Civil Process



The Civil Process Unit is a sub-division of the Supports Services Division of the Dane County Sheriff's Office. The unit is comprised of a small clerical staff and eight uniformed deputies, (two for Evictions/Executions and six assigned to serve legal papers within the City of Madison and throughout Dane County). The primary function of the civil process unit is the "service of process."

Civil process is defined as "the writ or mandate that serves as the means used for bringing a defendant to court to answer in an action or proceeding, civil or criminal." It is the responsibility of the sheriff's department to serve or execute according to law, all processes, writs, precepts, and orders issued or made by lawful authority according to Wisconsin State Statute 59.27 (4).

In a broader sense, any writ, order, notice, summons, subpoena or other document by which a court exercises its jurisdiction over the parties or subject matter of any action or proceeding, is called a process. The Dane County Sheriff's Office serves an average of sixteen thousand process papers a year along with posting notices throughout the county for foreclosed property.

Only papers to be served within Dane County will be accepted for service; (exception being a copy of a restraining order (TRO) or injunction to be served out of county if filed in Dane County; copy needs to be entered and filed in the Dane County Communication Center (911). Service of papers is generally attempted the next business day after received by our office.

It may take a day or two longer depending on the backlog of documents received for the first attempt to be made and anywhere from several days to several weeks to process after service is completed (also depending on the backlog). If you do not receive your papers back within a week of our office receiving them, please contact us to find out the status of your paper.

Where do I obtain legal forms necessary to bring a case to court?

Most forms are obtained from the Clerk of Courts Office located in the courthouse or on their website. Most forms are free, but there are filing fees.

I have papers to serve on a person. Where do I bring them?

Papers can be brought to the Civil Process Unit of the Dane County Sheriff's Office located at 115 W Doty St, Public Safety Building, Second Floor. Private process service can be used as well for most papers to be served. You can check the yellow pages of the phone book under “Process Servers” for listings in the area. Note that process servers generally have service hours and costs that differ from the Sheriff’s Office ,so it’s best to contact them directly if you decide to use someone else.

How many copies do I bring with me?

One copy for each person/company to be served (authenticated or one with an official court stamp) and one extra copy for the Sheriff to use and return back with the affidavits of service attached. Some papers served do not need to be authenticated so if you aren’t sure you may need to contact Civil Process.

Can you help me fill out my court papers?

No. The Sheriff's Office will only check papers to make sure they are legible (readable) and accurate.

Can I call someone with a legal question?

The Sheriff's Office is not allowed to give legal advice of any kind whatsoever. You may contact an attorney for legal advice. If you cannot afford an attorney, programs are held in the Dane County Courthouse, 215 S Hamilton St, Madison WI . See Resources for these programs.

Can you go to the person's workplace and serve them the papers there?

Many employers request that we do not come to their company for the purpose of serving papers. Serving papers at a company often results in loss of production for the company. The person receiving the papers may become emotional, and the company may not have the resources to deal with this type of situation. Additionally, the actual job site that the employee is at may be different from the company's headquarters, and locating the employee may be difficult. If it is possible to get service at the workplace and it is allowed, it may be served there. In some cases, you may only know the work address so the deputy will attempt service if possible or try to make contact by phone.

I don't have a recent address for the person I want served papers. Will the Sheriff's Office tell me where the person lives?

No. The Sheriff's Office will not provide an address. You will need a current, physical address in order for us to attempt service.

I know the person will be at a specific location at a specific time. Can you serve them there?

We will attempt to accommodate this, but it can be very difficult to "schedule" an officer to be somewhere at a specific time. We would like to have at least a half hour time period to attempt service. (Ex: Say you know for sure the person will be home at 5p.m., you should say between 5:00 p.m. and 5:30p.m. or between 5p.m. and 7p.m. etc.)

I need the person to be served right away. Can you serve the papers immediately?

The Civil Process Unit handles on average over fifteen thousand legal papers annually. We attempt to serve papers as efficiently as possible, but we cannot promise that a paper will be served immediately or in a specific time period. We suggest that you allow us sufficient time to locate and serve the person their papers. Some documents require papers to be served within a specific time frame so if you are uncertain, please call us to make sure you have enough time for the paper to be served.

The Aid in Serving Papers Form asks for specific information I am not sure of. What do I do?

Answer the questions as completely as you can. All information you provide helps us to serve the papers as efficiently as possible.

Why can't you give the papers to someone else when you first go to the house?

There are many types of legal papers. Some papers require "personal" service meaning the papers must be served on the person who's named on the papers. Other papers can be given (substitute service) to someone else at the residence (at least fourteen years of age). Speak with someone in the Civil Process Unit if you have further questions.

Why can't you put the papers in the mailbox or between the doors?

We do not mail them or leave them in a mailbox or in between the doors because the statutes require papers to be served on a person. If this can’t be accomplished after three diligent attempts of service, then a no-found of service is returned back with the papers.

Papers for service will be accepted at the Sheriff's Dept. Civil Process window at the following times:

Monday - Friday
7:45a.m. - 4:30p.m.


Fees for the service of civil process are set by the County Board of Supervisors and will be effective for Service of Process by the Dane County Sheriff’s Office.

On April 12, 2005, the County Board established, pursuant to Wisconsin Statute 814.70, the fees for the service of civil process as follows:


$40 per paper, per person, per attempt or service of civil papers. This includes all summons, complaints, writs, orders, injunctions, subpoenas, executions, judgments, or other legal process. Service will be attempted up to three (3) times, unless the Civil Process Office is otherwise instructed and the appropriate fess are paid. You will be billed for fees incurred in excess of the pre-payment amount.

Authority: Dane County Ordinance Amendment 26, 2004-2005


Mileage is charged at the current IRS mileage rate, if service is accomplished. This rate is subject to change based on the IRS. Mileage is calculated on a round-trip basis. No mileage is charged for unsuccessful attempts at service. Mileage will be charged once per address, notwithstanding the number of people served at one address.

Authority: Dane County Resolution 48, 04-05

Additional copies of papers must be provided

For each person or entity that is to be served, the Civil Process Office must be provided with one copy for each person/company to be served, PLUS one extra copy for office use that will be returned back with the affidavit(s) of service. If an extra copy is not enclosed, you will be charged $0.25 per page for any copies.

A self-addressed stamped envelope is requested for return of papers to the party requesting service of process.


An indigent person is an exception. The indigent person must have a current waiver of fees from the court of jurisdiction.

Temporary restraining orders and injunctions may be exempt, depending on the basis of the order.

Sheriff's Sales fees total $150.00; $75.00 for the posting and $75.00 for the sale itself.

In the event that a deputy is required to stand by during property seizures, evictions, assistance, executions, etc., the rate will be $56.78 per hour per deputy plus service fee and mileage.

Writs of Restitution

A writ of restitution is valid for 30 days from issuance, but is only valid for 10 days from the posting/receiving date (weekends/holidays excluded).


A garnishment summons and complaint shall be served on the garnishee defendant in conformity with the standard procedure for a small claims action or a large claims action, whichever is applicable. Notice of such service or a copy of the garnishee summons and complaint, together with the complaint in the principle action, shall be served on the principal defendant, no later than ten (10) business days after service on the garnishee defendant.

Large claims action

The paper must be served within ninety (90) days of filing and must be over five-thousand dollars ($5,000.00).


As a small claims action: The paper must be served eight (8) business days before the court date. The return date for the summons served must be no less than eight (8) business days from the issue date and no more than thirty (30) days from the issue date.

As a large claims action: The paper must be served within ninety (90) days of filing.

Restraining orders

Unless otherwise specified, they can be served right up to the time of the hearing.

Small claims action

General - A small claims action must be served at least eight (8) business days before the date the party must appear. The date of appearance shall be no less than eight (8) business days from the issue date and no more than thirty (30) days from the issue date.


To more effectively assist you in serving your papers, we will need to know information about each person to be served such as reference phone numbers, workplace and hours, vehicle, date of birth or physical descriptors. Include as much as you can provide. This will help by saving excessive fees and officer's time. You must provide a current physical address or your papers cannot be served. One complete set of the papers are needed for service for each person to be served. We also require an additional copy or cover sheet for us to use and return back to you with the proof of service. If you wish for us to fill out you own affidavit (some states require their own to be used and notarized) please include a copy along with your papers. We do not notarize the affidavit unless it is requested. A charge of $0.50 per page will be added for notarizing.

Prepayment is required of $40 unless you have done business with us within the past year and your account is of good standing. You will be billed for any fees above the $40.

Making Civil Process Payments Online

The Dane County Sheriff's Office now accepts credit and debit card payments for Civil Process fees. This website is to be used for making Civil Process fee payments only.

Traffic citations are paid to the Dane County Clerk of Courts, not the Sheriff's Office. Go to to make payments for citations issued through the Dane County Sheriff's Office.

At this time, bail cannot be paid online or by phone. You must appear in person at 115 W. Doty Street, Madison, WI to make a bail payment.

Civil Process fee payments are made through Government Payment EXP, a third party agency. Payments may be made online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week using Visa, Mastercard, American Express or Discover credit/debit cards.

credit cards

The third party agency, Government Payment EXP, charges a service fee for credit/debit card transactions. This fee will be added onto the base amount you are paying. Below is the fee schedule:

Transaction Amount Service Fee
$.01 - $50.00 $1.50
$50.01 - $75.00 $1.75
$75.01 - $100.00 $3.00
$100.01 - $150.00 $4.00
$150.01 - $200.00 $5.00

For each additional increment of $50.00, or a portion thereof, add $1.40

To make payments through Government Payment EXP, you will need:

Civil Process Fees

  • Pay Location Code (PLC) 6557
  • Your Process Number
  • Payment Amount
  • Your Credit or Debit Card Information

The Process Number can be found in the upper right-hand corner of the invoice(s) you received.

To pay online with a credit/debit card, go to