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Wisconsin Divorce The Basics

Wisconsin Divorce - The Basics

By Maury D. Beaulier, Esq.


Marriage Counseling
Grounds for Divorce
Alternatives to Court Battles
How to Start
Temporary Hearings
Guardian Ad Litem & Custody Evaluations
Child Support
Property Divisions

Marriage Counseling as a First Step

Any marriage that was once good may be worth saving. It is important to remember that we can't love our mates at all hours of the day on all days of the week. Let's face it. Marriages take work. Before you consider divorce, reconsider your marriage. Divorce is and should be a final and drastic step.

Grounds for Divorce

Wisconsin, like most states, is a "no fault" divorce state. That means that no grounds or "fault" is necessary to file a divorce. In fact, under most circumstances issues of fault such as infidelity are irrelevant to the proceedings. The only legal basis for divorce in Wisconsin is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” Wisconsin courts generally will find a marriage irretrievably broken even if only one of the spouses wants a divorce.

Legal Separation

If you do believe that your marriage relationship may be salvaged or for religious reasons do not want to proceed with divorce, you may still separate and address financial issues through a legal separation. Just like a divorce the court may divide property, determine custody and physical placement, child support, and maintenance. The only difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that in a divorce the marital relationship is severed. A legal separation may also be converted into a divorce by either party after one year.


In our modern world, an annulment tends to be more a creature of religion than of law. Annulments are rarely granted and when they are, very specific circumstances must exist. Often people believe that they may annul a marriage simply because it was of a very short duration. That is not the case. To annul a marriage, a person must demonstrate that the marriage is void because it is prohibited by the laws of the State or is voidable because the intent to enter into a civil contract was not present at the time that the parties married. When an annulment is granted, it dissolves a marriage and treats it as if it had never occurred. Some reasons for annulment include bigamy, marriage under the age of consent, marriage by force, marriage based on fraud, marriage without disclosing sexual impotency.

Wisconsin Jurisdiction

In order to file a divorce in Wisconsin, you must demonstrate that Wisconsin has jurisdiction. There is a residency requirement that one spouse must have been lived in Wisconsin for at least six months immediately prior to the divorce filing. The divorce may be filed in any county where one spouse has lived for at least 30 days.

Alternatives to Court Battles

The way a divorce is commenced and how long it takes may depend on the process that you choose. Not all divorce issues must be resolved in a court room battle. The simplest divorce is one that is resolved by an agreement of the parties. Once an agreement is reached, it can be taken to a lawyer to draft up all the necessary divorce papers. This process will obviously save each of the parties significant time, money and emotional turmoil. However, in most cases, the parties will need help in reaching agreements. In such cases, the parties may try mediation to resolve their issues. Although mediation may occur before a dissolution proceeding is commenced., where there are unresolved issues, it is also likely to be required by the Court after divorce papers are filed.

Often, the divorce process turns spouses into bitter adversaries requiring them to argue and fight about issues. This is generally not a pleasant process. It can be time consuming, emotionally draining and expensive. For that reason, an alternative has been developed which provides each spouse with legal advice and treats the parties to a divorce like team members allowing them to discuss and resolve their issues in creative ways. Often, this process leads to better, lasting solutions, reduces costs and speed up the process.

How To Start & How Long Does It Take

To commence a divorce in the Court system, two documents must be filed with the Clerk of Court in your county along with a filing fee and served on the other party. The documents include the following:

  • A Summons which indicates that a divorce is being filed;
  • A Petition for Dissolution of Marriage which sets out basic factual information about the each spouse, the children, if any, and asset information along with a request for relief from the Court.

The person filing the documents is referred to as the “petitioner.” The other spouse is referred to as the “respondent.” There are few advantages or disadvantages to being the first one to file. The only real advantage is being able to choose the county where the action is filed if the parties live in different counties.

Pursuant to Wisconsin statutes, except for certain emergencies, a final hearing cannot be held for a minimum of 120 days. However, the divorce process may, in fact last much longer depending on the complexities of the case. Divorces are concluded mist rapidly when the parties are able to agree upon the issues related to debt and property

DivorceInteractive.com tries to provide quality information, but cannot guarantee the accuracy, completeness or adequacy of the information, opinions or other content posted on the site. It is not intended as a substitute for and should not be relied upon as legal, financial, accounting, tax, medical or other professional advice. It should not be construed as establishing a professional-client or professional-patient relationship. The applicability of legal principles is subject to amendment by the legislature, interpretation by the courts and different application by different judges and may differ substantially in individual situations or different states. Before acting on what you have read, it is important to obtain appropriate professional advice about your particular situation and facts. Access to and use of DivorceInteractive.com is subject to additional Terms and Conditions. DivorceInteractive.com is a secure site and respects your Privacy.

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