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Statute of Limitations on Debt in Wisconsin

Chloe Meltzer | December 13, 2023

Legal Expert
Chloe Meltzer, MA

Chloe Meltzer is an experienced content writer specializing in legal content creation. She holds a degree in English Literature from Arizona State University, complemented by a Master’s in Marketing from California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo.

Edited by Hannah Locklear

Hannah Locklear
Editor at SoloSuit
Hannah Locklear, BA

Hannah Locklear is SoloSuit’s Marketing and Impact Manager. With an educational background in Linguistics, Spanish, and International Development from Brigham Young University, Hannah has also worked as a legal support specialist for several years.

Summary: In Wisconsin, the statute of limitations on credit card debt, oral and written contracts, and open accounts is six years. You cannot be sued for a debt that is past the statute of limitations, and you should use this as an affirmative defense to win your debt collection lawsuit. SoloSuit can help you make the right defense in minutes.

The statute of limitations is a time limit in which a creditor or debt collector must file a lawsuit against a consumer for failure to pay a debt. If a debt collector or creditor does not collect on a debt within this time limit, the debt becomes “time-barred,” which means you can no longer be sued for that specific debt in court.

Depending on the state you live in, the statute of limitations varies. Typically the statute of limitations ranges anywhere from four to six years. In Wisconsin, the statute of limitations on debt such as credit cards is six years. The statute of limitations begins on the date of the last payment on an account. This means that if you make a payment on a debt, the time period starts over again.

If you owe on debt and live in Wisconsin, then it is essential to understand your rights as a consumer. Especially if a creditor or debt collector threatens to file a lawsuit against you, you need to gather all of the information possible to defend yourself appropriately.

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Statute of limitations on debt in Wisconsin

According Wisconsin Chapter 893, §893.43 states:

“(1) Except as provided in sub. (2), an action upon any contract, obligation, or liability, express or implied, including an action to recover fees for professional services, except those mentioned in s. 893.40, shall be commenced within 6 years after the cause of action accrues or be barred.”

In other words, Wisconsin’s statute of limitations on open accounts, such as credit cards, along with written and oral contracts is 6 years. The statute of limitations on promissory notes is 10 years.

The table below outlines Wisconsin statutes of limitations on different types of debt:

Statute of Limitations on Debt in Wisconsin

Debt Type Deadline in Years
Credit Card 6
Open Accounts 6
Written contracts 6
Oral contracts 6
Promissory 10
Judgment 10-20

Wisconsin law prohibits any collection efforts on any account where the statute of limitations has expired. This rule not only applies to original creditors but also debt collection agents. If either attempts to collect an expired debt, it is a federal offense against the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA).

Let’s consider an example.

Example: Jordan, who lives in Wisconsin, is being sued for an old credit card debt by a collection agency called LVNV Funding. The debt is so old that Jordan doesn’t even remember the last time he made a payment on it. After doing some research, Jordan learns that the statute of limitations on credit card debt is six years in Wisconsin. Since Jordan hasn’t made a payment on the credit card account for seven years, LVNV Funding cannot sue him. He uses SoloSuit to respond to the lawsuit. In his Answer, Jordan uses the expired statute of limitations as an affirmative defense and ends up winning the case.

Wisconsin statute of limitations on judgments is different

Many people confuse the statute of limitations with the length of a judgment. These are completely different situations. Once a judgment is entered it typically exists for around 10 years, depending on the state. If you suddenly notice that you are having your wages garnished, then you most likely have an old judgment entered against you already. In this case, the statute of limitations will not apply.

The state of Wisconsin also is a bit different as compared to other states in regards to the length of a judgment. In Wisconsin, a judgment becomes a lien for 10 years on all real property. In this case, the judgment-debtor owns or acquires a lien in the county or counties where the judgment is docketed.

At this point, the judgment-creditor has 20 years from the judgment date to have a county sheriff attempt to seize the debtor's property. These lengths can be extended another 10 and 20 years if the judgment-creditor obtains permission from the court.

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How debt collection works in Wisconsin

Lenders, collection agents, or law firms that own a collection account, are known as a creditor. A debt collector is usually an agency or company that is hired by the original creditor to collect on a debt. Some debt collectors are also debt buyers who purchase old debt accounts from banks and credit card companies.

Usually, the creditor or collector will reach out to you about the debt before taking you to court. If you do not settle the debt or figure out a payment plan, you might be sued for it.

In Wisconsin, there are various means by which a creditor or debt collector may collect a debt from you. Before a creditor can pursue you for a debt through wage garnishment or seizing your property, however, they must go to court and obtain a judgment against you. This is only possible in one of two ways:

  1. Filing a lawsuit against you in which you do not respond, and obtaining a default judgment.
  2. Proving their case in court and getting the judge to rule in their favor.

If your debt has not passed the statute of limitations, and a judgment is placed against you, the court is declaring that the creditor has the legal right to recover the owed money through:

  • Wage garnishment
  • Account levy
  • Lien on real property
  • Seizure of personal property

In the eyes of the law, these are known as “remedies.” After a creditor is granted a judgment, they are called a judgment-creditor. The method in which a judgment-creditor collects the debt depends on the circumstances and Wisconsin law.

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Wisconsin laws establish wage garnishment rules

The most common method used by judgment-creditors to enforce a judgment is wage garnishment. Wage garnishment occurs when a creditor or debt collector contacts your employer. They will then require the employer to deduct a certain portion of your wages from each check, to pay back your debt.

Although this is completely legal, there is a limit on how much may be taken from each paycheck. Throughout the United States, this amount is between 10% and 25% of your wages. Garnishment of Social Security benefits or pensions is not allowed for consumer debt under federal law. In Wisconsin, 80% of your disposable earnings are exempt from garnishment under this subchapter. This means that only 20% of your wages may be taken each paycheck.

In order to garnish your wages, creditors and debt collectors must have a court order. This can be obtained when a judgment is entered into the case, including default judgments.

You can use SoloSuit to draft and file an Answer and avoid judgment while increasing your chances of winning the case.

There are other methods of garnishments in Wisconsin

Wisconsin Bank Account Levy Rules

Bank levies are another method of paying back a debt. Bank account levies allow a creditor or debt collector to take money from your bank account and apply it to the balance of the judgment.

Wisconsin Liens

When you have a lien, it is an encumbrance on a property. This is also known as a claim. Essentially, if you owe a debt and also own a home, a creditor with a judgment against you may ask for the right to place a lien on your home. This means that if you sell or refinance the home you will be required to pay off your debt out of the proceeds of the sale or refinance. If this occurs, and the amount of the judgment is more than the amount of equity in your home, then you may not be able to sell or refinance your home until you can pay off the judgment.

Wisconsin Community Property Law

Wisconsin is one of 10 community property states. If you live in Wisconsin, you must be aware that you may be liable for your spouse's debts. Because this law is tricky, you should not assume that you will need to pay the debts of your spouse automatically. Be sure to review the doctrine of necessities to ensure that you are legally liable for these debts before you pay them, and always check to see if the statute of limitations has expired.

Respond to a debt collection lawsuit in Wisconsin

When you get sued for a debt in Wisconsin, you have 20 days to respond before you lose by a default judgment. In order to respond, you must draft and file a written Answer to the lawsuit.

Follow these three steps to Answer a debt collection lawsuit in Wisconsin:

  1. Respond to each claim listed in the Complaint.
  2. Assert your affirmative defenses.
  3. File your Answer with the court and send a copy to the opposing attorney.

SoloSuit can file your Answer for you in all 50 states.

Check out this video to learn more about these three steps:

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You can use SoloSuit to respond to a debt lawsuit, to send letters to collectors, and even to settle a debt.

SoloSuit's Answer service is a step-by-step web-app that asks you all the necessary questions to complete your Answer. Upon completion, we'll have an attorney review your document and we'll file it for you.

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"First time getting sued by a debt collector and I was searching all over YouTube and ran across SoloSuit, so I decided to buy their services with their attorney reviewed documentation which cost extra but it was well worth it! SoloSuit sent the documentation to the parties and to the court which saved me time from having to go to court and in a few weeks the case got dismissed!" – James

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