These are official forms, but you should double-check with your local court to make sure the judges there will accept them. Be thorough and complete in responding to the questions. Fill out the forms on a computer if you can. It is highly advisable to use the Wisconsin eCourt's Family Law Forms Assistant to help you locate and prepare the correct forms to start the divorce process.
The forms you are required to complete differ depending on whether you have children and also on whether you are the petitioner the spouse who initiates the divorce or the respondent the spouse who is served with divorce papers. Forms may also vary slightly from county to county, which is one reason why it's so important to use the Family Law Forms Assistant if you can.
You should read this before proceeding any further. Forms can be found here. If you and your spouse don't have any minor children meaning, kids who are financially dependent on you and who aren't legally emancipated , you will need to prepare the following documents:.
These lists include the basic documents you'll need to prepare in virtually every case where you and your spouse can't agree about the terms of your divorce. You may need to prepare additional documents, depending on the county where you live or on your personal and financial situation.
If you're the petitioner, make two copies of all documents and hold onto the original. Eventually you will give the original to the court, one copy to your spouse, and retain the last copy for yourself.
6 Basic Steps To Getting a Divorce In Wisconsin
Go to your local courthouse the one in the county where you or your spouse are living and ask to file the summons, petition, and confidential addendum. The clerk of court will soon assign your case a number that needs to be on every document from now on.
A judge will review these materials and decide whether to waive eliminate all filing fees. Ask the court clerk to give you two copies of everything, then assemble a packet for your spouse that includes everything you filed plus the summons. Serve your spouse as soon as possible after leaving. As soon as the petitioner files the initial documents, Wisconsin's day waiting period begins to run. This means that you can't have a final divorce hearing before a judge for a minimum of days.
Wisconsin Divorce Law: A Minefield for the Unprepared
If you're the petitioner and you're serving the summons and petition, special service rules apply and you must pursue one of the following options to notify your spouse that you've filed divorce papers. Different rules may apply if you are trying to serve someone who is very hard to locate, in the military, out-of-state, or in jail. Check with your clerk of court for more information in these unusual situations.
A Wisconsin divorce is very similar to a Wisconsin legal separation, but there are some differences. The main difference is that a divorce will end a marriage, a legal separation will not.
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Another difference is that to request a divorce, one spouse must assert that the marriage is irretrievably broken. To request a legal separation, one party must assert that the marriage is broken but not irretrievably. Both parties do not have to agree that the marriage is broken in order to request a divorce or legal separation; just one party must believe that the marriage is broken. Residency Requirement: To obtain either a divorce or a legal separation, one party must be a resident of the county in which the action is filed for at least 30 days prior to filing the action and one party must be a resident of the State of Wisconsin for at least 6 months prior to filing for the divorce or legal separation.
The parties do not need to be legally separated in order to file for divorce. In other words, the parties do not need to first be legally separated before requesting a divorce. A divorce can be granted without a legal separation. Dividing Property, Child Custody, and Child Support: In both a Wisconsin divorce and a Wisconsin legal separation, the court will decide if the parties cannot agree issues regarding how the parties will divide up marital property, the amount of alimony and maintenance, child support, child custody and placement issues.
Waiting Period: Both have a day waiting period, meaning that the parties are not officially divorced or officially legally separated until days have passed. The parties can reconcile at any time prior to the court officially granting the divorce or legal separation. Expert Tip: One important thing to keep in mind is that a legal separation may be converted into a divorce at any time if the parties agree , or by one party filing a motion to convert the legal separation into the divorce if at least one year has passed since the court granted the legal separation.
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By filing a Joint Petition for Divorce, you sidestep any expensive legal proceedings and can conclude the divorce without an attorney. The state of Wisconsin strongly encourages couples who are considering a divorce to use mediation services. Mediators are independent, neutral professionals with expertise in resolving personal issues. Although they may not have the legal authority to force a couple to forge an agreement, they are usually quite capable of providing useful information and solutions.
A court may appoint or recommend a mediator prior to or during a divorce proceeding. Mediation is typically more cost effective than a divorce trial. In cases where you and your spouse cannot agree on major issues, the judge will proceed to a trial. This trial may last a single morning or several days. The major points of contention in most divorces involve issues of property division, child custody or spousal support.
If you and your spouse fail to come to an agreement on these issues, you should know how Wisconsin divorce law often rules but also consider working with a divorce mediator to help you both come to an agreement. Wisconsin is a community property state in which property acquired by both spouses during the marriage must be divided equally.
Separate property which belongs wholly to one spouse may have been acquired in the following ways:. Once the community property and debts are identified, they must be assigned a monetary value, usually via an appraiser. Division of property may occur in several ways. Indivisible assets may be provided to one spouse, while another asset of equivalent value is assigned to the other spouse. In some cases, a share of the property may be given to one party while providing the asset to the other, in essence, making both spouses co-owners.
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Debts are also distributed in a similar manner to each spouse. While the judge may assign a debt to one party, the other spouse may still be responsible for a portion of repayment. As in most states, Wisconsin determines child custody based on the best interests of the child, and, as such, usually awards joint custody to both spouses.