The Family Court handles divorce, paternity, and child support cases along with harassment and domestic abuse injunctions. This site is a general resource only. The information on this site is not legal advice, nor is it a replacement for legal advice. For information on what this site is (and is not), please see the Use Limitations section.
Contact and Communications
La Crosse County Family Court Commissioner’s Office
Courthouse and Law Enforcement Center
333 Vine Street, Room 2500
La Crosse, WI 54601
Phone: (608) 785-5600
Communications with Family Court Commissioner and Staff:
Family Court staff can provide you with procedural information—how to file and properly serve documents, but cannot provide legal advice by law.
On occasion, litigants ask to speak with the Family Court Commissioner. The Commissioner is not allowed to speak directly with one party. This is called an ex parte communication, which means a communication conducted for the benefit of only one party. Ex parte communication is prohibited by law. You cannot contact the Commissioner or staff to ask a question about the merits of your case or to complain about the other party. Such contact is also an improper ex parte communication.
Hearing Information and Scheduling
Most Family Court hearings are before the Family Court Commissioner. Typically, a Circuit Court Judge will only hear family law cases after a decision has been made by the Family Court Commissioner.
The Family Court weekly schedule is as follows:
Monday: Hearings are scheduled between 9-11:30 am and 1:30-4:00 p.m.
Tuesday: Injunction hearings are scheduled at 9:30 a.m. (In-person only)
Child Support Review and Contempt hearings are scheduled at 2:30 p.m. (In-person; Zoom allowed only if authorized by the Child Support Agency)
Wednesday: Hearings are scheduled between 9-11:30 a.m. and 1:30-4:00 p.m.
Thursday: Child Support Paternity Establishment and Modification hearings are scheduled at 9:00 a.m. (Zoom only)
Friday: Default Divorces are scheduled at 8:30 a.m. (Zoom only)
Injunction hearings are scheduled at 9:30 a.m. (In-person only)
Other hearings are scheduled around the set calendars noted on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays.
Hearing Format: You may choose to have your hearing in-person or by Zoom except as noted above.
In-person hearings are conducted in the Family Court Hearing Room (2400) on the second floor of the courthouse. If a hearing is scheduled in-person and you wish to appear by Zoom, you must contact the Family Court Commissioner’s Office at least 5 business days prior to the hearing. If you receive permission, you will be given information to access the hearing by Zoom.
For in-person hearings scheduled by the Child Support Agency, permission to appear by Zoom must be approved by that agency. You must contact the Child Support Agency at least 5 business days prior to the hearing by calling the Child Support Agency Call Center at (414) 615-2594.
Getting a Hearing: To get a hearing in Family Court, the proper paperwork must be submitted. Motions or Forms with instructions can be downloaded from www.wicourts.gov under the forms tab or a Family Court packet can be purchased from the Clerk of Court for a nominal fee. Please make sure you read all of the instructions, complete all portions of the document, and that you print clearly. Because all documents are scanned into the electronic filing system, please use only black ink. Pencil and other colored ink do not scan well.
Bring your completed documents to the Family Court staff to obtain a hearing date. Once you have the hearing date, file the paperwork with the Clerk of Court and pay the required filing fee. You must provide the other side with a copy of your file-stamped documents through proper service. The instructions indicate if service on the other party is by mail or by personal service. The service documents (Certificate of Service or Admission of Service) must be filed prior to the scheduled hearing date. All information sent to the Family Court Commissioner must be copied to the other party in the case. If you fail to provide the other side with all documentation, your hearing will be rescheduled. See Forms FA-5000V or FA-5001V for what is necessary for proper service.
Length of Hearing: Hearings on motions and orders to show cause are generally scheduled for one hour.
Zoom and Required Etiquette
Many Family Court hearings are conducted by Zoom—a communications platform that allows hearings to be done virtually. The rules and decorum of a Zoom hearing are the same as if you were physically present in the courtroom. Your comments to the Court, attorneys and other litigants along with your attire should be appropriate and respectful.
Preparation for Hearing: Download Zoom to your device several days PRIOR to you hearing. Test all audio and video connections in advance of the hearing. The microphone-shaped icon represents your audio connection. If the microphone has a slash through it, you are muted and cannot be heard. To unmute, click or tap on the microphone icon. When the slash disappears, you are unmuted and can be heard by all parties. To start the video, click or tap on the icon shaped like an old-fashioned movie camera. Similarly, if the movie camera icon has a slash through it, your video isn’t activated. Click or tap on this to start your video. The Court is unable to provide technical advice beyond telling you how to start/stop your video and audio. For this reason, it is important that you practice using Zoom in advance of the hearing. If you are uncomfortable using Zoom, please arrange to have a support person with tech skills available to assist you during the hearing.
Zooming from Home or Work: Take action to avoid distractions or disruptions during your Zoom hearing. Inform any persons in your vicinity that you will be unavailable and in a private/confidential meeting during the time scheduled. Because children are not allowed in the courtroom, you must arrange for childcare for the entire duration of your hearing. Silence other devices, turn off notifications, and check your background.
Zooming Location: Choose a private and quiet room with good lighting for your Zoom hearing. Avoid rooms with bright windows and/or back-lighting. Turn off ceiling fans. You will need to remain in this spot for the entire hearing unless a Wi-Fi issue necessitates a move. Appearing from outdoors, public spaces or moving cars is not permitted.
Be Early for Court: Log into Zoom Court at least 15 minutes early. By doing this, you will have time to overcome any technical difficulties that may arise and can be settled before the Commissioner appears.
Documentation/Writing Materials: Prior to the hearing, collect all materials/documents you may need and have them with you prior to the start of the Zoom hearing. You don’t want the Court to watch you search for a pen that works.
Mute Your Mic When Not Speaking: Make a habit of keeping the mic on mute when not speaking to avoid feedback and the unintentional disclosure of attorney-client communications. Remember to unmute when it is your turn to speak.
Sample Zoom Instruction: You will be sent instructions on how to access your Zoom hearing and how to prepare for it. See the Zoom Instructions example: Form CS-282
Waiver Of Filing Or Service Fees
Filing fees will be waived for individuals who submit the proper forms and who are “indigent” as defined by the Federal Income Poverty Guidelines. To qualify for a waiver, please complete the Petition for Waiver of Fees and Costs-Affidavit of Indigency and fill in only the caption of the accompanying Order. These forms are available at the Clerk of Courts Office or online at wicourts.gov. (Forms CV-410A and CV-410B). Once this paperwork is completed, it must be turned into the Family Court Commissioners Office for review and decision.
Pursuant to Wisconsin law, all custody and placement disputes are ordered to mediation. To be clear, mediation is required for all parents--unmarried, married, separated, divorcing and divorced. The mediation is conducted by a trained professional from Mediation & Family Court Services (“M&FCS”).
The Family Court will issue an Order for Mediation without a prior hearing if requested by a party. Otherwise, such an order will be issued after a custody and/or placement hearing. This order is valid for two years—allowing the parties to return to mediation multiple times to address their custody and/or placement issues.
Along with an Order, the parties must submit a mediation referral form to M&FCS. If domestic violence is a concern, please contact the Mediation office at (608) 785-6162 prior to turning in this form. Neither the Family Court nor the M&FCS are provided police reports and/or notice of past or pending criminal charges related to the parties. If a party wants the Court to be aware of this conduct, he or she must file the relevant documentation.
Once mediation is ordered, M&FCS will set up the first appointment. The initial screening is free. Further mediation sessions cost a flat fee of $100/person. If the parties are indigent, the Family Court Commissioner can waive the fee upon petitioning for a waiver of fees/costs. See Waiver of Fees section.
Please see the Mediation & Family Court Services website for additional information.
If you reach an agreement in Mediation, please review the section entitled “Stipulation” for how to properly memorialize this arrangement so it is enforceable by the Court’s contempt power.
If the parties reach an agreement in Mediation or on their own, the current Order remains in effect unless a new written order is signed by the Court. To change the existing Order and make the new agreement enforceable by the Court’s contempt power, the parties must file a document called a “Stipulation.”
The parties should consider hiring an attorney to draft the Stipulation to ensure all issues are properly identified and addressed. If the parties proceed without counsel, they need to exercise care and caution in the preparation of the Stipulation as the language contained therein will become the new order.
Counsel or the parties should submit the “Stipulation” plus the relevant Order to the Family Court Commissioner (“FCC”) for review and approval. The Stipulation and its accompanying Order are available at the Clerk of Courts Office or online at Wisconsin Circuit Court Access Forms. (Forms FA-604A and FA-604B). Once the Stipulation is approved by the FCC, the accompanying Order takes effect upon filing. Parties should make a copies of the stipulation for their own records before providing the original to the court.
Please note that if state aid has been provided to either party or their children, or if the Child Support Agency has been involved in collection activities, then the Child Support Agency must approve the requested order before the Court will consider it.
Informal Agreements are Unenforceable: Any agreement that hasn’t been formalized into an Order is not enforceable. Unless there is a written court order about a specific issue, written promises made by text, email or other forms of communication are not enforceable. The same is true about oral promises—they need to be formalized by a Court order to become enforceable.