    Domestic abuse includes the following types of behavior: physical abuse, sexual assault, impairment of physical condition, criminal damage to your property or the threat to do one of these. The other party must have been an adult family or household member, an adult former spouse, an adult with whom there is a child in common, an adult with whom a dating relationship has existed, an adult under a caregiver’s supervision, or an adult guardian of an incompetent individual. The party must feel that he/she is in imminent danger of physical harm from the other party. There is no filing or service fee.
  • Harassment
    The petitioner must show that the other party engaged in a pattern of behavior that is harassing, intimidating and has no legitimate purpose, or that the respondent has subjected the victim to unwanted physical contact, or has threatened to do so. The filing fee is charged at the “Civil Action to Commence, No Judgment Requested” rate. The fee may be waived due to indigence or if the behavior outlined in the petition consists of physical harm, threats, property damage, or stalking that would cause a reasonable person to fear physical harm. If the respondent is a juvenile and the paperwork is filed in Juvenile Court, there is no filing fee.
  • Child Abuse
    The petitioner must show that there has been physical injury inflicted by other than accidentally means, sexual intercourse, contact, or exploitation, or failure to obtain treatment. There is no filing or service fee.

Related Documents

Other Family

What is the Children First Program?

The Children First Program is a program for unemployed parents ordered to pay child support. For information, call the Child Support Agency at 266-4031 or write to the office at Room 365, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. City-County Bldg., Madison, WI 53703. 

I need to change my address / name / employer. Can you help me?

Write to the Court Commissioner Center, 215 S. Hamilton Street, Room 2000, Madison, WI 53703. If there is a support obligation, you must also notify the other party and the Child Support Agency, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Room 106, Madison, WI 53703. 

I am not receiving child support as ordered. What do I do?

You may pursue one of the following:

  • Contact the Child Support Agency at (608) 266-4031.
  • File an "Order to Show Cause for Remedial Contempt of a Divorce or Paternity Judgment". Forms are available for a small fee at the Dane County Legal Resource Center, Room L1007 in the Dane County Courthouse, or on our Family Court Forms page.
  • Contact an attorney to bring an enforcement action on your behalf.

The father of my children is not paying child support and resides in another State. What should I do?

You may contact an attorney because the issues are more complicated when one party resides in another state or contact the Dane County Child Support Agency at (608) 266-4031. That office may be able to begin an interstate child support action on your behalf. 

How do I obtain information about my child support payments?

For information on your child support payments, check under "payments on collections" on the Department of Workforce Development website. As an alternative, you may call the Wisconsin Support Collections Trust Fund at 1-(800)- 991-5530 for payment information. 

How do I erase back support (arrears) from my record?

Only the recipient of the child support can agree to erase arrears unless you can prove that the child lived with you or received disability benefits through you, or that you made direct payments to the other parent. 

How can I receive payments on arrears?

The "Motion to Change Support" form can be adapted to request that a payment on arrears be established. If the person under the support obligation is under an income assignment, they can write to the Court Commissioner Center and request that a Court Commissioner increase the income assignment until the arrears are paid. The Child Support Agency can establish an arrears payment by administrative action. 

How do we get a person arrested on a child support warrant released from jail?

Call the Child Support Agency at (608) 266-4031. You should provide the arrested person's social security number, case number and the name of the other party to the case. They will advise you what can be done to secure the person's release. 

Can I terminate parental rights so I don't have to pay child support?

Usually, a person can voluntarily terminate his or her parental rights only if there is another person willing to adopt the child. A Judge will not terminate your rights just so you can avoid paying support. Parental rights can be terminated involuntarily for the reasons specified in WI Stat §48.415. Questions about terminating parental rights are best addressed to an attorney. An informational checklist on what forms need to be filed can be obtained from the Dane County Legal Resource Center. Petitions to terminate parental rights are filed with the Juvenile Court Administration Office, Dane County Courthouse Room 2000, Madison, WI 53703, (608) 266-4407. The forms to terminate parental rights are available here: Termination of Parental Rights (Voluntary or Involuntary). More information can be found here.

Didn't find an answer to your question? Contact one of the Family Court offices at the locations above or the Dane County Legal Resource Center at (608) 266-6316. 


How do I change my custody or support order?

If both parties are in agreement to make the change, you can file a "Stipulation and Order to Amend Judgment for Support/Maintenance/Custody/Placement." If the parties are not in agreement, you can file a motion to change either custody/placement or court-ordered support. These packets and instructions are available at the Dane County Legal Resource Center (Room L1007 in the Dane County Courthouse) for a small fee or on our Family Court Forms page. The filing fee is $50 for a motion to change custody or placement and $30 for a motion to change child support or maintenance. Stipulations have no filing fee. A copy of any child support modification motion or stipulation must be provided to the Child Support Agency, if public assistance is involved in the case. 

Do I have visitation rights as a third party-grandparent or other relative?

According to Wis. Stat. §767.43, "upon petition by a grandparent, greatgrandparent, stepparent or person who has maintained a relationship similar to a parent-child relationship with the child, the court may grant reasonable visitation rights to that person if the parents have notice of the hearing and if the court determines that visitation is in the best interest of the child." However, certain limitations apply to this statute. You can read the entire statute on the State Legislature's website. Since this issue may be complicated, you may want to consult with an attorney. There are no official court forms for this action. 

What are my parental rights and responsibilities if I'm incarcerated?

There is nothing in Wisconsin law that changes your rights or responsibilities as a parent just because you are incarcerated. There are often side effects of incarceration that can affect parental rights, however. If there is no one to care for a child, then the county and state could become involved in raising the child. If contact is not maintained with the child, a court could later find that the child was "abandoned" and can terminate parental rights permanently. If a divorce is started while a parent is incarcerated, the Judge can consider the inability to care for the child in deciding who gets custody. Support orders are not automatically reduced when a parent is incarcerated. 

What do I do if my ex-spouse isn't obeying the custody order or has stopped paying support?

If one of the parties has violated an order of the Court, the other party may wish to file an Order to Show Cause for Contempt. If the commissioner finds that the other party has violated an order, the party who violated the order could be made to compensate the other party for his or her loss. For instance, in order to avoid going to jail, the other party could be ordered to pay off a debt, make arrangements to pay a medical bill, or pay a certain amount towards his or her child support arrearages.

A contempt form and instructions can be obtained for a small fee from the Dane County Legal Resource Center, Dane County Courthouse Room L1007, 215 S Hamilton St, Madison, WI 53703, or on our Family Court Forms page.

If you believe the other party has violated a support order, you may wish to request assistance from the Dane County Child Support Agency, Room 365, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, City County Bldg., Madison, WI 53703, (608) 266-4031. That office could file a contempt action in your case. Please contact the Child Support Agency to obtain an application for their services. 

Do I need to let my ex-spouse know if I want to move with my children?

According to Wis. Stat. §767.481, if more than one parent has been awarded periods of physical placement, a parent with legal custody of and physical placement rights to a child must provide 60 days' written notice to the other parent and the court of intent to (1) establish legal residence with the child outside the state; (2) remove the child from this state for a period of time exceeding 90 consecutive days; or (3) establish legal residence with the child within this state a distance of 150 miles or more from the other parent. If the other parent files a written objection to the move, the move cannot take place without a court hearing. Notification to the other parent before removing a child from his or her primary residence for a period of not less than 14 days is also required

My new spouse wants to adopt my children from my former marriage. Can we do this?

Any child present in this state may be adopted if the child's parents are either deceased or have had their parental rights terminated. In the case of adoption by a stepparent, the birth parent to whom the stepparent is not married must be deceased or have had his/her rights terminated. 

How can I set aside a divorce judgment and stay married?

Both parties must sign a notarized application, which is sent to the Judge for his/her consideration within six months from the granting of the Judgment of Divorce. 

Related documents

What's the difference between Juvenile Court and Family Court?

Both offices deal with children and families. Juvenile Court handles matters such as child or juvenile protective services, crimes committed by children or juveniles, as well as termination of parental rights. Family court handles matters such as divorce, legal separation, annulment, child custody, child support, as well as paternity, counseling and mediation. Another court, probate court, handles adoptions and guardianships. All of these courts assist one another with cases that may cross into another's jurisdiction.

How is "juvenile" defined in Wisconsin?

According to WI Statute § 938.02(10m), a person who is less than 18 years of age, except that for purposes of investigating or prosecuting a person who is alleged to have violated a state or federal criminal law or any civil law or municipal ordinance, does not include a person who has attained 17 years of age. 

At what age can a minor be prosecuted as an adult for the commission of a crime?

The age of majority for criminal offenses and forfeitures is 17. Wis. Stats. § 938.02(1) provides that " 'Adult' means a person who is 18 years of age or older, except that for purposes of investigating or prosecuting a person who is alleged to have violated any state or federal criminal law or any civil law or municipal ordinance, 'adult' means a person who has attained 17 years of age." See WI Statute § 938.183 "Original adult court jurisdiction for criminal proceedings" for more information regarding age. There are other circumstances in which a person under age 17 could be dealt with in adult court, including: (1) A juvenile age 15 or 16 may be "waived" into adult court by the juvenile court, and (2) there are certain very serious offenses that may be prosecuted in adult court. 

What is the "Juvenile Justice Code"?

What and where is the Juvenile Reception Center?

Located in room 200 of the City-County Building, the Juvenile Reception Center (JRC) serves as a location for multiple services in Juvenile Court, including being the point of referral for juveniles alleged to have committed a crime for whom the law enforcement agency apprehending the juvenile is unable to release the juvenile to a parent, guardian, or other responsible adult and/or in situations in which the law enforcement officer believes the juvenile should be referred for secure custody. JRC also provides a number of other services related to the physical custody of juveniles and coordinating information with the courts, human services, and law enforcement. 

Are Juvenile cases and records confidential?

Many Juvenile Court hearings are confidential. There are times, however, when the court proceedings are open to the public, mainly in second or subsequent delinquency cases. You should ask your Social Worker or attorney about the confidentiality of your particular hearing. You may be asked to sign a Release of Information form that allows certain parts of the record to go to other child-serving agencies that will be working with your child and the family. The Court may also issue an order to have certain records and facts released to involved parties. 

What are the legal rights of parents in juvenile cases?

To hire representation for themselves or their child and to be heard in Court. Parents in CHIPS (Child in Need of Protection or Services) cases are entitled to be represented by an attorney. Upon a finding of indigence, the Court will appoint an attorney to represent the parent(s). 

What are the legal rights of my child in Juvenile Court?

The Supreme Court ruled that juveniles have the right to know the allegations against them, to have legal representation, to question witnesses, protect themselves against self-incrimination, have a transcript of court proceedings on request, and have the right to appeal. In delinquency (law violation) situations, juveniles do not have a right to a jury trial but can have a trial with the judge. 

What is termination of parental rights?

According to WI Statute § 48.40(2), the severing of rights, powers, privileges, immunities, duties and obligations existing between parent and child, pursuant to a court order, voluntarily or involuntarily in the best interests of a child. 

My son got beat up by a classmate. Can I file a restraining order on behalf of my son?

Yes. The forms are available in the Legal Resource Center (Room L1007 in the Dane County Courthouse) 

How do I get help if I am a victim of a crime committed by a juvenile?

First make sure that the crime has been reported to law enforcement. Cooperate with the investigating officer and give as much information as possible regarding the type of damage and other details regarding the crime. They will also give you some information about who to contact if you have questions about your rights, and you will receive contact information for the Victim Witness Unit of the District Attorney's office. If charges are filed against the juvenile, you will be mailed a victim notification letter from the Victim Witness Unit. This is your opportunity to give the Victim Witness Specialist your opinion regarding restitution and consequences. You will also be given the opportunity to request that the Victim Witness Unit of notify you of any scheduled hearings. You have the right to attend some of these hearings and make a statement to the court if you choose. It is important that you provide any documentation that you have regarding the loss incurred. Due to various laws and statutes affecting juveniles, there are only certain costs that are recoverable in juvenile court as well as monetary limits. If you are not satisfied regarding the action taken in juvenile court, victims do have the right to sue the parents and child in civil court. The victim must initiate this process. 

What can the Juvenile Justice system do to help me with my child's problems?

When a child is placed on supervision with the Department of Human Services, a variety of programs and services can be made available to the child and family in order to help the child successfully complete supervision and prevent future problems. Such programs range from diversion programs to intensive supervision, as well as a variety of individual and family counseling services. The assigned social worker will aid the family in evaluating their needs and obtaining services. 

How do cases get started in Juvenile Court?

A case usually begins with a complaint brought against a juvenile through a report filed by law enforcement. The police send most complaints to the Juvenile Intake office after they have contact with a victim of a crime, or a threatened party. The complaint is reviewed by Juvenile Intake staff from Human Services and the District Attorney's Office. Juvenile Intake reviews the accusation (complaint/ referral) and works with the District Attorney's office to decide whether it is suitable for informal action (Deferred Prosecution Agreement) or if it should be filed as a petition in Juvenile Court. If the petition is filed with the Court, the hearing process will ensue. If it is sent to Human Services for further work with the youth/family, a social worker from Human Services will contact the parent(s) for an intake conference. 

What is non-secure custody?

Unlocked. It is not as restricted as a secure facility, such as detention, and could be the home of a parent, relative or guardian, friend of the family, foster or group home, or a hospital. 

Will my child have an attorney to help him? What if I can't afford to hire one for him?

In all delinquency, CHIPS/JIPS cases, juveniles/children have the right to be represented by a lawyer. In delinquency/JIPS cases, juveniles/children aged 10 and older, and in CHIPS cases children aged 12 and older, will be appointed an attorney by the State Public Defender's office. The attorney will advocate for the juvenile during all stages of the proceeding unless the juvenile wishes to continue without a lawyer and the Judge permits this. The parents in these cases will be ordered at the conclusion of the case to reimburse the state for the representation of their child. The amount is dependent on whether the charge is a felony or misdemeanor. Parents have the right to appeal this order to show indigence (inability to pay). Information about the appeal process will be provided once the case is concluded. The State Public Defender's Office can be contacted at 266-9150. Children under the age of 10 and alleged to be JIPS and children under the age of 12 and alleged to be CHIPS will be appointed a Guardian ad Litem (GAL), an attorney who will represent the best interest of the child. The GAL is appointed at county expense. 

Why does my child's attorney say he/she cannot speak to me when I am paying for the representation?

Any child with pending charges in Juvenile Court has the right to be represented by counsel in all stages of Court proceedings. It is important for the child to be able to speak freely and honestly with his/her attorney so the attorney can provide the best counsel possible. It is also important that the attorney be able to respect the client/attorney trust by keeping conversations with the juvenile private. The attorney may only discuss general information with the parents due to this trust obligation. 

When do parents need their own lawyer or representation?

Three possible circumstances when parents may wish to seek their own representations are:

  1. If the parent(s) will be required to provide sworn testimony during a trial, depending on the nature of their testimony, or
  2. If the parent(s) object to the way they are being represented to the Juvenile Court by the District Attorney, or the child's defense attorney, or if they have a hostile relationship to the child's position, or
  3. The parent is a parent in a case alleging that their child is in need of protection or services (CHIPS). In CHIPS cases, for parents who have been found to be indigent, a court appointed attorney may be provided at county expense. An application will need to be filled out by the parent. Those forms can be obtained from the Juvenile Court Administration Office in Room 2000 of the Dane County Courthouse. They may also be found on the court website. It is form JD-1718. There may be other circumstances that arise for which having representation will be desirable for presentation of a parent's position to the Court and preservation of a parent's interests.

What's an Intake Interview?

When your child has been charged with a delinquent act or is alleged to be a Juvenile in need of Protection or Services (JIPS), a Social Worker from the Dane County Department of Human Services will be assigned to your family. This usually takes one or two weeks. The social worker will then contact you by letter or phone to set up an initial meeting, called an Intake Interview. This meeting will take place at either the Social Worker's office or your home depending on the worker's schedule and preference. Family history will be one of the topics that will be discussed so that the Social Worker can get to know you better. This is important because the Social Worker, as the case planner, will be making recommendations to the court about what the conditions of supervision will be, which community services to use, or even which type of out of home placement may be best suited to your child's needs, where necessary.

What is the hearing process?

In most Juvenile Court cases, the Juvenile Justice Code requires several steps in the hearing process, including:

  • A plea or jurisdictional hearing, at which the Juvenile and/or the parent, in some cases, will enter an admission or denial regarding the allegations in the petition. This hearing is where you may hear the juvenile's attorney make a request for a different Judge or for a waiver of the time limits for the next hearing. This may sound foreign and confusing to you, but the attorney is simply preserving the juvenile's rights under the statutes. Some of these rights may be lost if not requested at the PLEA hearing. The Commissioner or Judge may also order psychological and/or Alcohol or Drug abuse (AODA) evaluations at this hearing. It is important to note here that this hearing is an initial hearing and long-term planning decisions will probably not be made at this time.
  • A pre-trial conference at which the attorneys, Social Worker, parents, and the Judge may be able to work out an agreement that will settle the case without going to a trial.
  • A fact-finding hearing or trial in which the Judge determines whether a juvenile is delinquent or in need of protection or services by hearing testimony from all parties. If the Judge determines that the juvenile is delinquent or in need of protection or services, the final hearing will be set.
  • A dispositional hearing at which the Judge will hear the reports and recommendations of the Social Worker and others involved with this case. The Judge may have received written reports from other parties, such as psychologists and school personnel, before the hearing. Parents also will be asked their views on the recommendations. After the Judge hears all of the testimony, he or she will begin to list the "findings of fact," and then will decide the disposition of the case. The Judge will make a court order listing the conditions of the juvenile's period of supervision and a determination where the juvenile will reside if placement outside of the parental home is necessary through an out of home placement.

If you are unclear on any point in any of the hearings, be sure to ask the Judge/Commissioner, the assigned Social Worker, or an attorney to explain the order in more detail. In some minor cases, an agreement called a "Consent Decree" may be worked out at the pre-trial hearing thereby avoiding a final dispositional hearing. A consent decree is a form of probation that allows a juvenile to keep their record clean if they follow through with all of the conditions of the consent decree. If they follow through the case will be dismissed. If not, the juvenile can be brought back to court and can be found delinquent based on the plea they entered. 

What happens if my child is found guilty of a crime? Will my child go to jail?

Depending on the facts and circumstances, the final disposition of a juvenile case may or may not include time in a secure facility. Recommendations will be made to the Judge regarding placement of your child. The Judge will make a court order listing the conditions of the juvenile's period of supervision and a determination where the juvenile will reside if placement outside of the parental home is necessary. 

Who sets up community service work ordered by the court?

If the court orders a youth to make restitution payments or perform community service (unpaid service work), Dane County has a program called the Youth Restitution Program (YRP) that monitors both court ordered restitution and community service hours and reports back to the Court. The juvenile and his/her family will report to the Juvenile Reception Center to sign up for YRP immediately following the hearing in which the community service or restitution is ordered. The juvenile will be notified by YRP when a job site has been arranged. Social workers and parents on occasion may monitor the community service hours if approved by the Court. An adult must keep track of the number of hours completed and give it to the social worker. Discuss the issue with the assigned social worker for more information.

What are CHIPS and JIPS?

CHIPS stands for Child In need of Protection or Services. It is a proceeding in juvenile court for any person under the age of 18 for noncriminal reasons including abuse, neglect, and abandonment. Similarly, JIPS stands for Juvenile in Need of Protection or Services, and are court proceedings involving a juvenile under the age of 18-(1) whose parent signs a petition requesting the court to take jurisdiction and is unable to control the juvenile; (2) who is habitually truant from school or home; (3) who is a school dropout; (4) who is under the age of 10 and has committed a delinquent (criminal) act; or (5) who has been determined to be not responsible for a delinquent act by reason of mental disease or defect or who has been determined to be not competent to proceed. 

What should I do if I suspect a child is being abused?

Call the Human Service intake office that serves the area in which the family resides as soon as possible. Human Services will investigate. When in doubt, report it to either a law enforcement agency or Human Services office. There are several human Services offices throughout Dane county, and you can look them up in the phone book, on the Internet, of contact you local police department for assistance. 

Can Juvenile cases and records be expunged?

Pursuant to §938.355(4m) a juvenile who has been adjudged delinquent may, on attaining 17 years of age, petition the court to expunge the court's record of the juvenile's adjudication. Expungement will not be approved if the juvenile, even though he/she has reached age 17, is currently under Juvenile Court jurisdiction/supervision. Expungement will only be approved in exceptional circumstances in which the juvenile/adult making the request demonstrates through course of conduct and/or provision of other information that it is in both the best interests of the juvenile and the public that their juvenile record be expunged. 

What is "you place/you pay" and does Dane County use it?

This inter-county agreement corresponds to venue and venue transfers for juvenile court. See the Wisconsin Department of Corrections venue agreement FAQ (Microsoft Word format) for more information about "you place/you pay." Dane County is part of this agreement. See also the Juvenile Court procedure manual for Dane County policies, specifically the section on Venue. 

Are forms for Juvenile Court online?

Yes. Go to the juvenile mandatory forms page to find mandatory Juvenile Court forms on the Internet. 

Is there assistance available in the Courthouse for filling out Juvenile Court forms?

There is no assistance currently available in the courthouse specifically for filling out Juvenile Court forms. Court staff may be able to tell you what needs to be filed, but they are not allowed to give out information that could be considered legal advice.

Didn't find an answer to your question? Contact the Clerk of Courts at the location above or the Dane County Legal Resource Center at 266-6316.


Where can I find adoption forms?

Forms are available from the Dane County Legal Resource Center (608-266-6316) for a small fee. You can also download the forms from the Wisconsin Court Systems Website or the Clerk of Court Other Court Forms Page

Where can I find the law on adoptions, for example, who can adopt?

Chapter 48 of the Wisconsin Statutes (specifically § 48.81 to 48.978). 

Are adoption hearings open to the public?

No. Adoption hearings are closed to the public. Requests by the parties to allow family and close family friends to attend the hearing are generally granted by the judge. 

What is readoption?

Any child whose adoption would otherwise be valid under Wisconsin statutes may be readopted in this state. Often a child adopted in a foreign country by Wisconsin residents is readopted in order to obtain a Wisconsin certificate of birth facts for the child. In Dane County, the same adoption forms and procedures are used for a readoption.

The Dane County procedure for adoption and forms are available on the Other Forms page

After an adoption is granted, how do I get a new birth certificate?

After the adoption hearing, a check for the fee for generating a new birth certificate will be collected. The vital records department of the state of birth creates the new birth certificate. If your child was born in a foreign country, Wisconsin will create a certificate of birth facts. (The foreign birth certificate and English translation is required.) 

How do I obtain adoption records?

Adoption files are closed to the public. Adopted persons who wish to obtain information about themselves and their birth relatives, or birth parents seeking to give information to their birth children should contact:

Adoption Records Search Program
P.O. Box 8916
Madison WI 53708-8916
(608) 266-7163 


Does the Probate Office have any historical records that would aid a genealogy search?

Many probate records go back to 1848. Cases commenced prior to 1992 are available only on microfilm. Copies made from microfilm are $1.00 per page. To search for information, you will need the person's first and last name and approximate date of death or date that documents were filed. The State Historical Society has duplicate records for cases filed before 1930 which may be easier to read, retrieve and copy.


Where can I find the law on Probate?

The Wisconsin Statutes have several chapters regarding Probate Court actions. Look especially in chapters 851-882.

Are any probate records on the internet?

Yes! A scaled-down version of the information on the court computer docket is available on the internet on Wisconsin Circuit Court Access (CCAP). Here you can find case numbers, the name of the personal representative, the final date to file claims (if it has not yet been passed), and whether any claims have been filed. 

Where can I find information about Probate Court deadlines?

The Wisconsin Statutes have several chapters that outline deadlines for Probate Court related actions. Look especially in chapters 851-882. 

Where can I find out more general information about Probate?

Check the Wisconsin Register in Probate Association website or the links on the Wisconsin State Law Library's Legal Topic Probate for more resources and information.


Are Guardianship records open to the public?

Records regarding guardianship of the estate of a minor or adult are open to the public, but records regarding guardianships of incompetent persons and guardianship of the person of a minor are closed. 

Where can I find the law on guardianships of minors?

The Wisconsin Statutes have several chapters that describe guardianships, but look especially in chapters 54 “Guardianships and Conservatorships” and 48 "Children's Code."

Where can I find the law on guardianship of an adult?

The Wisconsin Statutes have several chapters that describe guardianships, but look especially in 54 “Guardianships and Conservatorships” and 55 "Protective Service System."

How long does a guardianship last?

Per Wisconsin statute chapter 54 “Guardianships and Conservatorships”, temporary guardianships last for 60 days and can be extended for another 60 days. "Permanent" guardianships end when the child turns 18 or the Court orders the guardianship to be terminated. 

What is a Watts Review?

A court order for protective placement may be required to authorize a guardian of the person to place or keep someone at a nursing home or group home. These orders are reviewed each year to determine whether the person is in the least restrictive environment consistent with his or her needs and abilities. This review is known as a "Watts Review." An attorney will be appointed as Guardian ad Litem (GAL) to review reports about the ward and request a hearing before the court if appropriate. 

What if the guardian or ward moves?

If a ward moves, the guardian MUST notify the court in writing as soon as possible. In all correspondence with the court, please provide the case number, the ward's name and address and the guardian's name and address. Send correspondence to:

Probate Court
Dane County Courthouse
Madison, WI 53703

If a ward is being moved to a more restrictive environment (for example, from a group home to a nursing home), the guardian should also explain briefly the reason for the move and send a copy of the notice to Dane County's Adult Protective Services at the following address:

Dane County Human Services
Adult Protective Services
1202 Northport Drive
Madison, WI 53704

If a ward objects to this move, he or she is entitled to a hearing within 96 hours of filing a petition with the court. 

How do I end a guardianship?

Any interested person can ask the court to end the guardianship at any time. Usually a GAL will be appointed and sometimes a hearing will be held to see if termination is appropriate. 


Does the Probate Office provide safekeeping services?

You can deposit your own will in the Probate vault for safekeeping for a fee of $10. Only the person who wrote the will, or their written designee with the original receipt, can withdraw it. The written designation must be signed by two witnesses. There is an additional fee of $10 each time you replace a will or file a Codicil.

To file a Health Care Power of Attorney or Declaration to Physicians (also known as a Living Will), an $8 filing fee is necessary. Be sure to let the person you nominate as your agent know where he or she can find the document. Some people keep duplicate originals or copies in another location that is more accessible to close relatives and friends. The Wisconsin Guardianship Support Center can provide more information about advance directives. The Financial Power of Attorney is filed with the Register of Deeds office

How much can I sue for in Small Claims Court?

The money limit is $10,000. Torts/Personal Injury cases are limited to $5,000. Any amounts over these limits must be filed as a large claims civil case. They cannot be broken down as multiple small claims cases.

What's a replevin?

An action for the recovery of an item that hasn't been paid for or been wrongfully taken.

What's the difference between criminal and civil courts?

Civil actions are noncriminal cases in which one private individual or business sues another to protect, enforce, or redress private or civil rights. A criminal case is the action or suit by a government to penalize a violation of the criminal laws. Both types of cases can be brought to the Dane County Circuit Courts for a decision and judgment. 

Do I have to hire an attorney to help me in Small Claims Court?

Representation by an attorney is not required, it is your decision if you wish to retain one. Please keep in mind that court staff is prohibited from giving legal advice.

How much does it cost to file a case in Small Claims Court?

All small claims court case types require a filing fee of $94.50.

How is the defendant served once the case is filed?

All case types must be personally served. In a money or replevin case, if diligent attempts to serve the papers on the defendant(s) by Sheriff or process server fail, you may publish a form of summons in a major newspaper that is likely to be read by the defendant(s). Eviction cases may be posted and mailed if personal service cannot be made. Evictions cannot be published.

What is the Return Date on the Summons and Complaint?

The Return Date is the date of the initial appearance or the date by which the defendant needs to provide a written answer in a money action. Eviction and replevin return dates are mandatory appearances by all parties.

What is a Stipulated Dismissal?

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.

What is a default judgment?

If the defendant fails to provide a written answer 'disputing the claim' by mail (or in person) a default judgment may be entered against the defendant. A notice that judgment has been entered will be sent to the parties.

What happens if I lose my case?

If, after a court commissioner level hearing and a trial with the judge, 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.

What happens if I win my case?

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 fails to give you the required financial disclosure form, you may file contempt paperwork with the court. 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 Dane County and may show up on their credit report. 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. You can also request an execution form to be served by the Sheriff to see if they can collect the money from the defendant for you. All of the above paperwork will require either a court fee or service fee or both.

Can my court costs be reimbursed if I win my case?

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 receivelimitedattorney fees. Please see the table in the Guide to Small Claims Court for the amount of reimbursement allowed for attorney fees.

What can I do about a judgment listed on my credit report?

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.

How do I get a money judgment for eviction?

In a nutshell:
  1. File for an eviction in Small Claims court
  2. Win the eviction action
  3. Re-rent the premises
  4. File a rent and damages form with Clerk of Courts
  5. Win a money judgment
  6. Pay a $5 docketing fee to have the Small Claims Court put a lien on person's property

How do I schedule a hearing for contempt?

Complete the contempt form at the Clerk of Courts office. After the clerk schedules the hearing with the next available judge, you will be required to make copies of the document and have the defendant(s) personally served with the paperwork.

Do I need to appear at the contempt hearing?

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.

May I reopen a Judgment? How?

A party may reopen a default judgment within 12 months. You must file a motion or file a petition to reopen (no filing fee). A hearing will be set to consider the reasons for the request to reopen.

What's a trial de novo?

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 Legal Resources Center or on line, if not provided by commissioner.

What is earnings garnishment and how does it work?

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.

Is there assistance available in the Courthouse for help with Small Claims issues and filling out forms?

A Small Claims assistance program is available to the public every Tuesday morning from 9:00-11:00 AM in room L1022. A volunteer attorney from the Dane County Bar Association is available to assist the public with questions, forms, and procedures regarding Small Claims monetary, replevin, garnishment, and eviction actions.

What are service times for eviction and replevin actions?

In Dane County, as a general rule, there must be at least 8 business days from the filing date to the return date in eviction and replevin actions.

What's the difference between criminal and civil courts?

Civil actions are noncriminal cases in which one private individual or business sues another to protect, enforce, or redress private or civil rights. A criminal case is the action or suit by a government to penalize a violation of the criminal laws. Both types of cases can be brought to the Dane County Circuit Courts for a decision and judgment. 

How do I find out information about my case?

Contact the Record Center in the Clerk of Courts office for copies of cases and files. Contact the Clerk of Courts Records Center in Room 1000 of the Dane County Courthouse, 215 S Hamilton St, Madison, WI, 53703 or call 266-4311 for information. Requests must be made in person, by mail or by FAX. Telephone requests will not be processed. There is a statutory charge of $1.25 per page for the copies.

A brief description of cases and index of records is contained in the WI Circuit Court Access database. 

What happens if you're charged with noncriminal offenses?

If you're charged with an ordinance or traffic offense that is not considered a criminal violation, you'll be given a citation. In most cases you won't be taken into custody. The citation will usually give you a choice of paying a fine or going to court. It will state a date for you to appear in court if you choose not to pay the fine. 

Which statutes deal with Criminal Laws?

atutes 938-961 deal with the Criminal Code and Controlled Substances Act, while 967-980 deal with Criminal Procedure. There may be several other statutes that deal with criminal laws or procedure, such as evidence or other specific crimes. Look at the Statutes Table of Contents for more information on how Statutes are arranged. 

Where can I research my criminal case?

If you want to review your case file, go to the Records Center in room Room 1002 of the Dane County Courthouse. If you want to research the crimes with which you are charged, or investigate more information about your upcoming court date, such as reviewing the laws of evidence, or look into other areas of criminal law research, such as defenses or postconviction motions, visit a law library. There are three public law libraries in Madison. The Dane County Legal Resource Center is in room L1007 in the Courthouse. The WI State Law Library is located on the second floor at 120 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. The UW Law Library is located in the law school on Bascom Hill off Park Street. Online, you may want to visit the legal topics section of the WI State Law Library's website

Why do I have to pay all these fees and surcharges?

The fees and surcharges that are added to your ticket are set by state statute. The legislature and the Governor have set the amount of these fees. These fees have increased drastically over the past ten years. The officer and the court must abide by state statutes. The officer and the court are not responsible for setting the amount of these fees and surcharges. 

Where do these fees go?

On a typical speeding ticket, the minimum ticket amount is broken down as follows:

  • Forfeiture: $30-Goes to the county; if it's a state charge, it's split 50-50 with the state
  • 23% Penalty Assessment:$7.80-Goes to the state for a law enforcement training fund
  • Court Costs: $25-The state gets $15, the county gets $10
  • Justice Information Fee: $21.50-Goes to the state for computer systems development (includes non-court systems)
  • Jail Assessment Fee: $10-Goes to the Sheriff's Office for jail expansion and maintenance
  • Drug Enforcement Assessment: $13.00-Goes to the state crime laboratory
  • Court Support Fee: $68-Goes to the state; a portion is returned to counties in block grants for court-related expenditures

Where do I pay speeding or parking tickets?

Tickets issued by the county parking ramps have instructions on them about how payment is to be made. All other county-issued tickets are to be paid in the Clerk of Courts. City of Madison municipal violation tickets can be paid at Room 203, City-County Building. For City of Madison parking tickets and other fees, you can pay at a window at the Police Department (Ground floor, City County Building) or online at MadisonPay.com. Contact the issuing agency (if not Madison or Dane County) for other payment or appearance information. All other hearing date information should be addressed to the Clerk of Courts, Dane County Courthouse Room 1000, (608) 266-4311. 

How do I contest a traffic ticket?

Some questions to consider are: What are your chances of success if you do contest it? How much will it cost you? Will you lose your driving privileges? You may wish to consult an attorney about these issues. If you decide to contest the citation, you're entitled to a trial. If the case is to be resolved in municipal court, a judge will decide the matter. If the case is to be resolved in Dane County Circuit Court, a judge or commissioner will resolve it, unless you immediately request a jury and pay the required fee by the hearing date. 

Can I sue someone in criminal court?

No. Bring criminal complaints to the police department or District Attorney's office. They will in turn choose to proceed or investigate your complaints. 

How do I complain about a police officer who I think harassed me?

Contact the department of the officer and ask to speak to someone about complaints. The department may have a specific official or office or form for such actions. 

How do I find a lawyer? What if I can't afford to hire a lawyer?

There are several ways for you to locate an attorney to assist you. One way is to call the WI State Bar Lawyer Referral and Information Service at (608) 257-4666. You could also search lawyer directories or the yellow pages. For more information, visit this topic on the WI State Law Library's Legal Topics page. If you are being charged with a crime, you may also contact the Office of the State Public Defender for representation at (608) 266-9150. 

Can I have my friend or relative represent me at my court hearing?

Unless your friend or relative is a licensed attorney for Wisconsin, representation by a friend or relative may constitute Unauthorized Practice of Law, an offense punishable by as much as $500 or a year in jail (according to WI Statute § 757.30(1)) or both.

What's the general procedure for criminal cases?

In a nutshell, in either a misdemeanor or a felony case, you'll have an initial appearance. At this appearance, you'll be served with a criminal complaint that outlines the charge, the probable cause supporting the charge, and the penalty.

In a misdemeanor case, you'll also enter a plea at the initial appearance. If you plead "not guilty" to a misdemeanor, you'll be given a trial date.

For a felony, the next step is the preliminary hearing. At this hearing the prosecution must present enough evidence to convince the judge that you should stand trial for a felony offense. If it's decided that your case will go to trial, you then attend an arraignment. At the arraignment, the district attorney will serve you with formal charges for a particular felony. At this time, you must enter a plea.

This information is from the Wisconsin State Bar's Legal Q & A

What are the steps in a trial?

See WI Statute § 972.10 for the order of a jury trial, as well as more information about criminal trials. There is also an outline of a jury trial in the information for jurors on the WI Court System's website. Specifically, you may want to examine "Step 3: The Trial" for helpful information. 

What is the traffic points system?

Demerit points are assessed to drivers when convicted of a moving violation, beginning on the date of the violation. The courts send the Wisconsin Department of Transportation (WisDOT) Division of Motor Vehicles records of all convictions for moving traffic violations. Persons who hold a probationary license are assessed double points for the second and all subsequent points. When 12 or more demerit points are accumulated in one year, a suspension of the driver privilege is required, for a minimum of two months. Convictions remain on the driver records for five years from the date of conviction. However, alcohol related and some commercial violations remain on the record for 10 years to life. This information and much more can be found on the WisDOT web page about the traffic points system in Wisconsin

How do I get an occupational license?

Contact the WI Department of Motor Vehicles for application procedures. If you have been revoked as a habitual traffic offender (HTO), the circuit court in your county of residence must approve the issuance of your occupational license. Dane County provides a petition form. There is a filing fee of $40.00 for this process. 

What is a Victim Impact Panel?

Victim Impact Panels provide victims of OWI tragedies an opportunity to share their stories of pain and loss with OWI offenders. The goal of the Victim Impact Panel is not to blame or judge offenders in the audience, but to reach the audience on an emotional level…a level that courts, fines and jail may not be able to reach. Listening to the personal accounts of people who have lived to tell about the grief and despair that occurs "after a crash," can help drivers understand the dangers and consequences of driving after drinking. The ultimate goal of the Victim Impact Panel is to reduce the number of people killed or injured in alcohol related crashes. 

What is TAP (Treatment Alternative Program)?

TAP, Treatment Alternative Program, provides an alternative to incarceration for the nonassaultive correctional client and is based on the national model entitled "Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime." The program is a service of the Human Services Department of Dane County. TAP is a six-month voluntary program offering the services of screening to determine eligibility, treatment, as well as case management. Eligibility is based on the client's treatment needs, readiness for treatment and availability of appropriate services. The Criminal Justice System must formally agree with the plan before an eligible individual is admitted to the program. For more information about TAP, contact the Mental Health Center of Dane County at (608) 280-2651 or write to TAP at 710 John Nolen Drive, Madison, WI 53713. 

How do I expunge my record?

You may not be able to expunge your record. Wisconsin law allows a judge to "expunge" a case in only two situations, both involving youthful offenders:

  • Misdemeanors committed by a person under 25. If the judge ordered expunction upon successful completion of the sentence, the record can be expunged. See §973.015, Wis. Stats.
  • Adjudication of a juvenile delinquent. A juvenile who has been adjudged delinquent can, upon reaching age 17, petition the judge for expunction of the juvenile adjudication. See §938.355, Wis. Stats. However, WI Circuit Courts Access (WCCA) database does not display juvenile adjudications because they are not public records.

An expunged case is sealed by the clerk of court and is available to be viewed only with a court order. If the judge properly orders a case expunged, any reference to it will be removed from WCCA. A judge has no other authority or power to expunge cases, and there are no similar provisions for other types of cases. 

For more information, see this Expunging Court Records brochure.

How do I complain about an attorney, judge, or commissioner?

The Office of Lawyer Regulation (OLR) investigates grievances about attorney misconduct. OLR provides instructions on how to file a grievance, outlines the grievance process, and explains under what circumstances you may learn whether other grievances have been filed or whether the attorney has been previously disciplined. Information about the OLR is on their website.

To complain about a court commissioner, read Supreme Court Rule (SCR) 75.06. Contact information for the chief judge may be found in the Circuit Court Administrative Districts directory. The Wisconsin Judicial Commission provides an online complaint form at this site.

To complain about a judge, contact the WI Judicial Commission. The Wisconsin Judicial Commission investigates allegations of judicial misconduct. They provide an online complaint form

How do I appeal a criminal case?

An appeal of a final circuit court judgment or order can be initiated with the Wisconsin Court of Appeals by filing a notice of appeal with the clerk of the circuit court for the county in which the judgment or order being appealed was entered. There is a filing fee of $195.00 payable to the Court of Appeals and a $15.00 transfer fee, made payable to the county transferring the record. You will need to familiarize yourself with the Rules of Appellate Procedure (WI Statutes Ch. 809). Appeals can be complicated, so may want to consult an attorney for legal advice. You may also consult "A Citizen's Guide to Filing an Appeal" for more information and sample forms.

Didn't find an answer to your question? Contact the Clerk of Courts at the location above or the Dane County Legal Resource Center at 266-6316.


On the last page of the divorce forms with children, does only one party need to sign the form in front of a notary?

Yes, only one party needs to sign the last page in front of a notary. On the joint petition, both parties need to sign the next to last page of the form. 

What is the "Vital Statistics" form?

The "Original Certificate of Divorce or Annulment" is also known as the Vital Statistics form. Upon completion of the divorce or annulment case, this form is filed with the State of Wisconsin Vital Records Office located at 1 W. Wilson St. Room 158, Madison, WI 53703. 

Is there a form to waive the 120-day waiting period?

The waiting period can only be waived under rare circumstances defined in the law. You may send a letter to the judge, asking for the waiting period to be waived and listing the grounds under which it should be waived. 

How can I get a copy of my final divorce judgment?

Contact the Clerk of Courts Records Center in Room 1002 of the Dane County Courthouse, 215 S Hamilton St, Madison, WI, 53703 or call (608) 266-4311 for information. Requests must be made in person, by mail, by email at dane.courtrecords@wicourts.gov, or by fax at (608) 267-8859. . Telephone requests are not accepted. There is a charge of $1.25 per page for the copies. 

Where do I get a copy of my divorce certificate from x years ago?

Vital Records Office, (608) 266-1374, Room 158, 1 W Wilson Street, Madison, WI 53703.

Where do I get a QDRO form?

If the form is needed to divide Wisconsin Retirement System benefits, the form is online at the State Employee Trust Funds website. Otherwise, the person's employer may have a specific form. If not, it would be best to consult with an attorney. 

Where can I get a Quit Claim deed?

On the WisBar website under Legal Forms-Real Estate. 


If I qualify for a fee waiver do I have to pay for forms or copies?

Yes. The fee waiver covers filing and service fees only. Forms and copies still require a fee. 

Can I use white-out on the forms or do I need to buy a new set?

If you need to make corrections prior to filing, white-out or other correction fluid is acceptable. If the corrections are crossed out, the parties should initial the changes. If you need to make corrections or amendments after filing, a new set will be needed with the word "Amended" written on the top. Corrections cannot be made on the Original Certificate of Divorce. A new form would be needed. 

Can I use photocopied forms?

It's fine to use a photocopy of a blank form. However, any required copies made from the original must be true photocopies and cannot have information written in later. 

Are there any forms in other languages?

No. The court system's official language is English. Court interpreters are available upon request and services are available twice per month to help people fill out forms. 

What if there are no forms for my situation?

You should search for an appropriate form on the Wisconsin Court System website, contact the appropriate court office or law library for a form, or search the sample form books contained in the collections of law libraries. There may still be a situation where there is no form for your situation. In most cases, the Judge or appropriate court office will allow you to draft a form or letter indicating the facts about the situation, including whether you are trying to do something based on a previous case you've been involved in, what you would like the court to do, and your reasons for asking. Sometimes, you may need to consult with an attorney or legal assistance center to make sure your drafted form or letter is complete and formatted correctly. Please note that the pages of any submitted forms must be no larger or smaller than 8.5" x 11".

Are there any places in the Courthouse that will help me fill out a form?

Yes! While court staff are generally prohibited from assisting with form completion, there are at least three places where you will be able to get some help. If the assistance you need is family-related, there is the Family Law Assistance Center, available every Wednesday from 11:30-1:30 in Room L1022 of the Courthouse. If assistance you need is small claims-related, there is the Small Claims Assistance Program, available every Tuesday from 9-11 a.m. in Room L1022 of the Courthouse. Both programs are staffed using volunteer attorneys and other experts from the Dane County Bar Association and community. The volunteers will not give legal advice, but will offer assistance with forms and other procedural information. A third place to go for limited assistance with forms and procedures is the Dane County Legal Resource Center, located in Room L1007 of the Courthouse, and open to the public 8:30-4:30 Monday through Friday. 


Where do I get a CHIPS petition (a petition for protective service for a child/juvenile)?

Only the District Attorney, guardian ad litem, social worker or an attorney can file a CHIPS petition in Dane County. The District Attorney's Office approves all CHIPS petitions prior to filing with Juvenile Court. 

What is a satisfaction of judgment form?

When a judgment is ordered, for example a money judgment in Small Claims Court, and the money is paid directly to the creditor, the Court needs to know so that the debtor's record is cleared. Form GF-129 (mandatory form) is completed by the creditor and provided to the defendant. The satisfaction is then filed with the Clerk of Courts with a $5 fee. If the satisfaction of judgment is due to discharge in bankruptcy, there is a specific form available for purchase at the Dane County Legal Resource Center (Room L1007 in the Dane County Courthouse), or online on our Small Claims Forms page

Do you have any lien forms?

The Court has not produced any mandatory forms for filing a lien. The Legal Resource Center has the Wisconsin Construction Lien Law Handbook (for construction liens) and the Wisconsin Condominium Law Handbook (for condominium liens) that may have sample forms you could use as templates to draft your own legal documents. Visit the WI State Law Library's Legal Topics page on "Liens" for more resources online: http://wilawlibrary.gov/topics/comlaw/liens.php. Otherwise, contact either the Legal Resource Center or WI State Law Library for more information about purchasing lien forms or accessing other research materials. 

Do you have bankruptcy forms?

There are bankruptcy forms on the Western District of WI Bankruptcy Court and US Bankruptcy Court websites. 

Other Family Court

Can a trial de novo be used in family court?

A person requesting the trial de novo should send a request to the Judge with a copy to your spouse and/or spouse's attorney. You may only request a trial de novo if you appeared at the first hearing and the issues were contested. 

What's the difference between a contempt motion and a motion to modify?

Generally, the contempt form should be used to enforce an order. The other motion forms are used to change an order. 

What's the difference between the contempt forms and the Petition to Enforce Placement forms?

The motion to enforce placement can be used by a parent to obtain financial compensation for expenses incurred because the other parent didn't follow the placement order. An injunction may be entered. If you violate the injunction, criminal penalties may apply. 

Am I eligible for a payment plan?

Any defendant who has a fine or fines totaling $100 or more is eligible for a payment plan as long as he/she has a source of income. The source of income can include employment or someone else to make payments for the defendant.

A payment plan should be set up within ten (10) days after the date of case disposition. If some extenuating circumstances exist and the defendant is not able to set up a payment plan within those ten (10) days, the defendant may still be eligible for a payment plan.* Contact the Clerk of Courts Office at (608)266-4311 and ask to speak to a Collection Clerk to address this issue.


*Late applications may require a down payment.

*Payment plans can not be set up by phone.

What do I need to set up a payment plan?

Please read about payment plan rules and obtain the necessary forms here.

What if I'm not eligible for a payment plan and still need additional time to pay?

You must pay at least half of the amount due on or before the due date. Along with that payment you can ask for a 30-day extension to pay the other half. You must ask for this extension - it is not automatically given.

Will I get a receipt for my payment?

If the defendant brings his/her payment into the Clerk of Court's Office he/she will receive a receipt. If the defendant mails his/her payment to the Clerk of Court's Office no receipt will be supplied unless a self-addressed stamped envelope is included with the payment requesting that a receipt be returned.

What happens if I'm late with my payment?

A number of things can happen if a defendant is late (past due date) with payment of his/her court ordered obligation:

  • Up to a 1-year suspension of your driving privilege will be ordered for failure to pay. The suspension is not in lieu of payment.
    • A citation for driving with a suspended license is $186.00 in addition to 3 demerit points.
    • A $60 reinstatement fee is charged by the Department of Motor Vehicles to reinstate a suspended license after failure to pay.
  • Revocation of DNR privileges for failure to pay forfeiture for wildlife-related convictions until paid in full.
  • Referral of the past due amount will be made to a collection agency which can negatively affect a person’s credit rating.
  • A civil judgment will be entered for the past due amount which affects a person’s ability to obtain a loan. A $5.00 satisfaction fee is required to satisfy a civil judgment after the judgment amount is paid in full.
  • Civil judgments accrue 12% interest annually from the date of judgment.
  • Unpaid court obligations are certified with the State of Wisconsin Department of Revenue for tax interception.
  • An income assignment may be ordered which may cost you an additional $3.00 per paycheck if your employer is ordered to withhold your earnings in payment of the fine/forfeiture.
  • An Order to Show Cause Hearing may be scheduled by the court.