How to Divorce in Wisconsin

By Roger Thorne J.D.
Residents, Michigan, a no-fault divorce

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Wisconsin's divorce law comes into play whenever residents of the state seek to end their marriage. Couples who wish to divorce must meet certain requirements and take necessary steps before their divorce can be finalized.

Decide if you want an attorney. Wisconsin allows for both attorney-filed and "pro se" divorce cases. (In a pro se case you file on your own behalf.) If you and your spouse can't agree on any issue, you may be better served by getting an attorney. If you do not want an attorney, you and your spouse can file either jointly or individually.

Understand residency and fault requirements. A couple must have lived in Wisconsin for at least six months to obtain a divorce. However, only one of the spouses needs to have resided in the state for that long before filing for divorce. Also, Wisconsin is a no-fault divorce state. That means no grounds for the dissolution of the marriage need be stated other than that one party believes the marriage to be irrevocably damaged, with no hope of repair.

File the appropriate forms. Wisconsin requires you to file both a divorce petition and a summons. These forms must be filed with the clerk of the court in the county where the person filing the petition lives.

Schedule the first hearing. Once a divorce petition is filed, the court will schedule the first hearing. This will usually happen within a couple of weeks of the filing, and will serve to set a timetable for the rest of the proceedings. Both parties and, if appropriate, their attorneys must be present at this hearing.

Understand the timeline. Getting a divorce in Wisconsin usually takes at least four months. However, if contested custody over children or other disputes are involved, it can take substantially longer.

Agree on terms. The parties to the divorce must agree to terms or have disputed terms settled by the court. Agreement must be reached on property, custody, child support and marital support before the divorce can be completed.

Finalize the divorce. After both parties have come to an agreement, or the court has decided on contested issues, the divorce can be finalized. Court approval of the divorce makes it official.

About the Author

Roger Thorne is an attorney who began freelance writing in 2003. He has written for publications ranging from "MotorHome" magazine to "Cruising World." Thorne specializes in writing for law firms, Web sites, and professionals. He has a Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas.

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