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Wisconsin

Grounds for Divorce Under Wisconsin Laws

The State of Wisconsin allows for divorce only under the grounds of irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

There are two possible ways this could happen. The first and easiest option is for both of you to state under oath that your marriage is irretrievably broken. This is called an uncontested divorce.

Alternatively, if you have voluntarily lived separate and apart without cohabitation for at least 12 months immediately prior to the start of the divorce process, the court may find the marriage irretrievably broken and grant the divorce without your statements.

If only one spouse claims the marriage to be broken, and you have not been living separate and apart without cohabitation for at least 12 months, you may still file for divorce. The court will consider all relevant factors, including but not limited to: (1) the circumstances leading up to the filing of the petition, and (2) any chance of reconciliation in order to determine whether the marriage is irreparably broken. Upon deciding on this finding, the court will grant the divorce.

Residency Requirements

To file for divorce in Wisconsin, one of the two of you must be a resident in the state for at least six months prior to the filing and be a resident in the county where the petition is being filed for no less than 30 days prior to the filing.

Waiting Period

In addition to the residency requirements listed above, there is also a waiting period of 120 days from the filing (or service of the petition) to the date of the hearing.

Name of Court and Title of Action/Parties

The spouse who files for divorce is called the Petitioner and the other spouse is the Respondent. If you file jointly, you are both called Co-Petitioners. The divorce is filed in the Circuit Court. The action initiating the divorce process is a Petition for Divorce, while the court order granting the divorce is called the Decree of Divorce.

Legal Separation

Legal separation is allowed in the state, and the grounds are exactly the same as the grounds set forth by Wisconsin divorce laws for the divorce itself, irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

Counseling or Mediation Requirements

If both you and your wife make a written request to the court, you may be granted a suspension of the proceedings for up to 90 days.

During this time, you are free to live together and make any attempts to fix your marriage. Either spouse may revoke the suspension sooner, and the divorce proceedings shall continue as normal, if it is determined that the attempts to reconcile are not working out. Or if the 90-day period expires and attempts to reconcile have failed, the divorce shall continue as before.

Now, if there are children of the marriage and the divorce is contested, then both parents must work through mediation and/or educational programs that talk about how the divorce will affect your kids.

Alimony

Alimony is alive and well in Wisconsin and can be awarded regardless of fault. The courts will determine the amount and duration of the alimony payments after consideration of several factors, including but not limited to:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and physical/emotional health of each of the parties
  • The educational level of each party
  • The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance
  • Taxes
  • Any agreements the parties made before the marriage
  • One parties assistance with putting the other through school to further their education  (Ok, guys, if you got the wife to help you through trade school or college to get your degree, this means YOU)
  • Any other factors the court deems relevant

Distribution of Property

Wisconsin is a “Community Property” state.

This means that the court will first set aside individually owned property before dividing community (shared) property.

When dividing community property, the court will consider:

  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and physical/emotional health of each of the parties
  • The educational level of each party
  • The earning capacity of the each party
  • Any agreements the parties made before the marriage
  • Any maintenance agreement awarded by the court
  • Substantial assets not subject to division by the court
  • The contribution of each party to the marriage
  • One parties assistance with putting the other through school to further their education
  • The desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live in it for a reasonable period of time
  • Pensions and other future interests
  • Taxes and their effect on each party
  • As always anything else the court decides is germane and relevant

Child Custody

The court will determine custody based upon the best interests of the child. When deciding the matter of child custody, the court will consider several factors, including:

  • The wishes of the child
  • The wishes of the parents
  • The interaction of the child with his parents and siblings
  • The child’s adjustment to the home, school and community
  • Whether there’s a expectation of a parent’s unreasonable interference with the child’s relationship with the other parent
  • Any other factor the court considers relevant

If custody is contested, the court will require each of the parents to submit a parenting plan outlining all of the following:

  • The custodial arrangement the parent is looking for
  • Where the parent currently lives and intends to live for the next two years
  • Where the parent works and the hours of day he/she works
  • Visitation expectations
  • What child care will be provided, if any
  • The school the child will attend
  • Medical expenses
  • How disputes will be resolved

Child Support

When getting a divorce, both parents will be required to pay an amount reasonable to support any children of the marriage. Child support guidelines have been established and are believed to be correct for the monetary needs of children of the marriage.

If the court decides to deviate from these guidelines, some of the factors the court will consider in deviating from the guidelines include:

  • The financial resources of the parents
  • The financial needs of each parent
  • The financial resources of the child
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage survived
  • The age, education, and physical/mental health of the child
  • The child’s educational needs
  • Taxes
  • The earning capacity of each parent
  • And, once more, any other factors the court deems relevant.

Name Change

Upon request, the court shall allow either spouse to change his/her name back to a previously used named (such as a maiden name or name of a former spouse) in accordance with Wisconsin divorce laws.

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