What is a De Novo Review in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, many people may find that their family law matters, or restraining orders, will be heard in front of a court commissioner. This is because the courts are able to delegate this authority in order to more efficiently use the judge’s court calendar. However, if a party believes that a court commissioner gets the decision on their issue or issues incorrect, that party has recourse.

Pursuant to Wisconsin State statutes, any decision of a court commissioner shall be reviewed by the assigned judge, upon a motion of any party.  Essentially this is an appeal of that decision and it is called a “de novo review”, which means the judge will review the issues in a new hearing as though there was never a hearing and ruling by the court commissioner. This motion for a hearing de novo must be made in writing. The judge are supposed to allow both parties to testify again, review all of the evidence, hear witnesses, and then the judge will make a determination on the issues pertaining to the original filing that brought the parties in to court the first time.  However, it is important to note that many judges handle these types of motions much more informally and try to avoid a full second hearing, except for restraining orders, although they are required to do so by law.

There are certain time limits for filing a motion requesting a de novo review, and these limits are set by each county in their local court rules. In general, if your issues are a part of a family court matter (regarding custody, placement, child support, maintenance, contempt, or post judgment issues), the party seeking a de novo review shall usually have about 10 -15 business days, depending on the county in which your case is being heard, from the date the court commissioner signs the order and gives it to the parties at the hearing. If the court commissioner does not give each party and attorney present a written copy of that order, then the party seeking a de novo review may have a different time period from the date of mailing the order.  If you believe that the court commissioner’s order is unfair, it is extremely important to ask at the time of the hearing what the time period for a request for a de novo review is in that county and to file that request as soon as possible following the hearing.

If a party is seeking a de novo review of an order involving the granting or dismissal of an injunction (restraining order), there may be a different deadline.  For example, in Milwaukee County, the party seeking the de novo review from a family court commissioner case in a divorce or paternity shall have fifteen (15) days from the date of a hearing, providing they receive a copy of the order immediately, but shall have thirty (30) days after the court commissioner issued the order or ruling in a restraining order. It should be noted that the thirty day deadline includes weekends and holidays but a deadline less than thirty (30) days does not. These slight variations in deadlines make it important to check with your county’s local court rules to ensure that you do not lose your right to request a de novo review.

It may be the most practical to file for a de novo review hearing immediately after your hearing if you believe that the court commissioner made the wrong decision in your matter. If you believe that you need a de novo hearing, or that a party has filed for a de novo hearing in your matter, call us at (414) 258-1644 to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.


20 thoughts on “What is a De Novo Review in Wisconsin?

  1. My ex gf filed for a TRO and injunction hearing. She didnt show up and commisioner dissmissed the case.
    She filed again. A different commisioner heard the case. I appeared by phone and wasnt given an opportunity to explain my side of the story. Injunction was ordered against me for 4 years with S.O.F.
    The hearing was held before a circuit court judge this time. I went to the hearing. I was 15 minutes late. The judge waited 4 minutes and then dissmissed (denied) the motion De Novo and the injunction and SOF are still enforced against me.
    Can I appeal again ?
    I will win my case if I can just simply get a hearing anf be able to present my evidence. I have solid physical evidence, wittnesses too. I hope I’ll get another chance. She had zero proof of anything, lied on her statements (i have proof), missed the first hearing and was given a second chance. Do I get another chance ?

    • Unfortunately, because you were late, the court has the discretion to dismiss your motion. Some judges will wait longer than 4 minutes but some won’t. You could file a motion for reconsideration before the judge but if the judge is strict enough to dismiss after 4 minutes, you may not have any luck. Or, you could appeal it to the court of appeals. I would strongly advise you to consult with an attorney who is experienced in this area to determine what your options are.

  2. I recently partook in a hearing concerning a removal request of children. The GAL assigned stated that they never looked at the case as removal because I didn’t file the letter of intent to remove even though at the initial hearing the commissioner explained it’s a removal case and the GAL paperwork states its’ a removal case. I raised this in court and even offered to file the letter of intent but was informed on the spot by the GAL that they wouldn’t change the findings. I feel the GAL solely focused on the letter not being filed and did not take into consideration any other factors. Would a de novo be warranted?

    • Filing a de novo is usually a good idea in this situation. However, be careful. There are strict time limits that you must adhere to. Check with your county – it is usually somewhere between 10 and 15 days after the order is issued or after the hearing. With regards to the issue of the remove itself, I would strongly suggest you consult with an experienced family law attorney. Also, the law recent changed in Wisconsin regarding removals (see our latest blog post here). Under the new law, the requirements have changed but it is unclear from your facts whether your case falls under the new statute or not.

  3. I recently got granted a injunction on a woman who was stalking me she filed a de novo but she still is stalking me and I have proof.. will they grant her an appeal?

    • A denovo hearing is essentially an appeal to the circuit court judge. Everyone is entitled to one so, yes, there will be another hearing. The judge will hear all of the facts and evidence all over again, as if the first hearing before the court commissioner had never occurred. Then he or she will make a decision as to whether the injunction should be granted (again). In the meantime, the current injunction is still in effect and can be enforced. Therefore, if she has violated it, you should contact the police and report the violation.

  4. I filed a de novo after a FCC ruling. Circuit Judge said a de novo is a review of the Family Court commissioners findings. No evidence can be submitted, no witnesses allowed… No testimony can be heard. The case was done over the phone…. 5 min time limit (per judges ruling). Judge found the FCC findings were right after reading case file. Petitioner had to file the judgment in a time frame… Which they didn’t. I proved off setting expenses (receipts, etc) judge said my expenses needed to be reviewed on a new case, brought by me against the other person. I was found in contempt, sentenced to 1 year in jail….. For not following a Civil judgement. That I was unable to comply to as I had documentation of full disability and my contemptuous non payment was not intentional. This quazi-Civil remedial contempt hearing, I feel infringed on my civil liberty. Motions denied – jury trial, change of venue, public defender denied, no appellate ability, because it was post judgement? Judge summarily dismissed all motions at once.

    • As to the de novo review, this was not the proper standard of review from a court commissioner’s decision and you are entitled to a full hearing. There is case law on this issue. However, as to the facts of your specific case, I cannot comment. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney to obtain an opinion as to whether the judge’s dismissal of your motions was appropriate.

  5. My babys mother filed a de novo after we went to court and she told them that she didn’t want child support or arrears. She said she was filing the de novo because she heard that I paid for another girls items. Can she do this and will she win in court.

    • I’m sorry but I have no idea. I cannot make a judgment or give advice based upon the minimal facts you are presenting or on this forum. You should consult with an experienced family law attorney in your area to obtain legal advice regarding your situation. Good luck!

  6. I got a four year restraining order against my husband. He filed a de novo cause Eau Claire county has a 20 days to file and he filed 26 days later. His de novo was denied and now they are filing a de novo review. Will they deny that or will he be given a new hearing?

    • I guess I am confused. He is filing a de novo on the denial of his de novo? He can’t do that. He could possibly file a motion for reconsideration or even an appeal but a de novo only applies to a court commissioner’s decision, not a judge. You should talk to an attorney about this. Good luck!

  7. Can you file for a de novo review online, or do you have to go down to the courthouse in person?

    • Hi Shana – every county is different so you should check with the clerk of courts where your case is located or the clerk of the judge assigned to your case. However, the entire state of Wisconsin now mandates that all documents be e-filed. Most forms are available online. But, the rules and procedures vary from county to county. Good luck.

  8. My very spoiled kid ($20,00+/ year free money/ cars/ trips etc) filed a TRO against me because we stopped giving her money this year. The comissioner upheld this 4 yr TRO. I filed a De Novo. Does the court have a certain time in which to hold the De Novo hearing with the Judge? Someone keeps telling me its 30 days from the time I file the De Novo review???

    • I am sorry but I did not see this question until now. Every county is different in terms of time frames. There is no statutory deadline. Good luck to you.

  9. I am a mother of 6 in Rock County Wisconsin. I was recently given notice of an exparte motion for 1 of my children and went to the hearing today. Being pregnant, i had consistant morning vomiting/morning sickness and was late 15 mins with the court c. Default judgement was made and my Parental Rights terminated based only on that. The hearing happened in less than 10 mins.
    I attempted to file denovo with a statement attached immediately following. What are the odds i will get a Denovo hearing?

    • Hi Lisa- something about this doesn’t make sense. First, please note that a denovo hearing only can happen if a court commissioner issues the order. Second, a termination of parental rights, which is permanent and final, does not happen that easily and certainly not by a court commissioner. An ex parte motion is different than a termination of parental rights. You may be talking about a termination of custody and placement which is very different. I strongly encourage you to talk to an experienced family lawyer in Rock County immediately! In the meantime, there are deadlines that need to be met for a de novo hearing so make sure you do get that filed right away. You are entitled to a hearing if you file it within the proper time period. If the order was issued by a judge, then you likely will have to file a motion for reconsideration or an appeal to the court of appeals. Good luck to you.

  10. I have a divorce case in Rock County. I am the mother. He has an attorney, I am still looking for one. I am having a hard time finding one considering I was in a controlled marriage for 16 years, no solid work history=no money. I can’t seem to get any assistance. I was late to court. He was given primary placement by default. His attorney filed a motion to have permanent primary placement because I did not participate in co-parenting. That’s a lie, I do. I am providing court proof but he did get it granted. Now I am filing a De Novo. I am losing and it’s so not fair. He is awful!
    Do I need to provide the reasoning, explaination at the time I take my paperwork to the court house? Or will I get a chance to explain in a hearing?

    • Unfortunately, we cannot provide legal advice on this website. Therefore, it sounds as if you definitely need an attorney. I would suggest you contact the Wisconsin Lawyer Referral Service. They can try to match you up with a lawyer who will meet your needs and budget. Here is the link: https://www.wisbar.org/forPublic/INeedaLawyer/Pages/LRIS.aspx Most lawyers offer free consultations. I encourage you to schedule a consultation with a family lawyer in your area, even if you don’t think you can afford one. Lawyers will sometimes offer affordable payment plans or other payment arrangements to get you going. Good luck to you.

We welcome your comments or questions. We will do our best to try to respond. However, please be advised that we cannot give legal advice in this forum and all communications are for general informational purposes only. Communication should not be construed as forming an attorney-client relationship. This is an open forum and any information you provide may be posted and will not be held confidentially. By posting a comment or question, you are expressly giving consent for the publication of same. If you have any specific legal issues or concerns, we always recommend that you consult with an attorney in the county and state in which you reside.

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