You may think that every married couple in Wisconsin is eating cheese and living a happy life. If your Wisconsin marriage is headed for a split, you need to understand Wisconsin divorce laws.
Wisconsin divorce laws – Adultery
A divorce process often begins after one spouse commits adultery, but under divorce laws in Wisconsin adultery is not particularly important to the legal process. Until recent decades, getting a divorce required that one spouse be found to have done something wrong. This was called a “fault” divorce, and a lot of states do still have fault grounds for divorce. Today, Wisconsin no longer has fault grounds and the judge cannot even consider misconduct when dividing property.
In Wisconsin, there is only one ground for divorce, and that is an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage. There are two main options for easily proving that a marriage is irretrievably broken. First, if both spouses state under oath that the marriage is irretrievably broken then it is broken. The second option is for one spouse to prove they have lived separately for one year before filing for divorce. In either case the judge must order a divorce.
If the couple has not lived apart for at least one year or only one spouse will say the marriage is broken, then the judge must hear evidence and decide if there is a reasonable prospect for reconciliation. The judge can give the couple time to seek counseling. As a practical reality, though, in modern times if one person wants to end a marriage a court is not going to force them to stay married. Wisconsin divorce laws will let a person out of their marriage if they want out.
Wisconsin divorce laws – Property division
The Wisconsin legislature has required that a court granting a divorce will also divide the couple’s property. In most marriages, the division is fairly straightforward. Each spouse will get to keep all the property they brought into the marriage, as well as anything they inherited or received as a gift. Anything else the couple acquired during the marriage will be split up, unless there is some reason why that would create a hardship.
Wisconsin divorce laws presume that the couple should each get half of their property. A judge can alter the split of the property after considering factors like the length of the marriage, the property each spouse brought into the marriage, the age and health of the spouses, the education and earning capacity of each spouse, and the contribution of one party to the earning power of the other. The classic example is the housewife who supported her husband’s career. At divorce, she may have little earning capacity but she is responsible for much of her husband’s success so she may be compensated for that.
Wisconsin divorce laws – Maintenance
When a couple gets divorce in Wisconsin, the court can consider issuing a “spousal maintenance” order. This is sometimes called alimony or spousal support. The judge has a lot of discretion to do whatever he or she wants on support issues. The judge must consider the same issues that are considered when dividing property.
Wisconsin divorce laws – Child support and custody
Wisconsin divorce laws require the court to address child support when it approves a divorce. The couple is required to come up with a parenting plan that explains what custody they are seeking, where each parent lives, what each parent does, where the child will go to school, and other basic factors that will play into the child’s life. Parents will often agree on custody issues, but the court will decide what it thinks is in the best interest of the child if there is no agreement. The actual amount of child support is calculated by a formula that considers factors like where the child is living and each parent’s income.