The paperwork necessary to file for divorce in Wisconsin can seem overwhelming. Divorces roll out in steps, however, and the paperwork necessary for each step is much more manageable than many people assume.
To help you make sure you have all the materials you need to start the process, we’ve put together this brief guide highlighting the key documents involved.
How to Initiate a Divorce in Wisconsin
The first step in a divorce is filing a Summons and a Petition for Divorce.
The Summons requests the presence of your spouse at the hearings, and the Petition for Divorce begins the divorce proceedings.
Once these are filed, you will have 90 days to serve your spouse. If necessary, you can file for an extension of that deadline, but a judge may choose not to grant the extension.
You have options in how you choose to serve, or deliver, the Summons and Petition. You can deliver it yourself or with the aid of a friend or relative, in which case your spouse will need to sign an Admission of Service. You can also have a process server, the police, or the sheriff’s department serve them.
What if I don’t know where my spouse is?
If you do not know the location of the spouse, you must still make a good faith effort to serve them.
You must attempt. If no response is heard, you must then publish a notice in a newspaper and file a Publication Summons as well as a Publication Affidavit of Mailing. The latter acknowledges that the publishing agent verified that you attempted to mail the authenticated copy first.
If you are the spouse being served, you must file a written Response and Counterclaim within 20 days of being served.
File your Response with the Circuit Court and send copies to your spouse and his or her attorney, if they have one. Not filing a Response can result in the court entering a default judgment against you. If you both want a divorce, file a Counterclaim for Divorce. This ensures that, should your spouse have a change of heart, the court can deny their request to drop proceedings and still grant you the divorce. You also have the opportunity to file a Joint Petition for Divorce.
Wisconsin is a no-fault state, so neither party needs to show cause for the divorce to proceed. Infidelity has no bearing on any decision in court as a result. The process requires a 120-day waiting period though typical divorces take anywhere from six months to a year or more to finalize.
Filing Temporary Orders in Wisconsin
If you need temporary orders in place to manage disputes over child custody, support payments, or use of any property, you may wish to request a Temporary Hearing. You must attend the hearing for any of the requests to be granted.
If both parties are in agreement with temporary arrangements, both may complete and file a Stipulation for Temporary Order. This lays out a good faith agreement that will hold until the divorce or separation is granted and the final judgment is made. You don’t necessarily need to file a temporary order if you are both in agreement, but it does provide a layer of protection.
If you are in dispute over how to handle things, an Order to Show Cause and Affidavit for Temporary Order can be filed. This requests a hearing and presents one party’s desired outcome. The court will grant a hearing, examine evidence, and issue a temporary order that will stand until the divorce is granted and final judgment is made, or new evidence is presented that overrides the standing order.
If you do not agree with the initial findings of a temporary hearing or any other hearing, you can ask for a hearing de novo before the judge assigned to your case. In this hearing, the judge will consider all the information as if the previous agreement had not been decided. You may also request a guardian ad litem, a court-appointed lawyer, who will serve the interests of the minor children of the parties involved.
Counties vary in requirements. Some may require parents to take a parenting program which reviews the effects of divorce on children before completing a divorce. Some counties may require you to file a parenting plan with the court as well. Additionally, some counties will automatically schedule the final hearing, while others require that you schedule it yourself.
Final Hearing Preparation
As the final hearing approaches, you will need to file a Marital Settlement Agreement if both parties agree on how things should be divided, or a Proposed Marital Settlement Order if you do not agree. The latter is a proposed settlement which the court will review and take into consideration when finalizing the divorce. Financial Disclosure Statements, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Judgment of Divorce must also be completed. A Vital Statistics Form, acquired at the Clerk of Circuit Court office, will also be required.
If you need assistance preparing for divorce or have questions about Wisconsin’s divorce process, contact an experienced Family Law Attorney in Beloit and Madison today. Click here for a free consultation with the Fitzgerald law Firm.
At The Fitzgerald Law Firm your initial consultation is always free and you will always meet directly with one of our attorneys. We understand that appointments during traditional working hours may not be convenient for all, and thus we strive to be available for evening, weekend, and off-site appointments. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.