Divorce in Wisconsin

Divorce in Wisconsin | How to Get a Divorce & Process (Guide) 2024

Before proceeding, there are a few things to think about while divorcing in Wisconsin. You must decide who receives custody of children and how much time each parent spends with the child.

The parental plan outlines most of this. You must also agree on the amount of child support to be paid as well as possible spousal support.

Property division, in which the parties share debt, savings, retirement, assets, and other property, is sometimes the most contentious aspect of divorce.

If the couple cannot agree on any of these matters, the court may mandate mediation or grant the divorced couple’s final wishes. This article will explain to you all about divorce in Wisconsin. 

How To File For Divorce In Wisconsin

When you file for a divorce in Wisconsin, you have a few options to consider:

Parents Name
Wages & Income
Non-Custodial Parent
Custodial Parent
  • You can go the conventional path and get legal counsel right away to represent you. In this manner, the attorney will handle the divorce paperwork, the filing procedure, and any other legal issues pertaining to your case.
  • Working with a business that will deliver you the documents completed (depending on your responses to the questionnaire) and essentially take you through the procedure will allow you to file for divorce online.
  • Or you can choose to handle the divorce yourself by taking the do-it-yourself approach.

The decision you make will be based on your circumstances, including your partner’s cooperation level and your time and financial resources. Using an online divorce service can reduce the paperwork (and some of the stress), but these businesses often require that you and your partner have already reached an agreement on all of the issues in your divorce.

The cheapest choice will be a “pure” DIY divorce, but you’ll need to take the time to make sure you comprehend and abide by all of Wisconsin’s divorce-related regulatory obligations. Here is a general overview of Wisconsin’s filing procedure and requirements in case you decide to choose that path.

Before getting a Divorce In Wisconsin

Before you officially file your divorce papers, you should be aware of some fundamental Wisconsin divorce procedures. Additionally, you’ll need to prepare.

Residency and Jurisdiction Requirements for Divorce in Wisconsin

You must have been a resident of the state of Wisconsin in order to file for divorce there. Prior to beginning the legal process, one of you or your partner must have lived in Wisconsin for at least six months. Additionally, one of you must have resided in the county where you submit the divorce papers for the past 30 days.

You also must fulfill the standards for the court’s “jurisdiction,” which refers to the judge’s ability to issue orders on certain topics, whether your divorce decision will address child custody, child support, or alimony (called “maintenance” in Wisconsin).

A kid who is subject to custody decisions or a parenting schedule typically has to have lived in Wisconsin with a parent for at least six months prior to your filing for divorce (or since birth if the child is younger than that). There are outliers, but it may be challenging to demonstrate them. If you’re unsure about whether you meet the six-month requirements, you should see a lawyer.

The circumstances under which a divorce judgment may order a non-resident spouse to pay support are likewise subject to complex rules. If your partner doesn’t reside in Wisconsin, you should seek legal advice before filing for divorce and requesting support payments.

Grounds for Filing for Divorce

The only prerequisite for requesting a divorce in Wisconsin is that both partners believe their union to be “irretrievably broken” with no chance of reconciliation. Additionally, it implies that filing for divorce first has no genuine benefit since doing so is irrelevant. A judge would view marriage as shattered if only one partner requested a divorce.

Preparing Wisconsin’s Divorce Forms

You’ll really have to collect and finish a number of different forms in order to begin the divorce procedure without hiring a lawyer or using an online divorce service. The spouse filing for divorce is referred to as the “petitioner” on the paperwork, and the other partner is referred to as the “respondent.”

The Wisconsin court system’s website has the divorce petition forms, which you can find and download. Alternatively, you can utilize the Family Law Forms Assistant provided by the court, which will guide you through a series of inquiries to help you identify the forms you require and fill them out.

The divorce petition is the key document for commencing the procedure. According to whether you and your spouse will file a joint petition and if you have minor children or not, there are several forms. This is the simplest course of action to take if you and your husband are collaborating because filing jointly will reduce costs and stages in the divorce process. If you have a formal settlement agreement covering all or a portion of the divorce’s concerns, you should provide it with the petition.

The divorce application requires your notarized consent. You and your partner can each sign a joint petition separately as long as you both do so in front of a notary public.

You can get in touch with the county circuit court clerk’s office if you have any questions concerning the papers or simply want to be sure you’ve finished all the required documentation.

Filing Your Wisconsin Divorce Papers

You can submit your divorce papers in Wisconsin either in person or online.

  • If you are submitting the forms in person, take the original and two copies to the circuit court clerk where you are starting the divorce. The court clerk will give you stamped copies of the papers and assign your case a number, which must appear on all future documents.
  • You can also use the electronic document management system for the Wisconsin court. If you choose to do this, you will need to sign the petition on paper in front of a notary public, scan it, and then file the scanned copy.

Typically, there is a price associated with filing your forms. The initial divorce petition filing fee in circuit court is $184.50 as of 2021, with an additional $10 if you’re asking for support or maintenance payments.

Additionally, filing electronically costs $20. You can submit a Petition for Waiver of Fees and Costs if you are unable to pay the fee (Affidavit of Indigency). In order to determine whether you would be eligible for the waiver, the court will analyze the data you supply.

You and your partner can split the filing costs for a joint application.

When Must Divorce Papers be Served and Answered in Wisconsin?

You must serve your partner with the divorce documents (including a summons) within 90 days if you filed a divorce application on your own (i.e., not as a joint petition). If your spouse is willing to accept the documents from you, get them to sign an “acceptance of service” (or have your partner’s attorney do so).

In the absence of a lawyer for your spouse, you will normally arrange for a sheriff’s deputy, a private process server, or another adult unrelated to your divorce case to personally deliver the divorce papers to your spouse. If you are unable to serve your spouse personally or locate them, inquire with the court clerk about other options, such as publishing a notice in the neighborhood paper.

As evidence that the documents were duly delivered, the person who serves the papers must fill out an “affidavit of service.” Ensure that the court has received the affidavit or acknowledgment of service.

Your partner will have 20 days after receiving divorce papers to respond and file a counterclaim. In the event that there is no answer, the petitioner may proceed with a default divorce, in which case the judge may approve all of the claims made in the divorce petition.

You could forego serving and responding to the legal separation if you and your partner submitted it jointly.

Temporary Hearing

The initial appearance in court typically involves a hearing on a temporary order. These hearings are required when there is a disagreement regarding the custody or placement of children, the division of property or assets, or another urgent problem.

These are designed as a stopgap measure for issues that might develop during the 120-day waiting period. You must come prepared for this hearing by bringing your full financial disclosure statement, completed tax returns, and wage statements. If the proper paperwork is presented, the commissioner will issue an order that lays out guidelines for the specific disagreement for both partners.

Pre-Trial Conference

The 120-day waiting period is followed by the pre-trial meeting. Although the scheduled procedures vary by county, the majority of them demand that you file a pre-trial conference request with the court. The pre-trial is intended to provide the court with a thorough grasp of the issue.

If there are no disagreements, the dissolution may be resolved at the pre-trial. You must have a signed and approved marriage settlement agreement, signed financial disclosure forms, and have finished any needed parenting classes in order to do this.

If there are still disagreements in the case, the pre-trial is utilized to give the court an opportunity to become familiar with the case and learn about the disputed matters from both couples.

The pre-trial meeting is where these things are happening if mediation, an asset evaluation, or the appointment of a guardian ad litem are necessary. Once all pre-trial orders have been finalized, it is likely that the judge would set another pre-trial date for both spouses to return, after which a final court hearing would be determined.

Financial Disclosures

According to Wisconsin law, each spouse must submit an early financial disclosure form that lists all of their assets, debts, and incomes, both joint and separate. You might also be required to include current tax returns. If you are both cooperating in the divorce, you and your partner may execute a joint disclosure.

The disclosure can be submitted along with your divorce petition. If not, you must complete the paperwork within 90 days of filing a joint divorce petition (or, if you didn’t, after serving the divorce papers).

Since you need to be as complete as possible while filling out these forms, it’s a good idea to collect as much of this information in advance as you can. You must be truthful since a spouse who willfully omits any accounts, debts, or assets may be held liable for perjury and subject to legal consequences. The judge may simply accept any information your spouse has provided if you fail to submit the disclosure by the deadline.

Finalizing Your Divorce

You would invariably reach a final divorce decision faster if you settle your marital disputes before submitting your initial divorce papers than you would if your case were fought. But keep in mind that the court won’t schedule a final hearing until at least 120 days have passed since you filed a joint petition (or after the court papers were delivered).

 What’s the Difference between a Wisconsin Legal Separation and a Wisconsin Divorce?

There are some variations between a Wisconsin divorce and a Wisconsin legal separation, although they are not very noticeable. The primary distinction is that while a legal separation does not end a marriage, divorce does. One spouse must claim that the marriage is irretrievably shattered in order to file for divorce, which is another distinction.

One party must declare that their marriage is no longer valid in order to file for a formal separation (but not irretrievably). For divorce or formal separation to be requested, only one party needs to feel that the marriage is broken; the other does not need to concur.

Division of Assets

Since Wisconsin is a community property state, the two parties will split all possessions and marital assets evenly. This distribution applies to both marital debts accrued during the wedding as well as assets, including the marital home, automobiles, and retirement investments.

For separate property that has been entirely maintained without the use of marital money and wholly distinct from the marriage, there are various exclusions allowed. The asset must have been maintained entirely separate, according to the evidence provided by the spouse. The likelihood that the courts will acknowledge the existence of distinct property in a marriage with a longer duration is lower.


The process of divorce mediation involves spouses meeting with a disinterested third party to go over the specifics of their case. Both parties must voluntarily accept the outcomes of the mediation. Due to the fact that mediation gives the couple more power over their decisions than having the court make the decision, many families opt to employ it.

Bottom Line

It is possible to initiate a divorce in Wisconsin on your own, but it may not always be the wisest course of action. This is particularly true if you have large or complex assets to divide (such as retirement accounts), you have a history of domestic abuse in your marriage, your spouse already has legal representation, or the two of you simply are unable to reach an agreement on all the concerns, despite trying mediation.

If you have the money, you might also just prefer the assurance that comes with entrusting your divorce to a specialist who is familiar with Minnesota’s laws and court processes.

Keep in mind that you’ll likely have to deal with the effects of your divorce long after the formal legal process is through. There is no assurance that you will be able to correct a mistake if you discover it after the fact. Therefore, it pays to do it correctly the first time.


What is a wife entitled to in a divorce in Wisconsin?

Everything that the wife acquired for the house during the marriage is included in her right to a divorce. This even applies to the worth of a house that his husband is legally deemed to own

How long do you have to be separated before divorce in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, a judge must wait 120 days before approving your legal separation. Negotiating the conditions of the separation should take place during this time for couples. You can seek the court to grant temporary orders for support and custody if you are worried that your husband won’t provide for you while you wait.

How much does it cost to get a divorce in Wisconsin?

The price to file for divorce varies depending on the county in which it is done as well as the unique circumstances of the parties filing. On average, a couple filing individually should budget more than $150 to file the necessary documents. Depending on the forms that are required, additional charges can be applied.

What is the fastest way to get a divorce in Wisconsin?

It will go through quicker if you and your husband can agree on a divorce without a fight. You still need to complete the papers and file for divorce.

Which is preferable, serving or filing for divorce?

Being the first to file for divorce has no legal advantages in Wisconsin because it is a no-fault divorce state. When it comes to child custody, placement, and asset split, each party will have an equal claim.
The only prerequisite for requesting a divorce is that there is no chance of reconciliation and that the marriage is irretrievably broken. It would be deemed by the courts that a marriage is irretrievably dissolved if only one partner filed for divorce.

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