How to File Divorce in Wisconsin

How to File Divorce in Wisconsin

In That ‘70s Show, a famous bit of pop culture set in the state of Wisconsin, the grouchy father figure, Red, pushes his daughter to get a divorce to end a sham marriage intended to keep a family friend in the country. 

If your marriage is going the way of that couple, Laurie and Fez, then you need to know these laws.

Residency requirements

You cannot seek a divorce or legal separation in Wisconsin unless at least one spouse has been a resident of the state for at least six months, and a resident of the county where the divorce is being filed for at least 30 days.

Grounds for divorce

Wisconsin will only grant divorces on a “no-fault” basis.

That means that both parties have to state that their marriage has suffered an “irretrievable breakdown.”  The details of what happened are not important.  It just matters that the spouses wish to break up and go their separate ways.  

The law in Wisconsin does try to make a provision for reconciliation.

If a couple has lived separately for 12 months, then the divorce should be granted immediately. If not, the court is supposed to consider the prospect of reconciliation and only grant a divorce if there is no reasonable prospect of the couple getting back together.  

The divorce proceedings can then be suspended and the court might urge the couple to get counseling.  In reality, modern courts are highly unlikely to force a couple to stay legally bound to each other if they want to split up. 

Joint petition option

Wisconsin recognizes that many married couples simply reach the end of their marriage and need to go their separate ways.  

The state provides the option for a couple in that situation to file a joint petition for divorce.  If you and your spouse can agree on issues related to children and money, then you can file together and this will usually move the process along much faster.  

Property division

Every divorce must also split up the couple’s property.

Wisconsin has a presumption for an equal division, meaning everything the couple owns should be split in half unless the judge has some reason to split things unevenly.

Child custody and support

In a divorce proceeding, the court can deal with child custody issues as well, and it usually will.

Divorcing parents are usually required to submit a parenting plan with the court or else attend a mediation session. The parents must explain what custody they are seeking, where the parent lives, what the parent does for a living, where the child goes to school, and the like.  

Parents will often come up with a joint parenting plan even in the most hotly contested divorces because it is hard to leave such intimate details up to a judge. 

Child support is usually less heated because it is largely calculated by formula.  The state provides guidelines that account for each parent’s income, the time the child is with each parent, and whether the parents have other child support obligations.

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