“I want a divorce.”

We all hate those words in that combination. We never want to hear them, but many of us have, either directly or indirectly.

If only saying those words can make a divorce happen, like spreading magic dust or saying “Beetlejuice” three times. Alas, divorce is not easy, and in some ways it should not be that easy. A marriage is a legal contract, after all.

To break that contract takes preparation. Before you utter those words, you should know about legal steps to take to get a divorce in Wisconsin


Get Proper Divorce Forms in Wisconsin


The good news is, Wisconsin is a no-fault divorce state, which means you don’t need legal “grounds” to file a divorce (such as abuse, infidelity, etc.). In that sense, it can be “easier” to get a divorce.

However, as you might guess, it still requires many legal forms to get filled out.

Some counties in Wisconsin may have slightly different versions of these forms, or additional forms than these, so it will be important to check with your local court to find out what they specifically require. Statewide, however, you are required to fill out the following:

  • Summons (with or without Minor Children, depending on your situation)
  • Petition (with or without Minor Children)
  • Confidential Petition Addendum
  • Financial Disclosure Statement.

If you are the respondent (the person who gets served the papers), you have your own forms to fill out, including a Response and Counterclaim form, a form acknowledging receipt of the divorce documents (if you were served through “snail mail”) and your own financial disclosures. All information requested must be provided, and the forms must be filled out in full.

Make sure you work with the court in the county in which you are living, not where you were married.


Wisconsin Residency Requirements


You have to know that you cannot just move to Wisconsin and file a divorce petition in a no-fault state if you live in a nearby state where no-fault is not an option.

Wisconsin divorce laws have residency stipulations before you can file for a divorce in Wisconsin. To be able to file for divorce in Wisconsin, you must have lived in the state for at least six months before filing for divorce, and be a resident of the county in which you file for at least the most immediate 30 days prior to the filing.

Wisconsin divorce laws also have a stipulation that establishes a 120-day waiting period before a final divorce hearing can be scheduled. This is a “cooling-off” period, so that the parties may let cooler heads prevail to make the divorce proceeding more amicable, or give the couple a chance to reconcile.

The 120-day calendar starts from the day of the initial filing of forms, and the 120 days only means a court won’t hold a final hearing on the case for those 120 days. In some counties, the final hearing may be the only hearing, while in other counties there may be preliminary hearings held during that waiting period.

You may go through a divorce process without an attorney, but it is a good idea to get legal advice about your situation by contacting one of our experienced divorce attorneys, who can give you the best guidance and make sure you go through all the steps required. Divorce is hard to go through, and the best way to make it easier is by doing it right, so getting advice from a legal professional can help with the healing and the resolution so both parties can move forward. Contact us today for a free consultation. John T. Fields & Associates serves Madison, Wisconsin and the surrounding area.