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De Novo Review Standards in Wisconsin

Questions answered in this article:
What is a De Novo Review?  | What does De Novo Mean? | What is the difference between a De Novo Review and an appeal?

If You Disagree With a Decision Made by a Contested Family Court Commissioner Hearing, Consider a De Novo Review.

Frequently in family court, your first hearing takes place before a Family Court Commissioner (FCC).

A Court Commissioner is similar to an assistant judge; they hear requests for temporary orders in new divorces or make initial decisions on requests to modify prior judgments. Additionally, Court Commissioners can often resolve cases without the parties ever having to appear before a trial judge. However, if one party disagrees with the Commissioner’s order, they can appeal it to the trial court judge assigned to their case.

This appeal is known as a De Novo Review.

What is a De Novo Review?

What does De Novo mean?

De Novo is Latin for “from new,” and generally refers to starting from the beginning.

A De Novo hearing is held when the aggrieved party files a request for a new hearing before the trial judge. The trial judge then hears the arguments and receives evidence as if the original hearing before the Court Commissioner never took place. It is the closest thing to a true “do over” you can get in family court.

What is the difference between a De Novo Review and an appeal?

While an appeal is not a legal do-over, a De Novo Review is considered a second chance at bat.

An appeal and a De Novo Review are two different processes that allow you to possibly alter the outcome of the hearing in the lower court—it’s important to note that in a De Novo Review, both parties are entitled to present evidence and take testimony.

Unlike an appeal, where your case is presented to the Court of Appeals and therefore removed from the circuit court’s jurisdiction, a De Novo Review takes place in the same county court system and is heard by the same judge that is assigned to decide your case.

An appeal in a Wisconsin divorce case, instead of taking place in a county court, moves to one of the four appellate districts designated by geographic area, known as The Wisconsin Court of Appeals. Learn more about what makes the appeals process more formal than a De Novo Review.

In Wisconsin, generally you have the right to file an appeal within 45 to 90 days upon initial entry of the adverse order.

A De Novo Review is a request for your county’s trial court judge to review (and revise) an order made by a court commissioner. In a De Novo Review, the trial court judge will conduct a new hearing as though there had been no hearing or ruling by the court commissioner.

In a divorce, the deadline to file a De Novo Review is generally very short (sometimes only 10-15 days) and varies by county.

If you would like to request a De Novo Review, or if the opposing party has requested a De Novo Review and you would like to defend and protect the Commissioner’s order, call us for a free consultation to discuss your options.

Typically, each county has its own rules about when and how a request for De Novo Review must be filed. Here are some of the rules that may be relevant to you. Contact us if you don’t see your county here. We practice throughout the state of Wisconsin and would be happy to determine the deadline in your county. Also, please be aware these deadlines can change by local court rule at any time, so please contact us for the most up to date information:

Milwaukee County
The motion shall be filed in the branch to which the case is assigned no later than 15 business days after the date of the order, ruling, or decision to be reviewed, or, if the order, ruling or decision is delivered to the parties by mail rather than in person, no later than 18 business days after the date of mailing of the order, ruling, or decision. See Milwaukee County De Novo Rules, here.

Waukesha County
A motion for a de novo hearing must be filed within 15 calendar days of the oral decision of the court commissioner, or within 15 calendar days of the mailing of a written decision or order by the court commissioner if the decision or order was not given orally by the court commissioner at the time of the hearing. 15 calendar days are counted consecutively and include weekends and holidays pursuant to Wis. Stat. 801.15(1). See Waukesha County De Novo rules, here.

Ozaukee County
No official local rule speaks on this deadline; however, according to Wisconsin Family Law Info, the party seeking the De Novo review from a family court commissioner case in a divorce or paternity shall have 15 days from the date of a hearing, providing they receive a copy of the order immediately, but shall have thirty days after the court commissioner issued the order or ruling in a restraining order. See Ozaukee County De Novo guidelines, here.

Washington County
A request for a De Novo hearing of a FCC decision shall be made within 15 calendar days from the date the decision was rendered. See Washington County De Novo rules, here.

Sheboygan County
Similar to Ozaukee County, no official local rule speaks on this deadline. Wisconsin Family Law Info states that the party seeking a De Novo Review should file within 10-15 business days.

Dodge County
All motions for De Novo Review of a decision of the Family Court Commissioner, pursuant to Sec. 767.13(6) , Stats., must be filed within 30 days of the date of the decision. See Dodge County De Novo rules, here.

Racine County
Pursuant to §757.69(8) Wis. Stats., any party who was present at a hearing held by the Family Court Commissioner has the right to have the assigned Circuit Court Judge hold a new hearing upon the filing of a motion within 15 days of the oral decision of the Family Court Commissioner, or within 15 days of mailing of a written decision by the Family Court Commissioner if the order was not orally given by the Family Court Commissioner at the time of the hearing. 15 days shall be counted consecutively and include weekends and holidays pursuant to §801.15(1) Wis. Stats. See Racine County De Novo rules, here.

Kenosha County
Pursuant to §757.69(8) Wis. Stats., any party who was present at a hearing held by the Court Commissioner has the right to have the assigned Circuit Court Judge hold a new hearing upon the filing of a motion within 15 days of the oral decision of the Court Commissioner, or within 15 days of mailing of a written decision by the Court Commissioner if the order was not orally given by the Family Court Commissioner at the time of the hearing. Fifteen days shall be counted consecutively and include weekends and holidays pursuant to Wis. Stat. §801.15(1). See Kenosha County De Novo rules, here.

Dane County
Any party who was present at the hearing has the right to have the assigned judge hold a new hearing by filing a written request with the judge’s clerk, with a copy sent immediately to the opposing party, within 15 days of the oral decision of the family court commissioner, or within 15 days of mailing of the written decision if the order was not orally given at the time of the hearing. See Dane County De Novo rules, here.

An appeal entails a more formal process than a De Novo Review. Unlike the De Novo Review process which takes place within the same county court system as your case, an appeal moves the case outside of your county court to one of four appellate districts designated by geographic area, known as The Court of Appeals. Wisconsin’s Court of Appeals comprises 16 judges, from four different districts and has headquartered courthouses in Milwaukee, Waukesha, Madison and Wausau.

Talk to a Divorce Attorney

If we can be of service in representing you at a De Novo Review, please contact us today.

Related Content About De Novo Reviews In Wisconsin

Divorce Appeals in Wisconsin — What you need to know about the difference between De Novo Reviews and appeals
When Does a Divorce Agreement Become Binding? — What you need to know about what divorce deals are legally enforceable by a Wisconsin court of law

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