What You Need to Know About Serving Divorce Papers in Wisconsin
Serving divorce papers is often an emotional time and daunting to think about for individuals. Here is what you need to know before serving divorce papers to your spouse in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin requires spousal notification and serving of divorce documents. Wisconsin is a no-fault divorce state, promoting an amicable split between spouses.
Serving Divorce Papers in Wisconsin
If you are not serving divorce papers jointly, the state requires the personal serving of your spouse with divorce papers. An appropriate individual must serve your spouse within 90 days of filing the Summons and the Petition. If you do not have your spouse served within this timeline, you cannot complete your divorce, and the court will dismiss the legal separation case.
You can have your spouse personally served through one of four ways:
- The sheriff’s office in the county where your spouse lives,
- A private process server in the location where your spouse lives,
- A third-party affidavit of service, or
- An Admission of Service.
The only time Wisconsin does not require spouses to serve divorce papers is when couples file jointly and list themselves as joint petitioners on the court filing.
Grounds for Filing for Divorce in Wisconsin
Wisconsin is a no-fault divorce state, meaning the only requirement for filing for a divorce is the spouses consider the marriage irretrievably broken with no hopes of reconciliation. No-fault also means it does not matter who files for the divorce, as no real advantage to filing first exists. A judge would consider the marriage broken if only one spouse wanted a divorce.
Divorce Pre-Trial Hearings in Wisconsin
After serving divorce papers to your spouse, the pre-trial is the first opportunity to conclude the divorce. To finalize the divorce, both parties must document and agree on the divorce’s outcomes, then sign a final agreement.
The topics both parties must agree on in pre-trial hearings consist of, but are not limited to:
- Financial Disclosure Statement,
- Proposed Parenting Plan,
- Marital Settlement Agreement,
- Proposed Marital Settlement Order, and
- Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Judgment.
FAQs About How to Serve Divorce Papers in Wisconsin
What if I do not know where my spouse lives in Wisconsin?
If you do not know where your spouse lives and have no way to contact them, you must try to have them served at their last address, even if it was your own address or you know they do not live there anymore. The Sheriff’s Office or a private process server will go to the address, not find your spouse, and then send you an “Affidavit of Non-Service.”
Can I serve divorce papers to my spouse myself in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin does not recommend personally serving divorce papers to your spouse. The other party must complete service admission, sign it, and return it to you to turn in to the court. Additionally, some judges and court commissioners distrust the Admission of Service and may not accept it as good service if your spouse does not attend the hearing. If the judge or court commissioner does not take the Admission of Service, the court will not hear your case at your court date, and you may have to start the entire process over from the beginning.
How long does it take to get a divorce in Wisconsin?
Wisconsin imposes a 120-day waiting period before the court finalizes a divorce. Most divorces take six months to complete, although it may take longer if contested issues exist.