The first consideration in starting an action for divorce is whether the residency requirements have been met. One party must have lived in the State of Wisconsin for at least six months and Walworth County for at least thirty days prior to the filing of the action.
The action is actually commenced by the filing of a summons and petition for divorce. The party that signs the petition is the petitioner and the other spouse is the respondent or both parties may sign as joint petitioners. If there is a petitioner and a respondent then the petitioner must properly serve the respondent. Service must be accomplished by someone other than the petitioner, usually the sheriff or a private process server, and it must be done within 90 days unless an extension is granted.
If both parties are pro se, then the case will be scheduled for an initial status hearing. The purpose of the initial status hearing is to schedule a pre-trial and prepare a check list of documents needed to finalize the divorce. A divorce may not be granted until 120 days after the date of service or the filing of a joint petition. Therefore, the pre-trial will be scheduled after the 120 day waiting period.
The divorce may be finalized at the pre-trial if the parties have reached an agreement and all papers are in order. If an agreement has not been reached then the matter will be scheduled for trial before a circuit court judge.
For assistance with document preparation, please go to Forms.