The Process of Filing for Divorce in Wisconsin
A divorce in Wisconsin begins with the filing of four documents:
- Petition for Divorce;
- Order to Show Cause or Order for Temporary Hearing;
- Confidential Petition Addendum.
The Summons is the first documents you must file for divorce in Wisconsin. The Summons notifies your spouse that you filed for divorce in Wisconsin and notifies your spouse that he or she must file a response within 20 days. If you have minor children with your spouse, the Summons notifies your spouse that once a court order is entered for custody and/or placement of the minor children, interfering with the court order is a crime.
Filing for Divorce in Wisconsin Expert Tip: There are different forms of the Summons and Petition if you have a minor child with your spouse. Be sure to use the “Summons with Minor Children” and “Petition for Divorce with Minor Children” forms if you have minor children with your spouse.
The Petition for Divorce
The Petition for Divorce is the second document you must file for divorce in Wisconsin. The Petition starts the divorce action in court. You must file the Petition for Divorce in the county in which you have lived for the 30 days immediately prior to filing the divorce paperwork. For example, if you have lived in Racine County for the 30 days prior to filing for divorce, you would file your Petition for Divorce in Racine County. In order to file for divorce in Wisconsin you must also have lived in Wisconsin for the past six months.
Filing for Divorce in Wisconsin Expert Tip: If you have minor children with your spouse, the Petition for Divorce must include a copy of Wisconsin’s Child Support Percentage of Income Standards. The court may reject your Petition for Divorce if it does not include this information.
The Order to Show Cause or Order for Temporary Hearing
The Order to Show Cause or Order for Temporary Hearing is the third document you must file for divorce in Wisconsin. This document asks the court to schedule a hearing and issue a Temporary Order. A Temporary Order in a Wisconsin Divorce is a temporary court order that determines:
- Where your children will live while the divorce is pending;
- Who will pay the parties’ debts while the divorce is pending;
- Who will live in the marital residence while the divorce is pending.
Filing for Divorce in Wisconsin Expert Tip: You must include an “Affidavit to Show Cause and Request or Hearing for Temporary Order” with your Order to Show Cause.
The Confidential Petition Addendum
The Confidential Petition Addendum is the fourth document you must file for divorce in Wisconsin. It is a one-page document that you must file with the court which contains basic information about the parties and their children such as phone numbers, dates of birth, and social security numbers.
Filing for Divorce in Wisconsin Expert Tip: Always consult with an experienced Wisconsin divorce lawyer before filing for divorce. Incorrectly or incompletely filling out the divorce paperwork can have serious consequences. First, the court may reject the paperwork entirely. Second, if you fill out the paperwork incorrectly, your divorce may be delayed or even dismissed by the court at a later date.
Serving Divorce Papers
After filing the Summons, Petition for Divorce, Order to Show Cause, and Confidential Petition Addendum you must have the documents served on your spouse. You will need to hire a process server to serve the papers.
Filing for Divorce in Wisconsin Expert Tip: A divorce in Wisconsin cannot be granted until 120 days after your spouse was served with the divorce papers. Therefore, you should have your spouse served with the divorce papers as soon as possible after filing the divorce papers. Also, the divorce papers must be served on your spouse at least five business days prior to the first hearing in the case.
Have an Expert on Your Side
It is possible to file for divorce in Wisconsin without hiring a lawyer. However, you should always consult with an experienced Wisconsin divorce lawyer before filing for divorce.
- The divorce documents must be drafted correctly or the court may reject the divorce documents or not grant you a divorce in the future. After going through the entire divorce process, the court may deny you a divorce if your paperwork is incomplete or incorrect.
- Even if you think you and your spouse agree on everything about the divorce, such as property division, child custody, and division of debts, you need to protect yourself by filing with a lawyer in case your spouse changes his or her mind in the future. Generally, your spouse is free to change his or her mind at any time prior to the court granting the divorce.
- You need to know what you are entitled to under Wisconsin law in order to know if what you are seeking in the divorce and what your spouse is seeking in the divorce is fair. An experienced Wisconsin divorce lawyer can tell you what you are entitled to in a divorce.
Filing for Divorce in Wisconsin Expert Tip: The only time I would advise someone to file for divorce in Wisconsin without a lawyer is if the marriage was very short and there are no assets, no children, and no debts involved. Otherwise, saving money by not hiring a lawyer at the beginning of the divorce process could cost you hundreds or thousands of dollars at the end.
Consult with an Expert Divorce Lawyer
This blog post was written by Attorney Christopher Glinski, an experienced divorce lawyer. Attorney Glinski has handled hundreds of successful divorce cases in Wisconsin in his almost 10 year career. To speak to him on the specifics of your case, call (262) 632-1555 to schedule a free consultation.