You can get a hearing in Family Court by filling out and delivering 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, or, if your request involves contempt, by having them personally served by someone not involved with the case.
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 Commissioner 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 Commissioner enough information for him to check and make sure the amount is correct. If you don’t want to agree to the Guideline amount, you still need to calculate this amount, and be prepared to give a good financial reason why support should be set at a different number. That the two of you agree to a different amount, without a meaningful financial reason, is not enough. Agreements that don’t meet these standards will not be approved by the Commissioner.
At the hearing, you will need to tell the Commissioner what you want and why you want it. You will need facts, not opinions or speculation, to support your requests. 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. Start in the beginning. It is important that you tell the Commissioner why he 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 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 often 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 10 days after the hearing.