One of the toughest decisions you’ll ever make is choosing to end your marriage. Dealing with the emotional and legal aspects of the divorce process at the same time is especially difficult.
Every marital breakup is unique, and there are lots of legal and financial issues to navigate. When you have children to consider, it can add to the stress and volatility of the situation.
Divorce is never easy. But understanding the process will help you prepare for what’s to come. Here’s what the divorce process looks like in Wisconsin.
Getting a Divorce in Wisconsin
In Wisconsin, to obtain a divorce, one spouse must declare the marriage as irretrievably broken. It’s not necessary for both parties to agree on this statement.
To obtain a divorce or a legal separation, one party should be a resident of the county where they file for divorce for at least 30 days prior to filing. And one party must be a Wisconsin resident 6 months prior to filing.
You don’t have to be legally separated to obtain a divorce. Before filing for divorce, you should speak with an experienced divorce attorney. You need an expert who will keep your best interests at heart during this trying time.
Starting the Divorce Process
To begin the process, you or your spouse files a “summons” or a “petition” for divorce. These documents and all other documents you file are referred to as “pleadings.”
The summons notifies the court and other parties that you have started the process for divorce. A “no-fault divorce” is the only option in Wisconsin. The petition does not list grounds for divorce such as adultery, desertion, or abuse.
The spouse who files is the “petitioner.” The other party is the “respondent.” If you and your spouse both file, you are “joint petitioners.”
After you file the summons and petition, a process server will serve the other party. As an alternative, the other party can sign an “admission of service” document. This triggers the timeline for the divorce.
In Wisconsin, the court won’t grant a divorce until 120 days after the filing of the summons and petition. The respondent has 20 days to respond. If your spouse fails to respond, the court may grant a “default judgment.”
The Interim Stage
After the divorce process has started, there are many details you and your spouse must address. These include:
- Your financial situation
- Who’s paying the bills
- Caring for your children
- Child support arrangements
- Living arrangements
If you and your spouse agree on these matters, you can draft and sign a temporary order to handle these issues. If you can’t agree, you can request a hearing and file an Affidavit to Show Cause and Request for Temporary Order.
The court commissioner normally oversees the hearing and listens to each party regarding these financial and personal issues. This order remains in place throughout the divorce proceedings unless one party shows just cause to change the temporary order.
Child Custody and Placement
Divorce is difficult for everyone involved, especially your children. It’s always best if you can come to a mutual agreement on custody. But every divorce is different, and this isn’t always possible.
If you and your spouse cannot agree on arrangements for your children, the court may order both parties to attend mediation. If mediation is not successful, the court will name a guardian ad litem to recommend an arrangement that’s in the best interest of your children.
Depending on the circumstances, you could receive sole or joint custody when your divorce is finalized. Joint custody is the preference of the court in most situations.
Custody depends on a variety of factors including:
- The age of the child
- The parent/child relationship
- The parents’ financial health
- The parents’ living situations
The court may consider other factors, including the physical and mental health of each parent before making a determination for custody.
Related Article: Parental Kidnapping During Divorce or Child Custody
Wisconsin determines child support based on the nights a child spends with a parent per year. The overnight total, along with a fixed percentage per child factor into child support rulings.
Even if the court grants joint custody, the court will order one parent to pay child support in most cases. There may be no order for child support if the child spends 50% of their time with each parent.
Related Article: Child Support Calculator
Financial Discovery and Disclosure
In order to be fair to both sides, Wisconsin requires each party to make a full financial disclosure. You must file a financial disclosure before the court will finalize your divorce.
During the 120-day waiting period, you may engage in discovery, meaning you can gather information about the other party. If you request documents, the other party should provide the requested information within 30 days.
If they do not comply, you can request a hearing. The judge may order them to provide the documents you requested.
Dating and Remarrying
In Wisconsin, you cannot remarry for at least six months following your divorce. Any marriage before the six-month period will be void.
There are no laws in regard to dating. However, you should consider how a new relationship may affect certain orders, including maintenance and child placement.
A Divorce Trial
Despite your best efforts, sometimes negotiations fail. You may have to go to trial to resolve issues if mediation and other efforts do not help you reach an agreement.
A divorce trial can be time-consuming and expensive. And it puts the decision-making power in the hands of the judge.
Sometimes a divorce trial is necessary. No matter what, do not try to go it alone. You need the guidance of an experienced divorce lawyer on your side throughout the divorce proceedings.
Finalizing Your Divorce
Divorce is the end, but it’s also the beginning of a new life for you. The final step comes when the judge signs an “order of dissolution.”
This officially ends the marriage and outlines the specifics regarding spousal support, child support, custodial responsibility, assets and debts, and more.
If you and your spouse negotiated a settlement, the lawyer for the filing spouse drafts the settlement. If your case went to trial, the judge issues the final order.
Finding the Right Divorce Attorney
Divorce can be an emotionally draining experience, but the divorce process doesn’t have to be. With the right attorney in place, you’ll be in good hands.
Our goal is to get you what you want and deserve, and we will work aggressively to make that happen.
With over 25 years of experience in family law, our team is ready to put that experience to work for you. Contact us today.