Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Sheriff's Office

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

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 5:30 p.m. or between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. etc.)

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.

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

I want to inspect the property before I bid on it. How do I go about that?

The Sheriff's Office does not know whether or not persons occupy the property and has no lawful authority to give permission for any prospective bidder to enter and inspect any structure located on the property to be sold. As such, properties likely cannot be inspected prior to the sale. The prospective purchaser buys the property, more or less, "as is, where is." Any other questions regarding this, should be directed to the attorney for the plaintiff or the mortgage company.

The Sheriff's Office conducts the sale of the property, but does not have specific information regarding the property or the condition of the property and what improvements may be required.

All properties are sold "as is". Persons interested in obtaining information about a property are encouraged to contact the plaintiff or their attorney of record.

If you have a serious interest in a property, you may desire to contact a title company or an attorney to perform a title search. Questions regarding the legalities of purchasing a foreclosed home should be directed to an attorney that specializes in foreclosures. Further, it is the buyer’s responsibility to have the occupants legally removed if the property is occupied.

The plaintiff determines the opening bid. The mathematical equation to determine this is not known by the Sheriff's Office. The opening bid may be below or above the amount specified in the judgment.

The buyer assumes all liens and legal encumbrances on the property. The Sheriff's Office cannot provide legal advice on how to properly investigate what financial obligations may be outstanding. Other defendants listed on the Notice of Foreclosure Sale may have a financial interest in the property. Resources available may be a title search, record search, the Clerk of Courts, Treasurer, and the Register of Deeds.

The successful third party bidder is required to have 10% of their bid in cash or in bank-certified funds made payable to the Dane County Clerk of Courts at the time of sale.

The plaintiff in the case may cancel or adjourn a Sheriff's Sale. Typical reasons for doing so include settlement or bankruptcy. In this situation, the Sheriff's Office has no control over whether a sale is cancelled or adjourned or how many times that may occur.

In addition, the Sheriff’s Office may adjourn the sale up to 3 months at the if the Sheriff’s Office considers it in the interest of all persons concerned . Notice of adjournment is given at the time and place fixed for the sale. Further notice shall be given by posting or publishing the same, or both, as the time and circumstances permit.

A copy of the Notice of Foreclosure Sale is posted on the bulletin board near the west entrance of the City County Building, 210 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, Madison, WI. If the property for sale is outside the City of Madison, a notice is also posted in the municipality where the property is situated. A copy of the notice is also available for viewing on our website.