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Divorce Process in Wisconsin

By Attorney Laura E. O’Gorman, Schloemer Law Firm, S.C.

Going through a divorce can be a difficult process, both emotionally and legally. There are many issues to address: How will property be divided in divorce? Who gets custody of the kids after the divorce? Will you or your spouse have to pay alimony/maintenance or child support? An experienced divorce lawyer can help guide you through the process, protect your family, and protect your interests.

Getting a divorce or legal separation in Wisconsin is slightly different in each county, but there is an overarching structure for the procedure that occurs throughout the state.

First, you’ll need to decide whether to file the divorce jointly with your spouse, or on your own, as the paperwork/Petition is different under each scenario. Next, you need to determine which county or counties have jurisdiction to hear the divorce. To meet the jurisdictional requirements, you must have lived in the state of Wisconsin for 6 months, and in the particular county for 30 days.

You’ll also need to consider whether there are temporary issues that need to be addressed while the divorce is pending. These temporary issues could be things like where parties are going to live, what schedule will be in place for the minor children (if any), who is paying the bills, and who can use what items of personal property for the time being. If the parties are able to agree on these issues from the start, a temporary order hearing may not be necessary. Additionally, if concerns exist at the outset but are resolved, the issues can be resolved through a Stipulation (agreement) and Order.

Once the Petition has been filed, the file-stamped documents must be delivered or served on your spouse. Some clients opt to hand-deliver, while others feel more comfortable with a mailed copy or even a private process server handing the documents to their spouse. If the documents are not served by a process server, an Admission of Service must be signed, evidencing that the spouse admits they received the filed documents.

This paperwork starts the process – but you cannot actually get divorced until 120 days from either service of the divorce papers or, if you filed jointly, the day you filed the Petition. Unless there is an emergency requiring the shortening of this period, it cannot be waived.

After the divorce has been filed, both parties will need to prepare and file a Financial Disclosure Statement identifying all of their income, assets, debts, and expenses. If there are issues surrounding legal custody or physical placement of any minor children, you will typically be required to attend mediation through the county to resolve those disputes, if possible. You would also work toward a fair division of marital assets during this period.

Once an agreement is reached, or if you are at an impasse and disputes must be resolved by the Court, you would attend a final hearing where the Court determines whether to accept your Marital Settlement Agreement or rule in your favor, whichever is before the Court.

While the process is understandable, it can be difficult to stay on top of deadlines and to manage the paperwork when you already have enough to handle. Having an experienced attorney can also help make sure your rights are protected through the process and that you don’t enter into an agreement that can have costly long term consequences.

Next Steps

Let Washington County divorce attorney Laura O’Gorman at Schloemer Law Firm help ease this burden by handling these matters from start to finish for you, one step at a time. If you need help with family law matters, please contact Attorney Laura O’Gorman at 262-334-3471 or [email protected]. Schloemer Law Firm frequently represents individuals in divorce and family law matters, focusing primarily on cases in Washington, Ozaukee, Dodge, and Fond du Lac County and the communities of West Bend, Jackson, Slinger, Hartford, Kewaskum and other surrounding communities.

Originally published: November 2, 2022.

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this post is for general informational purposes only and is not legal advice. Due to the rapidly changing nature of law, Schloemer Law Firm makes no warranty or guarantee concerning the accuracy or completeness of this content. You should consult with an attorney to review the current status of the law and how it applies to your unique circumstances before deciding to take—or refrain from taking—any action.  If you need legal guidance, please contact us at 262-334-3471 or [email protected]