How Hearings Work

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You can get a hearing in Family Court by submitting a Motion or an Order to Show Cause to the Clerk of Court’s Office together with any necessary fee. Once the Court gives you a date for your hearing, you will need to make sure the other side knows about the hearing by either sending them a copy of your file-stamped documents and the notice of hearing, or, if your request involves contempt, by having them personally served.  (For information on how to get documents served to the other party, See Service.)

Before the hearing, you should try to meet with the other side and talk to them. If the two of you can decide what should happen, in most cases the Family Court Commissioners will enter an order based on what you want. You may be able to avoid a hearing entirely and have more input into the final resolution.

If you reach an agreement, child support must be set at the Wisconsin Child Support Guideline amount, and you will need to give the Family Court Commissioner enough information for them to check and make sure the amount is correct. If you don’t want to agree to the Guideline amount, you need to provide information on what the Guideline amount is, and a good reason why support should be set at a different number. Your agreement to a different amount, without a meaningful justification, is not an adequate reason. Agreements that don’t meet these standards will not be approved by the Family Court Commissioner.

At the hearing, you will need to tell the Family Court Commissioner what you want and why you want it. Make a list of the things you want to talk about and follow your list. You need to be ready to tell the Commissioner what facts support your request. For example, if you are complaining that you have not had a chance to spend time with the children, you should be able to state when you tried to have contact and what the result of that attempt was. Be specific. It is important that you tell the Commissioner why they should rule in your favor. Don’t verbally attack the other person, and don’t get into a debate with the other person. You are talking to the Commissioner, not to the other person. Everyone gets a turn.

The person who filed the Motion or Order to Show Cause will normally get to go first, presenting their case. When they are done, the Commissioner will have the other person present their case. Sometimes each person will get another turn and sometimes the Commissioner will ask questions of each person.

It is very common that the problems that brought the case to court involve a lot of emotion, and people have a tendency to want to interrupt or argue with the other person. Be careful not to do that. It doesn’t help your case and it can harm your case.

At the end of the hearing the Commissioner will make an order. You may be ordered to prepare a written order, or the Commissioner’s staff may prepare the written document. Either way, the orders the Commissioner enters are effective on the day of the hearing, not when the written document gets signed. If the Commissioner’s staff prepares the order, you should receive a copy approximately one week after the hearing.