Starting a Divorce / Legal Separation Action

The information contained on this web page is provided as a courtesy to members of the public, and shall not be construed as legal advice. If you have questions, contact the Wisconsin Bar Association Lawyer Referral and Information Service 800-362-9082 for additional assistance.

There are separate forms for parties that are filing for divorce or legal separation with children versus parties filing for divorce or legal separation without children. There are two ways to start a divorce/legal separation action depending on whether the spouses agree to file the divorce/legal separation.

  1. Joint Petitioners- the spouses agree that they want a divorce/legal separation. They can file together by completing and filing a Joint Petition for Divorce. Parties will be called Joint Petitioners and neither spouse will need to be served. A filing fee will need to be paid unless a fee waiver is obtained. 
    • Forms: The following two forms must be filed to commence an uncontested divorce/legal separation. Parties will file as joint-petitioners.
      • Joint Petition - a document completed by both parties to start an action for a divorce/legal separation.
      • Confidential Petition Addendum - a document to provide information to the court concerning social security numbers in a confidential manner.
  2. Petitioner / Respondent- only one spouse is willing to file for the divorce/legal separation. This spouse is the Petitioner and files a Summons and Petition for Divorce/Legal Separation. The Petitioner pays a filing fee unless he/she obtains a fee waiver and arranges for authenticated copy of the Summons and Petition to be personally served to the other spouse. The other spouse who did not file is now called the Respondent. The summons and petition must be served within 90 days of the filing date. 
    • Forms: The following three forms must be filed to commence a contested divorce/legal separation. The party filing the action is the Petitioner.
      • Summons - a document to notify the Respondent of the existence of an action for divorce/legal separation.
    • Petition - a document completed by the Petitioner to commence a proceeding for divorce/legal separation.
    • Confidential Petition Addendum - a document to provide information to the court concerning social security numbers in a confidential manner.

See Do you need a Temporary Order? for additional documents that can be submitted when filing for divorce/legal separation.

Filing Instructions

Once all the necessary forms are completed, the parties may take them to the Oconto County Clerk of Courts, Courthouse, 301 Washington Street, Building C - Room 1217, Oconto, Wisconsin 54153 to have them filed. It is at this point that: 

  1. A court case number and circuit court judge are assigned to the case.
    • All future documents that are completed must have this case number on them, and must be filed with the Oconto County Clerk of Courts.
    • Note: Your caption will always remain the same no matter who files a motion or other request for hearing during and after the divorce/legal separation.
  2. Filing fees must be paid unless a party's petition for waiver of fees (PDF) is granted by the Court. What if you cannot afford the filing fees? View more information about filing a Petition for Waiver of Fees.
    • $184.50 - if no minor children AND no request for maintenance
    • $194.50 - if there are minor children; OR if there are no minor children, but maintenance is requested
    • Cash, checks, money orders, debit and/or credit cards are accepted. An additional service fee is charged when using a debit or credit card.
  3. A Stipulated Divorce/Legal Separation Hearing (also called Final Hearing) is scheduled. This hearing will be at least 120 days from the date you file per Wis. Stats. 767.335. Make note of this hearing date as you will not be provided another notice. 
  4. Authenticated copies of the paperwork is provided to party(s) for service 
  5. Final Stipulated Divorce/Legal Separation forms to be completed by the parties for the final hearing are provided to the petitioning party.

Service Information

"Service" and "service of process" are legal terms used to describe the act of giving notice of a lawsuit or court hearing to another person. There are several different methods and very specific time limits by which you must have the other party served. The type of service you are required to use depends on the type of action you are filing.

Form Name and Number   
Type of Service Required    
Service Time Limits
Summons and Petition for Divorce/Legal Separation (FA-4104V & FA-4108V (PDF)) or (FA-4105V (PDF) and FA-4109V (PDF))Personal90 calendar days from the date the action was filed
Joint Petition (FA-4110V (PDF) or FA-4111V (PDF))None
Order to Show Cause and Affidavit for Temporary Order (FA-4128VB (PDF) and FA-4128VA (PDF)) or (FA-4129VB (PDF) and FA-4129VA (PDF))PersonalNot less than 5 business days before the date of the hearing

Note: If you are unable to serve the other party within the required time limits, you may write a letter to the Court requesting a different court date. You must then have the other party served with the new court date, if granted.

 If you do not have the other party served properly and provide proper proof of service, the court cannot hear or decide your case. View additional information regarding serving documents to the opposing party.