Venue and motions to change venue in Wisconsin courts are governed by the statutes found at Wis. Stats. § 801.50 through § 801.64. Those statutes apply to family law cases through §767.201 and the related residency requirements of § 767.301.
Family law cases, however, are unique in their continuing nature. While most types of cases are finalized after entry of judgment (except, of course, for appeal remands and sometimes enforcement issues), family law cases frequently require the court’s continuing action after entry of judgment for modification of placement or custody, modification or termination of child support, maintenance issues, placement enforcement, etc. As families move around the state in our mobile society, venue issues often arise: which county is most convenient for the parties, where is most of the relevant information located, etc.
The family code, § 767.281, provides a simple way to change venue for post-judgment modification and enforcement motions, petitions, and orders to show cause. With the title, “Filing procedures and orders for enforcement or modification of judgments or orders,” one might not expect this statute to provide a useful mechanism for transferring a post-judgment family case to a more convenient or appropriate county, which perhaps explains why the statute and procedure are little used or understood. But in an appropriate case, this statute can simplify and streamline procedures as families move around the state.
While the statute does not explicitly authorize the filing of a post-judgment motion in a county other than that of the original judgment, its language implicitly permits it by setting forth the procedure to be followed when a post-judgment motion is filed in a new county. Pursuant to Subsection (1m), if a post-judgment motion is brought in a county other than the county that entered the judgment or order, the moving party is required to send a copy of the motion to the original county, along with a copy of the new summons. Then, if a dispute arises regarding which court should exercise jurisdiction, both judges and all counsel “may” hold a conference to resolve the issue. Once a new order is entered in the new county, the moving party must send a copy to the original court.
Subsection (2) sets forth additional, more specific provisions where the post-judgment motion concerns child support, family support, or maintenance payments. These post-judgment motions must be brought in the original county or in the county where the minor children “reside,” unless the parties stipulate to filing in another county or the original court finds good cause for the motion to be filed in another county.
At Wessel, Lehker & Fumelle, we have used this statute to change venue for post-judgment proceedings quickly and easily. We have also found, however, that courts and opposing counsel frequently are unaware of the statute and the simplified procedures it provides. Successfully utilizing the statute often requires educating the court.