Terese J. Singer

Serving a Divorce Complaint

Milwaukee Attorney Assisting Spouses with Dissolving a Marriage

Sometimes partners decide to move toward divorce together and are well aware of the process and where each individual stands in the process. At other times, a divorce comes as a surprise, shocking one partner when they receive a copy of the divorce complaint. While the filing of a complaint may come as a surprise, the court system is very careful to make sure that parties to litigation are not surprised or unaware of documents that are subsequently filed, or caught off guard by orders of which they were not aware. They do this by requiring the filing party to “serve” a divorce summons upon the other party in a way that ensures that the other party truly gets notice of the case that has started and has the opportunity to respond. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our Milwaukee divorce lawyer can help you handle the process of serving a divorce complaint to make sure that the proceedings begin properly.

What is Service of a Complaint or Summons?

Although courts use the word “served,” service of a complaint is basically just ensuring that a copy of the complaint is given to all other parties involved. Perhaps you have seen situations on TV with someone handing a complaint to an individual and announcing “you’ve been served!” While service can occur by hand delivery, there are a variety of other means that can be used to ensure proper service.

Giving the parties involved a copy of the complaint may seem like a relatively small and inconsequential action, but courts take service very seriously, since it ensures that other parties have fair notice of the lawsuit and a fair opportunity to respond to it. For this reason, failing to properly serve your complaint can be disastrous to your lawsuit. If the court finds that you have not properly served your complaint and filed a confirmation of that service with the court, it may throw out your case completely.

What Constitutes Proper Service in a Divorce Case in Wisconsin?

There are two types of service that are allowed under Wisconsin law: personal service and service by mail. In divorce cases, however, only personal service is allowed, and the service must be completed within 90 days after the complaint for divorce was filed. An attorney can help you make sure that you meet this deadline.

Personal service means that someone personally serves, or hands over, the documents to the defendant or defendants. Personal service can be accomplished in a variety of ways:

  • Have the Sheriff’s Department serve the divorce summons
  • Pay a private process server to serve the divorce summons
  • Use someone else who is over the age of 18 and a resident of Wisconsin to serve the divorce summons

These are the preferred options, and, when possible, the sheriff’s department or a private process server should be used because they are most likely to reliably serve the complaint in a proper manner.

Although this is unlikely in a divorce case, in some circumstances you may not know where to locate the defendant whom you need to serve. When this happens, serving a divorce complaint by publication can be used as a last resort. Service by publication requires that you publish a legal notice of your divorce complaint in a newspaper in the county where the defendant last resided. However, service by publication can only be attempted after other methods have been tried and proven unsuccessful.

Contact a Knowledgeable Divorce Lawyer in the Milwaukee Area

Serving a divorce complaint need not be difficult in most cases, especially when the divorcing spouses know each other and know where each lives. That said, a failure to properly serve a complaint can have extremely negative consequences for your divorce proceedings and is not a risk worth taking. In order to avoid the possibility that there may be an error in your service, consider consulting a Milwaukee attorney like Terese J. Singer at Reddin & Singer, LLP to handle all of the procedural aspects of your case. We can work with local process servers to ensure timely and accurate service of divorce summons. If you need assistance with a divorce, child custody, child support, or other family law matter, contact our office online or at (414) 271-6400. We represent people in Milwaukee, Mequon, Racine, West Bend, Waukesha, and other communities in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington, Racine, and Waukesha Counties.

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