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Admission of Personal Service

The other day I discussed whether it mattered who filed first. In most cases it routinely does not, but if the parties are separated and living in different counties, or different states, it can certainly matter, and where minor children are involved, can affect jurisdiction of the court to proceed.

When filing for divorce in Wisconsin, you are required to personally serve the papers on the other spouse. You cannot do it as a party to the case, but an adult can serve the papers on your spouse. It is usually better to have the sheriff of the county where you are residing serve the papers or a private process server, because they will need to complete a sworn affidavit that your spouse was served, and if you leave it to an adult friend or relative, they may screw it up for you, no matter how well intended they are. Under Wisconsin law, the initial summons and petition are required to be personally served within 90 days of the filing date. If you have requested an initial first hearing, since those hearings are routinely scheduled in the first 30 days or so of filing, you will have to expedite personal service as the OTSC first hearing papers usually must be served at least 7 days before the time fixed for the initial hearing. You don’t have the luxury of waiting 90 days to serve anymore.

What is the option to personal service? We many times, at the request of our clients will mail the initial papers to the house with a cover letter and include, along with all of the initial divorce papers a document entitled “admission of personal service.” We put in the letter that the papers are sent this way to the home, to avoid the personal embarrassment of being personally served with the divorce papers at work or at home, perhaps, in front of the neighbors or in front of the children. By signing the admission of personal service, one is not admitting to anything stated in the divorce papers or admitting that they want a divorce. All that is being done is that one is admitting to “receipt” of the divorce papers. Very rarely do we not get the form completed and promptly returned to our office. I think most individuals respect not having to be served with legal process, particularly when going through a divorce.

Once the person signs and returns the admission of personal service, that form must be filed with the court clerk, so there is no proof of personal service on the respondent. Whether personally served or admitting personal service, it has the same legal effect. It triggers the statutory 120 day waiting period in Wisconsin, and once served, paves the way for the petitioner to obtain a divorce down the road and after the expiration of 120 days.

If you have questions about starting a divorce or how to get the papers to your spouse, contact one of our experienced family lawyers at Karp & Iancu. today, for a free and confidential, initial meeting.

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