Documents Needed Amid Initial Phase of the Wisconsin Divorce Process

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To say that the decision to get a divorce is a difficult one is an understatement. Along with the emotional turmoil that comes with a divorce, you also have to deal with a complicated legal process. In order to more easily navigate through this legal process, you need to understand the distinct phases involved in a typical Wisconsin divorce. 

It is imperative to understand what the initial phase encompasses and what relevant documents you need to file in a divorce.

Here is a brief explanation of the relevant documents necessary in the filing of a Wisconsin divorce suit.

Considerations Before You File a Divorce Suit in Wisconsin

Divorce proceedings are governed by Chapter 767 of Wisconsin statutes. To file a divorce in Wisconsin, you must have resided in the county where you are filing the divorce for at least 30 days. Additionally, state law provides that you must be a resident of Wisconsin for at least six months before filing the suit.

It is imperative to note that Wisconsin is a ‘no fault’ divorce jurisdiction. This means that either party in the divorce suit can petition for a divorce without any reason. Therefore, you don’t need to state the grounds for your divorce (ex: abuse, desertion). 

What Documents are Required in the Initial Filing of a Wisconsin Divorce?

To successfully initiate a divorce proceeding, you need to file the following documents (pleadings):

  • Summons
  • Petition
  • Confidential Petition Addendum
  • Order to Show Cause (A.K.A. Request for Temporary Hearing – this pleading is optional)
  • Affidavit in Support of Order to Show Cause (only if Order to Show Cause is requested)

The Summons is a document that notifies the other party that the divorce action has started. This document is crucial, as it essentially provides the other party with legal notice of the proceedings and is necessary for  the divorce proceedings to move forward (except in the case of a joint filing).

You can file an individual Petition or a Joint Petition.  If you’re filing a divorce with your spouse, then the law allows you to file a joint petition. This allows avoids the need for service of either party.  If you do not wish to file with your spouse, or your spouse is unwilling, you should file an individual petition.  The Petition should indicate if your marriage involves minor children and/or support.  Finally, the Petition also identifies the relief you are requesting in the divorce action (i.e. placement, support, property division, debt division, attorney fees, etc.)

You will also have the option to request a temporary hearing at the time of filing, which essentially is a discretionary hearing that allows you to put some rules in place to govern the divorce action.  If you and your spouse reach a consensus on all the issues involved, then you can prepare and file a stipulation for a temporary order. However, in cases where an agreement is not reached, you will proceed with a temporary hearing and the court will enter a temporary order after hearing your brief arguments.  If you do not feel a temporary order is needed, you do not need to request a hearing, as it is completely optional.

Typically, the other party will sign an Admission of Service to avoid formal service, which simply means that party is acknowledging his or her receipt of the pleadings and notice of the proceedings.  In some cases, a process server is involved to physically serve the court-filed documents on the other party. If this occurs, the process server will provide an Affidavit of Service.  An Admission of Service or Affidavit of Service must be filed with the court to commence the action.

Once you serve the other party, he or she has 20 days to file a response, and it is advisable to consult with an attorney to determine if a response is warranted and what relief should be requested.  Additionally, the soonest you can be divorced is 120 days after the date of service.

The Confidential Petition Addendum is a detailed outline used by the court to outline the private information of the parties involved in the divorce case. This document is sealed by the court to prevent identity theft.

Bottom Line

These are just some of the documents required during the initial phase of divorce in Wisconsin. The divorce process in Wisconsin is incredibly intricate. If the paperwork is filed incorrectly, then your case may end up being delayed, you may request the wrong relief, or your case could be dismissed. To ease the legal process, your divorce attorney can help you file the paperwork promptly in order avoid mistakes that may hurt your case. If you need help in navigating the complex divorce process, contact Walden, Neitzke & Kuhary, S.C. Our lawyers will zealously represent your interests.