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Wisconsin Court Records

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How to File For Divorce in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, filing for divorce requires taking into consideration some particular issues. For couples with children, child placement, parenting plan, and legal custody agreement are to be sorted out before the final hearing. The couples must also complete an agreement regarding how to divide debts, savings, retirement assets, or else, the court will make the final decisions on behalf of the couples. According to the Department of Health Services, the divorce rates in Wisconsin peaked at 2.6% and 2.4% in 2016 and 2017, with divorces amounting to 14,387 and 14,072, respectively.

Couples who want to file for a divorce in Wisconsin must be residents in the state for at least six months and must also reside in the county where filing will occur for a minimum of 30 days. Upon filing, there is a 120-day time frame for waiting before a final hearing can take place. Before the final hearing, either party can choose to have a hearing for temporary orders regarding child custody, properties, and debts before the divorce process is completed.

Do I need a Reason for Divorce in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a “no-fault” state, and spouses may not give reasons for divorce. However, there are only two accepted grounds for divorce in the state of Wisconsin; either the marriage is irretrievably broken, and there are no ways to work out personal differences, or there is a breakdown of marital relationship by both parties. An oath and a testament will also be taken to ensure the information is valid. Couples who have lived apart for one year willingly can also claim that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

The records contained in documents related to family court include both marriage and divorce records. Both types of records contain information that is considered very personal to the parties involved, and it is recommended that those parties maintain these records with care in order to make changes in the future. The personal nature of these records results in both being considerably more difficult to find and obtain when compared to other types of public records. In many cases, these records are not available through either government sources or third party public record websites.

Why do I need a Divorce Lawyer?

A divorce lawyer specializes in various family law issues such as marriage annulment, divorce, child custody, and visitation rights. Divorce attorneys are experts in making reasonable settlement propositions and give the best judgment on whether to settle, make a counter-proposal, or battle it out in court. For these reasons, hiring a divorce attorney can help to make the best deal possible from the divorce.

How do I Get Started in a Divorce in Wisconsin?

To begin a divorce process, the couple must be a resident of Wisconsin for at least six months and decide whether to file jointly or separately. To file a divorce alone, obtain a Summons and Petition form from the clerk of the circuit court. Couples with children who are still legitimately considered minors are to obtain a different form from the Wisconsin Court System. Endeavor to double-check with the local court to ensure the judges will acknowledge the forms. At the courthouse, pay the filing fee to the clerk of the circuit court.

For the case to proceed, each party must have a copy of the confidential petition addendum, petition, summons, and proposed parenting plan (if children are involved) within 90 of filing the petition. After these, there is a 120-day waiting period. If necessary, the spouse seeking divorce can obtain a temporary order by completing the Order to Show Cause and Affidavit for Temporary Order form. The court may choose to schedule the date for hearing immediately or contact the couples later. On the trial day, some of the paperwork needed are the Marital Settlement Agreement or a Proposed Marital Settlement Order, Financial Disclosure Statements, Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, Judgment of Divorce, and Vital Statistics Form. When all things are complete, the judge will issue the last order to set the terms of the divorce and grant the divorce. All forms are available online.

How to File for Divorce in Wisconsin Without a Lawyer?

Any or both parties can file a divorce Pro Se. A Pro Se divorce means a person can go through the process of divorce without an attorney. The couples must complete all the necessary forms, fulfill all the court procedures, and reach an agreement without the aid of a lawyer. It is important to also understand the legal process as personal decisions can affect the outcome of the case. For cases filed alone, the filing partner is responsible for how the papers will be served to the other spouse officially. Interested persons can also use the online self-help law center to navigate the divorce process.

Divorce and marriage records may be available through government sources and organizations, though their availability cannot be guaranteed. This is also true of their availability through third-party websites and companies, as these organizations are not government-sponsored and record availability may vary further. Finally, marriage and divorce records are considered extremely private due to the information they contain, and are often sealed. Bearing these factors in mind, record availability for these types of records cannot be guaranteed.

How Does Wisconsin Divorce Mediation Work?

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is a fair, viable, and cost-effective program used in resolving civil and family disputes in Wisconsin. Divorce mediation is a type of ADR used to settle divorce matters out of court with a neutral mediator (usually a lawyer, retired judge, or any other certified specialist in marriage dissolution) who assists couples with legal education, guidance, and drafting assistance before the divorce.

Mediation can be voluntary or court-mandated. Voluntary mediation means that the couples mutually choose to use mediation for the divorce case. In contrast, court-mandated mediation occurs when a court is interested in promoting a speedy and cost-efficient settlement.

Mediation sessions can begin before, during, or after filing a legal action by completing the request for a court-ordered mediation form and a confidential addendum. The mediator then drafts the documents for both parties to sign and then electronically file the documents with the court on behalf of the parties.

Before reaching an agreement, the couple needs to work with the mediator to exchange all financial information and prepare a court-required Joint Financial Disclosure Statement listing all income, expenses, assets, and debts. The mediator then drafts a Marital Settlement Agreement addressing all legal discussions for review. The mediator will file all documents with the court as both parties attend the final hearing to obtain court approval on the agreements reached and receive a divorce judgment. Voluntary Mediation and Court-mandated mediation have a success rate of about 85% and 75%, respectively.

How Long After Mediation is Divorce Final in Wisconsin?

Couples filing for divorce in Wisconsin will have to wait for 120 days before hearing the court’s decision. Nevertheless, divorce cases last between six months to a year. The period can vary based on the county the divorce is filed, and the individual case peculiarities.

Are Divorce Records Public in Wisconsin?

Under Wisconsin Public Records Law [Wis. Stat. §§ 19.31–19.39], cases involving divorce records in Wisconsin are open to the public, except for paternity disputes, children’s court, and adoption.

Also, by statute, some specific information such as social security numbers, financial information, account numbers, driver’s license numbers, and medical information will not appear in any divorce record or file due to the confidentiality addendum usually filed alongside all lawsuits.

Records that are considered public may be accessible from some third-party websites. These websites often make searching simpler, as they are not limited by geographic location, and search engines on these sites may help when starting a search for a specific or multiple records. To begin using such a search engine on a third-party or government website, interested parties usually must provide:

  • The name of the person involved in the record, unless said person is a juvenile
  • The location or assumed location of the record or person involved. This includes information such as the city, county, or state that person resides in or was accused in.

Third-party sites are independent from government sources, and are not sponsored by these government agencies. Because of this, record availability on third-party sites may vary.

How do I Get Wisconsin Divorce Records?

Parties interested in obtaining a Wisconsin divorce record can;

  • Make in-person requests to the record custodian at the court where the case was heard and finalized.
  • Use the state established public access online portal.
  • Send a mail application to the court in charge of the case.

To obtain certified divorce records, the requesting party must provide a written request form containing;

  • The full names of the couple
  • The location and date the divorce was finalized
  • The case number
  • A photocopy of a government-issued photo identification card
  • Check or money order for payment of specified fees

The cost of obtaining divorce records does not change whether the requesting party decides to request in person or by mail. Divorce files are $20 for the first copy of each record, then an additional $3 for another copy of the same document. There is a processing time of Five to ten days after payment.

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