Divorces are emotionally, logistically, financially, and legally complex. There can be many specific concerns to address, like splitting shared assets, determining custody agreements, and arguing over spousal and child support payments.
Finalizing these arrangements requires detailed paperwork, some type of negotiation or mediation hearing, or maybe even a trial. Additionally, each state has its own rules regarding divorce proceedings. In Wisconsin, divorce requirements can vary from county to county, though many of the core elements are the same throughout the state.
If you’re considering getting a divorce in Wisconsin, it is important to understand your rights and work with an attorney who understands the process. Missteps along the way, even early on in the proceedings, can impact your outcome.
Wisconsin is a “no-fault state.” This means that you don’t have to give the court any specific reason for wanting a divorce. If there’s no chance that you and your spouse will reconcile, you can state that your marriage is irretrievably broken, which is sufficient grounds for divorce in Wisconsin. This can even occur if only one party wants the divorce.
Depending on how complex your case is, you may be able to file for divorce in Wisconsin without a lawyer. However, state courts generally recommend hiring an attorney to represent you, as most cases require legal help. If you and your spouse have children or any assets, it is advisable to hire an attorney, even if you and your soon-to-be-ex agree on everything.
To file for divorce in Wisconsin, you or your spouse must be a resident of the state for at least six months before you file the case, and you must live within the county you’re filing in for at least 30 days.
A general overview of how to file for divorce in the Badger State includes:
If the judge grants your divorce without the need for further hearings, you may still need to handle certain logistics like signing over property, changing your last name, or adjusting your will and other estate planning documents.
Many of the same steps apply if you file for a legal separation in Wisconsin. A divorce formally ends the marriage, while a legal separation does not. Some couples may choose a legal separation to evaluate their circumstances and decide if they want to fully divorce or stay together.
Though you don’t have to give a reason for getting a divorce in Wisconsin, you will need to explain why you want a legal separation.
If you’re legally separated and you both want a divorce, you can agree to file for divorce at any time. If one party does not agree to a divorce, you’ll need to wait a full year before you can petition for divorce on your own.
Regardless if you get divorced with or without a legal separation first, you and your ex-spouse will need to wait at least six months after the divorce is final if you choose to remarry.
How long your divorce takes heavily depends on how strained your relationship is. If you and your spouse can agree on the terms of your divorce, it shouldn’t take much longer than the 120-day waiting period, depending on how long it takes to get a hearing and process your documents.
If you’re struggling to come to any agreements, however, it’s possible for a divorce to span multiple hearings, which could take a year or more to complete.
As with the length of time for a divorce, the cost of filing depends on the specific circumstances of your case. It can range from a couple hundred dollars to thousands of dollars, depending on the need for temporary hearings, support arrangements, attorney fees, and other expenses. Note that if you file anything incorrectly or miss a step, you might need to refile, which can mean extra fees and delays.
That is one of the main reasons people often choose to work with an experienced divorce attorney. Though you’ll need to pay for the attorney’s legal assistance, they can help you save money in the long run by making sure everything is filed quickly, correctly, and completely. They can also assist you in negotiations and mediations, or represent you in your hearings to advocate for the outcome you want regarding custody arrangements, spousal support payments, or property division.