Wisconsin Divorce Laws

Divorce in Wisconsin

Divorce is not an easy process – it is stressful, emotional and conflict-ridden. Divorce impacts almost every aspect of an individual’s life including relationships with family and friends, finances and property ownership. Unfortunately, divorce is a frequent occurrence. In Wisconsin, approximately 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Whether your divorce is collaborative or contested, it is important to retain a divorce lawyer that will provide compassionate, dedicated, and knowledgeable legal representation for you throughout the process.

Wisconsin Divorce Requirements

In order for a divorce case to be processed, individuals must first meet the necessary residency requirements. Residency requirements are mandatory as divorce cases are filed through the county circuit courts in each state.

If a case is filed towards the incorrect court, the case will be dismissed. In Wisconsin, individuals must reside in the state as residents for a minimum of six months prior to filing for divorce. Only one spouse is required to be a Wisconsin resident and must reside within the county of filing for a minimum of thirty days prior to divorce filing.

If both individuals are Wisconsin residents but reside in different counties for the stipulated time requirements, either individual may file for divorce in either county. A clerk will schedule a hearing within one hundred twenty days after a summons service and petition.

Wisconsin Divorce Grounds

Divorce grounds are the reason or reasons why individuals request a divorce. Each state has different divorce grounds in which it acknowledges as legal.

Not all states have the same divorce grounds and some have several while others have only one. When filing individuals must present the grounds for divorce before the court. One individual may decide on divorce grounds upon divorce petitioning but will need to prove those grounds before the court. Individuals may also agree on grounds and petition together.

The state of Wisconsin has only one legal ground for divorce: the grounds of an irretrievably broken marriage. Certain circumstances must first apply for these grounds to be legal.

When both individuals petition for divorce they must both state that the marriage is broken beyond repair. The individuals may also have lived apart for a minimum of twelve months or more prior to divorce filing. These twelve months must be consecutive and include no cohabitation.

Cohabitation can also include living in the same household but residing in different sections of the residence. The court will consider each individual’s testimonies before granting or denying a divorce.

If only one individual states that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that living apart was not voluntary, the court will consider the circumstances. In involuntary circumstances individuals must also live apart for at least twelve months. The court will also consider why one individual requests a divorce while the other does not.

Family Law in Wisconsin

Legal Separation: When divorce is not an option, legal separation may be a viable alternative to assist you and your family cope with a broken spousal relationship. Milwaukee family lawyers will provide you with legal counsel concerning the risks and benefits of legal separation, as an alternative to divorce, and will make sure that your interests are protected.

Child Custody/Child Support: Child custody placement (visitation) matters are often accompanied by disputes over child support. Child support is a statutorily defined obligation of one parent to provide financial support for the children. Child support is determined by a set formula under Wisconsin state law. Whether you are the custodial or non-custodial parent, family attorneys will vigorously advocate for your financial interests in a child support dispute.

Property Division: Property division is a hotly contested issue in almost every divorce. Under Wisconsin law, any property that is considered “marital property” must be split equally between divorcing spouses. When involved in a property division dispute, you can trust a Milwaukee County family lawyer to vigorously defend your right to your belongings.

Spousal Maintenance/Alimony: Spousal maintenance or alimony is a court-ordered award of financial support from one spouse to another. Under Wisconsin law, an award of spousal support is determined by a number of factors that the judge may consider. Whether you are on the giving or receiving end of a maintenance dispute, it is important to have an experienced family attorney with knowledge of Wisconsin divorce laws to represent your financial interests in these matters. With over 35 years of experience representing clients in divorce, Milwaukee family law attorneys will ensure that your financial position is protected in a claim for spousal maintenance.

Grandparent’s Rights: Under Wisconsin law, grandparents have the legal right to visitation with their grandchildren in a number of factual settings. Contact a Wisconsin divorce attorney to learn more about Wisconsin grandparent visitation laws and whether you have a legal claim for visitation with your grandchildren.

Paternity: Paternity disputes most often occur in conjunction with claims for custody, placement (visitation) and child support. A paternity test will help establish fatherhood and parental rights. If you are a father or mother involved in a paternity dispute, contact a Wisconsin divorce lawyer for thorough and experienced legal representation.

Divorce Documents

Because each divorce case is different, different documents will be required. Varying circumstances will dictate how many and which documents will be necessary. Some divorces can have as many as twenty separate documents while others can have as many as twelve separate documents.

The number of documents depends on any children present, the length of the marriage, acquire property throughout the marriage, the grounds for divorce, and other circumstances. Some of these documents include a Petition for Divorce and Decree and Divorce, a Request for a Status Conference and Finding of Fact, a Marital Settlement Agreement, a Financial Disclosure Statement, a Proposed Parenting Plan, a Judgment, and a Conclusions of Law. All of these documents will be filed to the county court clerks’ office and will be held until the date of the hearing.

Mediation in Wisconsin

Mediation is a form of dispute resolution that takes place outside of the court system. It is a process by which a neutral third party mediator intervenes between two disputing parties to promote reconciliation, settlement or compromise. Mediation is an effective and cost-efficient tool for resolving disputes outside of the traditional adversarial legal system. It can be used as a means of settling many types of civil disputes, including divorce, family law, and business law.

Wisconsin Divorce FAQs

What is the standard for getting a divorce in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, the standard for getting a divorce is that there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. This is a no fault standard, meaning that neither spouse needs to be at fault in causing the breakdown of the marriage.

How will our property be divided?

The presumption in Wisconsin is that all marital property is divided equally between husband and wife (50/50 split). However, there are factors that allow the court to deviate from the equal distribution standard.

What is a collaborative divorce?

Collaborative divorce is a special process for obtaining a divorce that does not involve the court system. The parties agree that they will not use the court system and will instead rely on the special process to obtain a divorce. If either party decides to use the court system during the process, the collaborative process ends and the parties must get new attorneys.

We had children during our marriage. What is custody and who will get custody of the children?

In Wisconsin, custody is presumed to be joint between the parents. This means that each parent will have an equal role in the decision making concerning the children, i.e. what schools the children attend, their healthcare providers, etc.

What is placement?

In contrast to child custody, placement is the amount of time that each parent gets to spend with the child. In some cases, child placement may be shared equally between the parents and in other cases, one parent may be awarded primary placement.

How is child support determined?

In Wisconsin, like most states, child support is determined by a statutory formula that considers a number of factors including the number of children that were born during the marriage, placement, and the special needs of the children.

What is maintenance?

Maintenance is spousal support. It is a court ordered payment from one spouse to the other. There are a number of factors that the court must consider to determine how much maintenance is appropriate including, the length of the marriage and the amount of money each spouse earns.