If you’re considering a legal separation from your spouse, and aren’t already familiar with the process, you’re probably looking for resources to help you get started.
For those in need of a basic guide to divorce in Wisconsin, we’ve laid out the six basic steps from start to finish. Keep in mind that these steps are meant only to give you a sense of the process as you go along. Depending on your particular situation, you may find the process to be more complex.
Let’s start at the beginning and work our way through a typical separation in Wisconsin as well as some of the finer details that make up each part of the process.
Step 1: Forms and paperwork
If you’re filing for divorce alone, you’ll first need to complete a Summons and Petition. For those with children who are still legally considered minors, there are some specific documents an attorney can help locate for you specifically.
If you’re filing with your spouse, you’ll need to fill out a Joint Petition. If you and your spouse come to an agreement on all the issues raised, both parties will sign what’s called the Stipulation For Temporary order.
If you and your spouse can’t come to an agreement on the terms of the divorce, you’ll fill out an Order to how Cause and Affidavit for Temporary Order which will detail these differences.
Step 2: Filing the paperwork in the appropriate place
Check with your county’s requirements to see which of your documents will need to be copied. When the paperwork is in order, it will be taken to your local courthouse and given to the Clerk of Courts.
This will involve a filing fee which change from time to time. If you’re unable to pay this fee, you’ll need to fill out a Fee Waiver document which will then go to the court to decide if you’ll be required to pay or not.
Step 3: Serving the other party
At this stage, you’ll need to serve your spouse copies of the Summons, Petition, and Order to Show Cause we just described. To do this, you’ll be able to follow service instructions laid out in a special packet which will also notify you of the very important deadlines to meet.
If you’re able to obtain a signed Affidavit of Service from the person who serves your spouse, or receive a signed Admission of Service from your spouse themselves, you’ll file the document and prepare for the temporary hearing.
Step 4: The temporary hearing
By this step of the process, you’ll have had had the opportunity to request a temporary hearing. Those who submit a request must attend.
To prepare, you’ll need to have the following paperwork ready to bring with you the day of the hearing:
1. Income Tax returns
2. A completed Financial Disclosure Statement
If the necessary documents are submitted at the temporary hearing, a commissioner will then enter an order setting rules for you and your spouse. In some Wisconsin counties, you may be required to complete an addition document called a Certificate of Divorce before moving on to the Pre-trial conference.
Step 5: The Pre-Trial Conference
If you and your spouse both agree to the terms of divorce, this process is relatively simple. You’ll file a Marital Settl3ment Agreement along with an updated Financial Disclosure Statement. Instead of a Pre-Trial Hearing, the court will proceed with a Stipulated Divorce Hearing and make a final ruling. At that point, you simply need to file before the deadline and the process is over.
If you don’t both agree on the terms, you’ll attend a Pre-Trial hearing where a judge will determine what issues will be contested at trial and what evidence will be presented.
Step 6: Trial and Finalization
Both you and your spouse will attend a trial to decide the details of divorce. Make sure to bring all documents and evidence necessary. Failure to attend can result in a default judgment for your spouse.
The judge will then issue a final order setting the terms of divorce and grant the divorce.
If you are seeking divorce consultation or are in need of an attorney to assist you in maintaining your financial assets during separation, contact an experienced Beloit Family Law firm, The Fitzgerald Law Firm, today for a free consultation. We understand that meetings may not be possible during traditional business hours, so please let us know a time that works for you and we’ll do our best to accommodate you.
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