WI Divorce FAQ

Does Wisconsin have a waiting period for divorce?

How to get a divorce — fast.

Getting a divorce is not immediate in Wisconsin. The soonest a final judgment of divorce can be granted is 120 days from the date the non-filing spouse is served with the petition (or 120 days from filing if spouses file the petition jointly). Many people call this the “cooling off” period. The purpose of this time is to prevent people filing for divorce hastily and having the divorce finalized before they are sure it is what they want.

During this period, the court can enter temporary orders, such as:

  • Who has the right to reside where
  • Who will pay what bills
  • Who will have placement of children and when

This waiting period can work as a trial separation and provides spouses a chance to see how divorce will change day-to-day life. During this time, parties will work through the division of debts, assets, liabilities and begin to prepare the final divorce paperwork.

So, only 4 months, right?

Not necessarily. The 120-day waiting period is the minimum amount of time. Depending on the county in which the proceeding is filed, it could be longer, even in an uncontested divorce. The court's calendar can get booked up quickly in certain counties, so generally cases are at the mercy of the Judge’s calendar. Keep this in mind when planning ahead.

However, if prior to a final divorce hearing, the spouses decide they want to reconcile, the action can be dismissed and the marriage remains completely intact. There is no penalty to this dismissal, other than the court costs already spent on the matter. Once dismissed, the case will be closed. Should either party decide later to proceed with a divorce, a new divorce case will need to be filed.

Take the next step — Reach out to our team of Wisconsin divorce lawyers.


Do I have to pay child support?

Know your WI child support rights.

Each state has child support guidelines for calculating child support. In Wisconsin, the child support calculation guidelines can be somewhat rigid.

What is child support based on in Wisconsin?

  1. How many children are involved
  2. The division of placement time
  3. The gross income of the parties.

How is the child support amount set?

Every child support case is different and subject to variation. When there is a shared or equal placement situation, the guidelines provide a detailed formula combining both parent’s income and time spent with children. If one parent has placement less than 25% or 92 overnights per year (ex. every other weekend placement), there will be a percentage applied to his or her gross income for child support:

  • 17% of income for 1 child
  • 25% of income for 2 children
  • 29% of income for 3 children
  • 31% of income for 4 children
  • 34% of income for 5 or more children

Check out our free-to-use child support calculator to see an estimate of what your payments could be. 

Factors in determining child support in Wisconsin

There are circumstances, governed by Wisconsin Statute Section 767.511 (1m) when the court can deviate from the guidelines and set child support higher or lower. The court will consider evidence supporting the following factors in determining whether to deviate from the child support guidelines:

  • The financial resources of the child.
  • The financial resources of both parents.
  • Maintenance received by either party.
  • The needs of each party in order to support himself or herself at a level equal to or greater than that established under 42 USC 9902 (2).
  • The needs of any person, other than the child, whom either party is legally obligated to support.
  • If the parties were married, the standard of living the child would have enjoyed had the marriage not ended in annulment, divorce or legal separation.
  • The desirability that the custodian remains in the home as a full-time parent.
  • The cost of child care if the custodian works outside the home or the value of custodial services performed by the custodian if the custodian remains in the home.
  • The award of substantial periods of physical placement to both parents.
  • Extraordinary travel expenses incurred in exercising the right to periods of physical placement under s. 767.41.
  • The physical, mental, and emotional health needs of the child, including any costs for health insurance as provided for under s. 767.513.
  • The child's educational needs.
  • The tax consequences to each party.
  • The best interests of the child.
  • The earning capacity of each parent, based on each parent's education, training and work experience and the availability of work in or near the parent's community.
  • Any other factors which the court in each case determines are relevant.

If you have questions regarding support and if you are paying the correct percentage or amount, contact one of our skilled attorneys today. We can discuss collateral issues to the child support amount, such as variable expenses, health insurance and medical costs, and tax credits related to the children.

How long do I have to pay child support?

Wisconsin Statute Section 767.511(4) defines the amount of time a child support order will remain in effect. Essentially, the obligation to support your child(ren) continues until your child turns 18 or graduates from high school, whichever comes later. If your child is still pursuing a high school degree or GED, child support will continue until your child is 19 years old.

This does not mean that any unpaid child support will simply disappear once this child turns 18.  All past due child support, also known as arrears, continues to be owed even after the support order has lapsed. Under Wisconsin law, any arrears can be collected up to 20 years past the date of the youngest child ending the support order.

Take the next step — Reach out to our Wisconsin child custody attorney today.


Who gets child custody in a divorce?

Laws, stipulations and permissions for custody of a child in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, there is a statutory presumption of parents sharing joint legal custody, meaning neither parent has a superior right to the other to make major decisions. Even if the time spent with the child is unequal, parents are usually presumed to have joint legal custody.

Legal custody: Who has the rights and responsibilities to make major decisions concerning a minor child.
Major decisions include:

  • Medical decisions
  • Choice of school
  • Choice of religion, etc.

The presumption of joint legal child custody can be refuted by a few circumstances which are detailed within the Wisconsin Statutes. One of the most common circumstances creating grounds for sole legal custody stems from domestic violence or abuse incidents/allegations.

Wisconsin visitation rights & laws

Physical placement (the correct term for “visitation”) means the period of time and conditions during which the child/children will have placement with a parent. Unlike legal custody, there is no starting presumption with regard to the physical placement of a child. A number of factors can affect physical placement.

What factors influence child custody & placement?

  • Distance between the parents’ homes
  • Living conditions in each home
  • Age of a child
  • Ability of a parent to provide proper care, etc.

Child custody during divorce proceedings

This is generally the most contested portion of a family law matter. Property division and other aspects of divorce can be relatively cut and dry; laws surrounding children and custody fall into a gray area. Parties often disagree on placement for various reasons. This is when the court will order other court resources like a social worker (or a Guardian ad Litem) to investigate and make a recommendation on placement.

Is it true that Wisconsin divorce laws favor the mother?

No, Wisconsin divorce laws do not favor the mother over the father. Listening to the experiences of friends, family members, co-workers, etc., may give the impression that the law may be biased or unfair. The facts of every case are specific to that family, and the courts determine the outcomes on a case by case basis.

The court will look at many factors in deciding custody and placement of the child. They will consider what is in the best interest of the child and whether the child’s physical, mental, and emotional needs are met. The courts will look at the location where each parent lives, where the child’s school, friends, activities and community are. They will consider the age of the child, and whether it is in the best interest of the child to stay closer to one parent over the other. The court will consider many factors and will not automatically favor the mother.

Make divorce child custody laws work for you.

If there is no history of domestic violence or substance abuse, the Court will order the parties to mediate through family court services. This mediation does not involve attorneys, though we will help you prepare for mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful, the next step is for the Court to appoint a Guardian ad Litem to represent the best interests of your child(ren).

Making a parenting plan & navigating the courtroom

At this point, it is also necessary to prepare a parenting plan. This plan will help both parents put on paper the logistics of raising a child as a single parent. This will show how close or far the parties are to an agreement and may show either parent his or her limitations as a single parent.

Only the parents know what is truly best for their children. When parents are unable to come to an agreement regarding what is in the best interests of their child(ren), they are inevitably deciding to put the decision into the hands of a third party, who does not know the parents or the child(ren).

At trial, the judge often has a limited amount of time to hear any evidence and make a decision regarding your future. Thus, the judge will often place great weight on input from the Guardian ad Litem, who has had more time to investigate the situation and meet with the children.

It is important to note that whether parties agree to an outcome or it is decided in the trial, it is extremely difficult to change custody and placement during the first two years of a standing order unless the change is agreed to by all parties.

My Ex has a substance abuse problem. How will it affect child custody?

The court takes allegations of drug and alcohol abuse very seriously. If a court finds that your spouse has a drug or alcohol issue, they may require supervised physical placement for the child/children. The court will always rule on behalf of the best interest for the child or children. 

You should gather evidence supporting your concern about your spouse’s substance abuse, including pictures, evidence of any OWI/DUI convictions, texts or emails verifying use, etc.

By Wisconsin state statute, courts presume joint custody, but sole legal custody can be awarded to one parent in certain circumstances, like substance abuse issues. If your spouse has a substance abuse issue that may interfere will their ability to parent, or if the substance abuse may affect the child’s physical, mental, and emotional health, the court may order sole legal custody to you.

Take the next step — Contact our Wisconsin child custody attorneys today. 

What is a financial disclosure in a divorce?

Mandatory disclosure documents in WI divorce

In family law cases, both parties are required to submit a complete, current and accurate financial disclosure statement.

What is a financial disclosure statement?

In a divorce, a financial disclosure statement is a document listing all known assets, debts and your income and monthly expenses, including:

  • Credit card bills
  • Mortgages
  • Auto loans
  • Personal loans
  • Life insurance policies
  • Retirement accounts
  • Investments, etc.

This document is often the biggest homework item you will be given by your attorney and should be given the appropriate attention and time to complete as it often is the most important financial document in your case.

It is important to take the time to locate all information, even if that means pulling a credit report, and ensure everything is listed accurately. By signing a financial disclosure statement, you are declaring under the penalty of perjury that all information is true and correct as of the date you sign it.

What if my spouse lies in a financial disclosure statement?

If a party fails to list an asset on a financial disclosure statement, it opens the door for the divorce to be reopened down the road due to a lack of full disclosure. Should a party fail to list a debt on a financial disclosure statement, he or she will become solely responsible for that debt, despite it being a marital debt.

A financial disclosure statement also requires you to disclose any assets you have disposed of, either by selling or gifting, liquidating retirement accounts or investments, or just throwing items away, in the 12 months prior to the filing of the divorce action. Ultimately, if this was done without the knowledge or agreement of the other party, this can become an issue in the division of property in your case. When completing this form, we will compare your information to the information provided by the other party and determine whether additional steps are needed to gather information on the assets and debts.

Still have questions? Contact Wisconsin divorce attorneys today for more information.


What is a Guardian ad Litem?

The Guardian ad Litem (GAL) is an attorney, licensed to practice law in Wisconsin, who is appointed to serve the best interests of a minor child as to paternity, legal custody, physical placement and support. A GAL is an advocate for the child/children and serves as an investigator for the court.

What does a Guardian ad Litem do?

The GAL functions independently and provides a litany of necessary information to the court. Their duties include:

  • Investigating whether there is evidence of interspousal battery or domestic abuse
  • Reviewing and commenting on any mediation agreement or parenting plan
  • Communicating a child’s wishes to the court as to legal custody or placement (unless the child requests otherwise)

They consider, but are not bound by, the wishes of the minor child or others as to the best interests of the minor child. Advocating for the best interest of the children may not be the same as advocating for what the children want, so best interest will always be the primary consideration.

The GAL may take a variety of actions before making their recommendation, including interviewing each party, visiting their homes, speaking with the child’s teachers, etc.

What is a Guardian ad Litem looking for?

In investigating and developing a recommendation for the court’s consideration, the Guardian ad Litem must consider the following legal factors:

  • The wishes of the child and both parents;
  • Evidence of violence between parents
  • The safety and well-being of the child, and the safety of the abused parent
  • The child’s interactions and relationship with parents and other family members
  • The amount and quality of time parents have spent with the child
  • Any necessary and reasonable lifestyle changes you propose to make to spend time with your child in the future
  • The child’s adjustment to home, school, religion and community
  • The child’s age, and their developmental and educational needs (at various ages)
  • The mental and physical health of a parent, the child or other person living in the household
  • The need for stable, reliable physical placement
  • Availability of child care services
  • The quality of cooperation and communication between parents
  • Each parent’s ability to support the other parent’s relationship with the child, and the likelihood of negative interference by either party
  • Any physical abuse or problems with alcohol or drugs
  • Other significant factors impacting the child

The Guardian ad Litem should be respected as the child’s impartial advocate. As soon as the GAL is appointed, you and your Divergent Family Law divorce attorney should schedule a meeting. Showing a willingness to be honest and cooperative makes a good first impression and will positively impact the GAL's recommendation.

The child custody law firm GALs trust

The Guardian ad Litem will make a final recommendation to the parties and to the court. With your Divergent child custody attorney, you can help shape that decision. While the courts have no obligation to follow the recommendations of the Guardian ad Litem, they often give great weight to the recommendation of the Guardian ad Litem because they have had more opportunity to gather direct information regarding the children, parents and issues in the case.

Contact the family law lawyers at Divergent Law today for more information.


How do I get legally separated in Wisconsin ?

Legal separation vs. divorce

What is the difference between legal separation and divorce in Wisconsin? A legal separation establishes certain legal responsibilities and division of debts and assets while the parties are separated but does not end the marriage.

The process of a legal separation is identical to a divorce; both proceedings will separate all assets, debts, and liabilities, and establish custody and placement of any children. At any point prior to the end of the proceedings, a legal separation can be converted to a divorce and vice versa. The only difference is at the end of a divorce, the parties are no longer married; at the end of a legal separation, the parties are still married.

Can we remain legally separated forever?

After the legal separation has been granted, it will remain a legal separation indefinitely unless one of the following things occur:

  1. Within one year of the legal separation parties agree to convert the separation into divorce, ending the marriage; or
  2. More than one year since the legal separation, either party makes a request to the court to convert the legal separation to a divorce.

The key difference with these situations is within one year of the legal separation, there must be an agreement.  After one year, either party can choose to convert the legal separation to a divorce. The request to the court will result in an automatic conversion without the requirement of any additional hearing.

Why should I get a Legal Separation?

Common reasons for legal separation over divorce range from wanting to gain protection from the other spouse’s future debts to having certain moral or religious beliefs against divorce. Additionally, many health insurance companies will continue to provide coverage to both spouses because the marriage did not legally end. If you’re considering legal separation to maintain health insurance, contact your human resources department or health insurance provider.

Contact our Wisconsin divorce attorneys for more information on legal separation in Wisconsin.


What is considered marital property in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin is a “community property” state, which means any property that has been acquired (by either party) prior to or during the course of the marriage is considered community property, even if it is not titled in both names. For example, the home and real property in which the family usually resided during the marriage is referred to as the marital home. Either one or both spouses may own the marital home. Regardless of which spouse is the titled owner of the marital home, each spouse has a one-half interest in the home and has the same right to use and reside in the home. This right can be varied by court order or contract.

Exempted Property from Division

Property may be considered individual property of a party and not subject to division if it was acquired:

  1. As a gift from someone other than your spouse
  2. By your family's inheritance

This exempted property does not apply if the court finds that refusal to divide the property will create a hardship on the other party or on the children of the marriage. If the court makes such a finding, the court may divest the party of the property in a fair and equitable manner.

Does ALL property get divided?

In Wisconsin, there is a presumption that property will be divided equally between parties. This presumption can be overcome by arguments as to why a different division is fairer. While the law presumes all property is community, many times arguments are made that each party should leave with what they came with. In practice, the parties often negotiate the division of the assets acquired during the marriage and exclude their premarital assets as their individual property. However, an argument can be made that the premarital interests are so commingled with marital assets that they have lost their individual interest and have become all marital. Such an argument requires a careful review of the facts of the situation.

If I started a business during the marriage, will it be divided too?

Yes, if you start a business during the marriage, a court may consider the value of the business, including assets and receivables, as marital property. Your spouse may receive part or even half of your business in a divorce. Since it may be difficult to physically divide a business, a court may allocate another marital asset that is equal to the value of your business. The court may also order assets from the business to be paid to the ex-spouse.

Is my retirement fund still mine?

Under Wisconsin law, all assets brought to the marriage or acquired during the marriage are considered marital property. Retirement funds are included in assets that can be divided.

When gathering all the asset and debt information in your marital estate, it is often a balancing act in determining who will keep which assets and debt. If you have enough assets that are equal in value to your retirement account, then your spouse could opt to receive those assets, and you could keep your retirement account.

What if my retirement account began before my marriage?

If you have any pre-marital interest in your retirement accounts, you can certainly negotiate with your spouse to exclude your pre-marital interest from the marital assets being divided. You will need to gather records indicating the value of your account at the time of the marriage to verify your pre-marital interest. You should note that the court is not required to grant you any premarital interest.

Learn more about marital property division from the divorce attorneys at Divergent Family Law.


What is a parenting plan?

Making & following a parenting plan in Wisconsin divorces

A parenting plan is a plan each parent develops depicting the day-to-day care and placement parents anticipate for the children when they are no longer living as an intact family. Parenting plans are not always necessary, but should be completed in a contested case regarding custody and placement of the children. A parenting plan shall provide information answering the following questions:

  • What legal custody (decision-making authority) and physical placement the parent is seeking.
  • Where the parent lives currently and where the parent intends to live during the next 2 years.
  • Where the parent works and the hours of employment.
  • Who will provide any necessary child care when the parent is unavailable and who will pay for the child care.
  • Where the child will go to school.
  • What doctor or health care facility will provide medical care for the child.
  • How the child's medical expenses will be paid.
  • What the child's religious commitment will be, if any.
  • Who will make decisions about the child's education, medical care, choice of child care providers and extracurricular activities.
  • How the holidays will be divided.
  • What the child's school year placement and summer schedule will be.
  • Whether and how the child will be able to contact the other parent when the child has physical placement with the parent providing the parenting plan, and what electronic communication, if any, the parent is seeking.
    • (Lm) Whether equipment for providing electronic communication is reasonably available to both parents.
  • How the parent proposes to resolve disagreements related to matters over which the court orders joint decision making.
  • If there is evidence that either party engaged in inter-spousal battery, how the child will be transferred between the parties for the exercise of physical placement to ensure the safety of the child and the parties.

The parenting plan helps the Guardian ad Litem and the court see what each parent is looking for as an outcome to the case. It will show how far apart the parents are on an agreement and works as a negotiation piece. Even though it is required by statute, in practice, not all lawyers or Guardian ad Litem’s will have the parents fill out the plan unless it becomes necessary or is ordered by the court. However, in some situations, a parenting plan can assist the parties in coming to an agreement.

Do Wisconsin divorce laws prefer a particular parenting schedule?

No, the outcomes of every case are specific to the family. A schedule that works for one family may not work for another family. Parents' work schedules, ages of the children, the distance between the parent’s homes, and the special needs of the children all impact the court's decision process. Some placement schedules are more commonly used by families than others, but no preferred plan that is set forth in Wisconsin law.

Still have questions? Contact Wisconsin divorce attorneys today for more information.


What is a Temporary Order Hearing in Wisconsin?

A temporary order hearing is commonly referred to as an Order to Show Cause hearing.

While there is a waiting period before parties can be divorced in Wisconsin, there is sometimes a need to have rules in place for parents as to placement schedules, temporary use of property or temporary payment of bills. When possible, parties should discuss any orders that need to be established to determine if they can come to an agreement on temporary orders. Orders include:

  • Bill payment
  • Custody
  • Placement
  • Child support
  • Living situation
  • Car usage
  • And more

This agreement will streamline the process and a stipulation can be entered into. If not, you can request a hearing before the Family Court Commissioner who is given the authority to make just and reasonable temporary orders.

What is covered at the temporary order hearing?

All topics can be brought up at this hearing. The most common topics include child support and/or maintenance, use of the marital home, custody and placement, who has use of what vehicle, bank accounts, who pays what debts, coverage of insurances and payment of uninsured medical expenses.

Both parties will need to have the Financial Disclosure Statement prepared by this time in order to provide the Commissioner enough information for them to understand the financial circumstances of the parties and either make orders or approve of a stipulation.

If there is no agreement to all or some of the issues, a contested hearing will proceed before a commissioner. At the hearing, each side will tell the commissioner what he or she is requesting to be part of the order and why. Having facts, examples and evidence to accompany requests will help support your position.

Is this order set in stone?

Any temporary order put into place during an action is subject to change. If a commissioner enters temporary orders, either party has the right to appeal the decision to a judge in a process called De Novo Review. Further, should things change within the family action, causing a need for temporary orders to be updated, a new request for a hearing can be filed at any time.

Contact the experienced divorce attorneys at Divergent Family Law today for a free initial phone consultation.


How does property division in divorce work in Wisconsin?

When dividing your property and debt, the court begins with a presumption to equally divide all assets, debts and liabilities. Property includes but is not limited to real estate, vehicles, retirement accounts and pensions, personal belongings, debt, bank accounts, recreational toys, animals, etc.

Marital Property Exceptions

Property is not subject to division upon divorce if it was acquired:

  1. as a gift from a person other than your spouse
  2. through your family's inheritance

Ultimately, the court may need to decide if the property is to be excluded from division in the marital estate based on the facts and circumstances as to when the asset was gifted or inherited and whether or not it has been mixed, or commingled, with the marital property during the marriage. Excluded property is deemed "individual property."

Factors that Influence Property Division

Wisconsin statute Section 767.61(3) provides factors for the court to consider when asked to divide the property other than equal. The factors to consider are as follows:

  • The length of the marriage.
  • The property brought to the marriage by each party.
  • Whether one of the parties has substantial assets not subject to division by the court.
  • The contribution of each party to the marriage, giving appropriate economic value to each party's contribution to homemaking and child care services.
  • The age and physical and emotional health of the parties.
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other.
  • The earning capacity of each party.
  • The desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for a reasonable period to the party having physical placement for the greater period of time.
  • The amount and duration of maintenance payments to either party and whether the property division is in lieu of such payments.
  • Other economic circumstances of each party.
  • The tax consequences to each party.
  • Any written agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning any arrangement for property distribution.
  • Such other factors as the court may in each individual case determine to be relevant.

Property and debt division is final with the Judgment of Divorce. If you come to an agreement with your spouse, but decide a year later that it seems unfair to you, you will not be able to go back to court and ask the Judge to re-evaluate the division of property or debt, outside of limited exceptions where you can prove fraud or mistake of law. Before you sign any agreement, you should ensure you have all the necessary information to make an informed decision as to the division of your assets and debts.

Do I need to disclose all my assets to my spouse?

Under Wisconsin law, each party must complete a financial disclosure statement when going through a divorce that requires them to identify their income, expenses, assets and debts to the court and to each other. The statement is submitted to the court as a trued and accurate disclosure. Hiding assets or failing to disclose all your assets is considered fraud in Wisconsin and if proven, you could be subject to perjury charges.

What should I do if my spouse is hiding assets?

If you believe your spouse is hiding assets, our attorneys could help you investigate public records to find evidence. Keep track of your bank account records, credit card statements, and previous tax statements. Furthermore, you can demand documents and information from your spouse with a formal request.

Finally, if you have a significant estate, you may want to consider hiring a forensic accountant. A forensic accountant could analyze financial records to determine if any hidden assets may exist. Divergent Family Law attorneys have experience with High Net Worth Estates.

Contact the divorce attorneys at Divergent Family Law today for a free initial phone consultation.


Can I get a court order for my spouse to pay my attorney fees?

The short answer is maybe, but it is rare. It depends on each case. There is no right to have an attorney in divorce cases. If there is an extreme disparity in incomes where one spouse is the breadwinner and the other spouse earns little or no income, a court may grant a motion dictating the spouse with more money to pay for the court costs and provide funds for the other spouse's attorney.

What if I do have access to funds?

If a court determines you have enough funds to hire an attorney, they will likely not order your spouse to pay your fees, even if your spouse was the one to initiate the divorce.

The key here is the disparity in income between the two spouses. Sometimes a court will look to potential future funds that one may receive as an outcome of the divorce. This is known as an advancement. The court can grant that the attorney’s fees come out of your share of the assets in advance.

Learn more about spousal fee coverage by contacting divorce attorneys at Divergent Family Law.

Can I seek attorney fees from my spouse for being unreasonable?

Yes, you can seek attorney fees paid by your spouse if your spouse's actions during the divorce process can be considered “overtrial.”

Overtrial is a Wisconsin-specific doctrine that can be asserted in family law cases when you believe that the other party’s unreasonable approach to litigation causes you to incur extra and unnecessary attorney fees and court costs.

If the other party is taking action that is resulting in "unnecessary proceedings,” the court can issue sanctions against that party with the objectives of “deterring unnecessary use of judicial resources” and "compensating the victimized party for fees unnecessarily incurred." 

Contact our family law attorneys at Divergent to see if overtrial could be established for your case.

Who keeps the pets after a divorce in Wisconsin?

In a Wisconsin divorce, animals are considered property to be divided. If you proceed to trial, the animal will be given to one party or the other. The court will not order a “placement” schedule for animals. Pet ownership is dictated by the surrounding facts and circumstances of your case.

How to fight for your pets

If you are battling over ownership of your pet at trial, make sure to bring evidence of who provides primary care of the pet, who has more available time, and who has the greater means to provide for the pet. Evidence that the pet was a gift to you is also a good strategy for gaining ownership of your pet.

While the courts may approve an agreement of the parties to do a shared placement schedule of the animals, it will likely do so with the warning that the court views the animals as property. Upon any disagreement, the court may allocate the animal to one party or the other.

Contact the family law lawyers at Divergent Law today to learn how to defend your rights to your pets.

Who keeps the rings in a Wisconsin divorce?

It depends. Many people try to argue the ring was a gift, but under Wisconsin law, gifts between the parties are considered to be marital property. Wedding rings are subject to marital division in a divorce.

What if the ring was an engagement ring?

If the ring was an engagement ring given before the marriage, you could argue that the ring is a premarital gift and not subject to division. However, if your engagement ring is soldered together with the wedding ring as one piece, and they become one piece, you could argue the ring is marital property. If original engagement/wedding rings were lost and you purchased new ones during the marriage, they too become marital property subject to be divided.

If the parties come to an agreement as to who keeps the ring, the court will honor the agreement.

Contact the family law lawyers at Divergent Law today for legal advice & assistance in your divorce.

How is debt divided under Wisconsin divorce law?

Under Wisconsin law, all marital assets and debts are subject to be divided in a divorce. Marital debts are debts that were incurred during the course of a marriage. These debts include mortgages, car loans, credit cards, student loans, and even taxes. The court may sometimes require one party to pay off more debt because they will be receiving greater assets.

The court has the authority to order one or both parties to pay off any marital debt, even if the purchased asset only benefitted one party. For example, if a husband takes out a loan to purchase a car during the marriage and later defaults, the wife may be liable for the debt even if she never drove the car.

Sometimes one party may have hidden debts that the other party did not know exist. The court could still make both parties responsible for paying off the hidden debt.

Am I responsible for my ex's student loans?

Generally, if the student loans were taken out before marriage, they would be considered individual property. If the loan was taken out during the marriage, however, you could be liable for your spouse's student loan debt. If your spouse took out loans for the purpose of supporting your family, the loans have a higher likelihood of being considered marital debt. A court will look at many facts and perform an economic analysis when ruling on the division of student loan debt in a marriage.

Contact the family law lawyers at Divergent Law today to schedule a free consultation. Our experienced attorneys will put your self-interests first.

Will I still receive alimony payments if I move in with a new significant other?

Under Wisconsin law, alimony payments (referred to as “maintenance” in Wisconsin statutes) can be terminated or modified upon remarriage, death of a party, or by mutual agreement. The court will look at the changing circumstances when deciding to modify or terminate alimony. Your ex may request the alimony payments be modified if you are cohabiting with a new significant other. Since you would be saving more money by living with your significant other, the court could justify a decrease in alimony. 

Often, cohabitation alone is not sufficient to convince a court that a support order should be modified or terminated.

Contact the family law lawyers at Divergent Law today to learn how to protect your rights and self-interests during a divorce.

What happens if my ex files bankruptcy after the divorce?

Under Wisconsin’s Marital Property Act, a creditor can seek payment from either party for debt incurred during the marriage, even if one party incurred the debt in their name. Therefore, if one spouse files for bankruptcy, creditors can go after the other spouse to pay for the judgment. You should seek legal help to ensure your divorce settlement agreement protects you if your ex ever files bankruptcy.

Divergent Family Law attorneys can check that your settlement includes the ability to go back to court and seek a sanction or remedy should your ex file bankruptcy.

Contact the family law attorneys at Divergent Law today to protect your rights and finances.

Will I lose my house if I move out during a divorce?

No, moving out of the house does not mean that you will lose your shared interest in the marital home. Often times it may be necessary to leave the home due to conflict, domestic abuse, or to obtain more space during a divorce. The court will look at many factors when ultimately dividing the marital property and the marital house is usually the most important asset to divide.

Sometimes both parties choose to leave the house and to divide the proceeds from the sale of the house. An experienced family law attorney can go over your options with you and advise the best course of action for your self-interests. Protecting your property rights is of utmost importance to our lawyers.

Will the court consider my move as abandoning my children?

No, there are many families that separate before or during the divorce process. Moving out of the marital house does not mean you have abandoned your children. There are also times when it is necessary for a parent to leave for the parent or the children’s safety due to conflict or domestic violence in the home.

Once your divorce action is filed, however, you should request a Temporary Orders hearing in order to ask the Court to set a schedule for placement time with your children. You do not want to go for a substantial period of time without seeing them as it is not in their best interests and does not help you with respect to determining placement of the children in your case.

How do I move out of state with kids of my previous marriage?

If you intend to relocate with your child over 100 miles away from the other parent, you will need permission from the court. Wisconsin law sets forth a very specific procedure in order to remove a child from the state.

An attorney can help you file a relocation plan, which gives the court information on where you are moving and what the new placement plan will be for your child. A hearing will take place. You should not move until you have reached an agreement with the child’s other parent or until you are granted permission from the court. The court will look at the best interest of the child in determining whether or not to grant the motion to relocate.

If your ex-spouse is the one planning to move out of state with your child, you can file an objection to the relocation. The court must receive your objection at least 5 days before the hearing for it to be acknowledged.

Contact the family law lawyers at Divergent Law today for legal advice & assistance with your divorce.

When is it time to ask for a Guardian ad Litem?

In divorce cases involving minor children, Guardian ad Litem advocates for the best interest of the children

A Guardian ad Litem, also known as a GAL, is an attorney appointed by the Court to represent the best interest of the children in the divorce.  The GAL will do their own investigation of the facts of the case and present an investigative report and final recommendation to the Court.

However, a GAL is not your adversary in your case.  Just the opposite.  The attorney is there for the best interests of your children, so as long as you have your child’s best interest in mind, you can work together for the best outcome of your case.  There are a few compelling reasons that would lead a party to request a GAL.

An unreasonable parent

If the other party is being unreasonable in their demands with the children, and it is not in the children’s best interest, requesting a GAL is the next step. If the other parent is truly acting unreasonable, the GAL will be able to spot this behavior and try to intervene.  At the very least, the GAL will report the behavior to the Judge and that will be taken into consideration with any decision. Courts give great deference to the GAL’s report and recommendation, as they have done all of the leg work.  Using their expertise is a surefire way to work on ending the unreasonable behavior.

A Guardian ad Litem wants parents to work together FOR THEIR CHILDREN

If a couple is already known to butt heads frequently, being proactive and requesting a GAL is a excellent step to help the situation. By providing a neutral third party who has the best interest of the children on the forefront of their mind at all times, can help steer the parents in the right direction for a collaborative resolution to the case.

Like with anything, there are risks to having a GAL as well.  The GAL could end up costing you a lot of money and ultimately make a recommendation that you do not agree with. If you are debating engaging in requesting a GAL, contact a family law attorney today!

Contact the family law lawyers at Divergent Law today for legal advice & assistance with your divorce.

What does child support arrears mean?

Courts are able to use all necessary methods, including garnishment, to collect child support arrears.

When a court orders child support, any unpaid support is known as “child support arrears.”

Are Child Support Arrears Different from Retroactive Child Support?

Yes, they are different. Retroactive child support is any back amount of child support that a court order.  This means a Court can go back in time and order support starting from a past date.

Unlike retroactive support, child support arrears is the delinquent amount of support owed to a parent that has been ordered to be paid.

Enforcing Wisconsin Child Support Arrears

Wisconsin law places a 20 year statute of limitations on child support that is past due. This 20 year period begins the date the youngest child emancipates or reaches the age of majority, not the date of the last order.

If you are owed support from a parent who has fallen behind on their child support payment, you can file a motion for contempt with the court. One of our Wisconsin family lawyers can guide you through this legal process.

Once a motion is filed with the court, the court will schedule a hearing so arguments can be made, and the court can address the matter. The Judge will make a finding of whether or not the delinquent payer is in contempt.  The Judge will order a payment arrangement to make up for the missed support payments.

Additional penalties a court can place on a delinquent parent include:

  • Suspension of a driver’s, business, occupational, fishing or hunting license
  • The interception of tax refunds for unpaid support
  • Seizure of funds in bank account for the delinquent arrears owed
  • Place a lien on any property
  • Jail time

Can the Court Impose Interest on Child Support Arrears?

Yes, Wisconsin law allows the Court to impose interest on the arrears at a rate of 0.5% per month. Once a parent falls behind on payments, the child support agency automatically enters an arrears judgment.  Once this is entered, interest will begin accruing on the delinquent balance owed.  That being said, it is in a parent’s best interest to make all support payments in a timely manner.

Contact the family law lawyers at Divergent Law today for legal advice & assistance with your divorce.

Do I have to take a parenting class?

Parenting classes provide beneficial information to families in divorce turmoil AND ARE REQUIRED BY THE COURT.

The Wisconsin legislature has recognized that many Wisconsin children go through and experience the divorce of their parents each year.  Divorce can cause both short and long-term harm to a child.  Taking a parenting class is a minimal yet effective way to attempt to curb these harms.

The Wisconsin legislature found that requiring a parenting class is one beneficial way to provide parents with an educational program that can provide valuable information such as:

  • Reducing parental conflict
  • The Emotional Concerns and Needs of All Involved
  • How to Reduce Child-Reported Stress

To achieve these goals and deliver divorcing parents with the information they need, the Helping Children Cope with Divorce Seminar was created.

What Is the Helping Children Cope with Divorce Seminar?

Based on the legislature’s recognizing that a parenting class is extremely valuable during divorce, Sections 767.401 of the Wisconsin Statutes was created. This statute requires that all divorcing parents with minor children must complete a 4-hour parenting class.  If the divorcing parties have children who have reached majority, they are not legally obligated to take the course.

The course is a minimum of 4 hours and is designed to comply with Sections 767.401.  The goal of the course is to educate, train and help divorcing parents understand the impact on the children.

Parenting Classes Accepted in Wisconsin Courts

Until recently, Helping Children Cope with Divorce Seminar was the only class accepted by the courts.  In the age of new technology, most courts are now accepting an online version of this course, called Children in Between. Check with one of our experienced attorneys today to see if you are eligible for the online course.

Contact the family law lawyers at Divergent Law today for legal advice & assistance with your divorce.

Is my marriage irretrievably broken?

In Wisconsin in order for a divorce to be granted, the marriage must be found to be IRRETRIEVABLY BROKEN.

A common misconception is that a divorce is founded on one party alleging the other dd something wrong, causing the marriage to fail, and thus a divorce should be granted. This thought process of divorce ended first in California in 1970, and plenty of states, including Wisconsin, followed suit.  It is now called no-fault divorce.

Since Wisconsin no longer relied on fault as a ground for divorce, it instead Court’s require a married to be found “irretrievably broken.”

When exactly Is a Wisconsin Marriage Irretrievably Broken?

Since a marriage must be found to be irretrievably broken, it is important to understand how Courts in Wisconsin view the term “irretrievably broken.”

In Wisconsin, during a final divorce hearing, the parties will both have to testify under oath indicating they believe the marriage to be irretrievably broken.  When there is a party who is hostile, or not in agreement with the divorce, attorneys have learned how to phrase questions to get the necessary answer.  For example, if the party will not agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, an experienced attorney can ask pointed questions such as:

  • Has the marriage for all intents and purposes ended?
  • Do you believe, with how your spouse feels, the marriage is no longer viable?
  • Do you believe, with how your spouse feels, the marriage is beyond any hope of reconciliation or repair?

For a court in Wisconsin to make the finding of irretrievably broken, it must be presented with factual evidence. While this sounds daunting, the burden is not particularly high. Usually, it is the testimony of party indicating the marriage is irretrievably broken.

In addition to the testimony, additional evidence can be used to prove the marriage is irretrievably broken, including but not limited to, proof of:

  • Abuse, physical or sexual
  • Significant amount of time of separation
  • Prison
  • Alcohol or drug abuse

In conclusion, regardless of the reason that led the marriage to be broken beyond repair, a Wisconsin Court will commonly find that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Once a Court finds the marriage is irretrievably broken, it will then have the legal authority to grant a divorce.

Contact the family law lawyers at Divergent Law today for legal advice & assistance with your divorce.

Will a criminal conviction affect my visitation rights?

If a parent is convicted of a crime, custody and placement may be affected should the other parent petition the court.  The affect of the custody and placement is not black and white, however.  If a conviction has been entered, a court will likely reevaluate the case and determine whether to make a change.

Safety of the Child

The courts first and foremost factor is the best interest of the child.  In custody cases, the court tried to keep the child as stable as possible, only making changes if it is found to be in the best interest of the child. If there is a criminal conviction, the court will likely look at what the specific crime was and how it may impact the child.  If the crime was a violent crime, such as battery or domestic violence, the child may be at a higher risk for violence and be negatively impacted.  In cases like this, the court is at a higher probability of changing custody or placement.

Maintaining and Fostering Healthy Relationships with Both Parents

If there is a change in custody or placement, the court will continue to attempt to maintain and foster relationships with each parent.  The court can alter placement so that it will continue but be supervised or in a therapeutic setting so that the child is safe, but the relationship can continue.

Restrictions on Parenting Time

In an effort to maintain and foster the parent-child relationships and ensure the safety of the child, the court can place conditions on the visitations.  The conditions are likely based around the crime that the parent committed.  For example, if it was a drug or alcohol related crime, the parent may be ordered to not drive with the child or take drug or alcohol tests prior to placement.  In other cases, the court could order the visits take place in public places or supervised. 

Criminal Convictions of Non-Parents Who are Around the Child

If there are non-parents that spend time with the child such as a aunt or uncle, grandparent or family friend who has a criminal conviction the courts can make changes to the court order to ensure the child protection.  If the court finds that being around that person places the child in harms way, the court can make an order preventing that person from spending time with the child.

Hire an Attorney

If you have been convicted of a crime and are worried it will affect your current family orders, than you should contact one of our experienced family law attorneys today!

Contact the family law lawyers at Divergent Law today for legal advice & assistance with your divorce.

How do I stay safe with guns in the home during divorce??

Dangers Facing Spouses and Children in Divorce

In family law, self-defense issues are far more common than anyone wants to admit.  Divorce and custody cases can be extremely emotional and volatile, and often leading to safety issues.  Unfortunately, everyone has read or heard about cases in the news where one spouse acted violently against the other.  This means that some of our clients have legitimate concerns about their rights related to self-defense, conceal carry, castle doctrine, and the 2nd Amendment. Consider some statistics from the (National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey, a publican of the National Century for Injury Prevention and Control of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).


  • Nearly half of all female homicide victims are killed by a current or former partner
  • In 2005 alone, 1,181 women were murdered by their intimate partner: that’s an average of nearly three women, every day in America. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, Intimate Homicide Victims by Gender).
  • A study of intimate partner homicides found that 20% of victims were not the intimate partners themselves, but family members, friends, neighbors, persons who intervened, law enforcement responders, or bystanders.
  • 72% of all murder-suicides involve an intimate partner; 94% of the victims of these murder suicides are female.


  • On average, nearly 20 people per minute are physically abused by an intimate partner in the United States. During one year, this equates to more than 10 million women and men.
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 9 men experience severe intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner contact sexual violence, and/or intimate partner stalking with impacts such as injury, fearfulness, post-traumatic stress disorder, use of victim services, contraction of sexually transmitted diseases, etc.
    • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have experienced some form of physical violence by an intimate partner. This includes a range of behaviors (e.g. slapping, shoving, pushing) and in some cases might not be considered "domestic violence." 
    • 1 in 7 women and 1 in 25 men have been injured by an intimate partner.
    • 1 in 10 women have been raped by an intimate partner. Data is unavailable on male victims.
  • 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men have been victims of severe physical violence (e.g. beating, burning, strangling) by an intimate partner in their lifetime.
  • 1 in 7 women and 1 in 18 men have been stalked by an intimate partner during their lifetime to the point in which they felt very fearful or believed that they or someone close to them would be harmed or killed.
  • On a typical day, there are more than 20,000 phone calls placed to domestic violence hotlines nationwide.
  • The presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.
  • Intimate partner violence accounts for 15% of all violent crime.
  • Women between the ages of 18-24 are the most commonly abused by an intimate partner.
  • 19% of domestic violence involves a weapon.
  • Domestic victimization is correlated with a higher rate of depression and suicidal behavior.
  • Only 34% of people who are injured by intimate partners receive medical care for their injuries.


  • 1 in 5 women and 1 in 71 men in the United States has been raped in their lifetime.
  • Almost half of female (46.7%) and male (44.9%) victims of rape in the United States were raped by an acquaintance. Of these, 45.4% of female rape victims and 29% of male rape victims were raped by an intimate partner.


  • 19.3 million women and 5.1 million men in the United States have been stalked in their lifetime. 60.8% of female stalking victims and 43.5% men reported being stalked by a current or former intimate partner.

Specifically, in divorces, but really in any volatile family situation, safety is always a concern.  If you think you are in danger, then reach out to get the help you need now!  There are numerous options that your attorney can discretely assist you with whether you are a man or woman in danger. 

If there are firearms in the home, then there are two options:

  1. Educate and train yourself to protect and defend not only you but your loved ones; or
  2. Try to get all of the weapons out of the home including yourself

We are not here to preach politics; we are here to preach safety and to help you on your path, no matter what you choose as the best plan for you and your family.

With access to guns and high emotions, a divorce can trigger a tragedy.  If you believe that you would be safer without any firearms in the home, then you can proceed down that path instead of arming yourself with the proper equipment, education, and training.  Here are precautions one can take if they have a fear that their spouse may do something dangerous with weapons:

  • Simply get the guns out of the house.  Have a family member or friend keep them in a secure safe place.  If this is not an option, you could always rent a storage space to store them including from some brick-and-mortar gun stores.
  • Explore options of domestic violence restraining orders that can legally create protections and make it a crime for someone to possess firearms
  • Look into if professionals will hold onto them for you while the divorce finalizes.  Some police departments will hold firearms for safe keeping until further directive.
  • If your spouse is unwilling to give up the firearms, you can file a motion with the Court requesting that the Court order that the guns be removed from the home until the divorce is finalized.
  • The key is to be safe rather than sorry.  If you have any hesitations, remove the guns from the home before filing for divorce.  Being served divorce papers can be a very emotional and volatile time.
  • Do not carry a firearm with you to meetings, hearings, or discussions regarding your divorce.  Discussing your case can cause emotions to run high and not having the firearm is a guarantee that you will not use it.

Always err on the side of caution.  Divorce and guns can be a toxic and deadly combination.  Making sure no one gets killed during a divorce is an imperative goal.  There have been, unfortunately, far too many deaths from divorce to ignore the statistics and far too much violence from relationships to ignore the statistics.

But whether you choose to educate and train yourself with firearms to help keep yourself safe or to disarm the household, we are here to help.  A key part of that is understanding what your rights are under the 2nd Amendment and understanding your resources to get what you need to stay safe such as knowledge about conceal carry laws, castle doctrine laws and general self-defense and defense-of-third-person laws (such as children).

If you have questions about your rights under the 2nd Amendment, about self-defense, conceal carry, castle doctrine, etc. and are going through a divorce or are a victim of domestic violence: please remember that we are here to assist you in your darkest hour.

What is an overtrial in Wisconsin divorce law?

Overtrial is a Wisconsin-specific doctrine and can be argued in family law cases if you believe the other party’s unreasonable approach to litigation has caused you to incur unnecessary attorney fees and court costs. The concept of an overtrial is to protect and compensate a party when the other party has engaged in inefficient, prolonged litigation. If the other party is taking action resulting in "unnecessary proceedings,” the court can decide to sanction the offending party. 

A judge can consider Overtrial if a party has failed to properly respond to formal requests or orders from the court for information forcing the court to file a motion to obtain the information. The court can find that there has been an unreasonable delay resulting in an award of fees to the other party. In making such an award, the court does not need to evaluate the ability of the offending party to pay or the need of the aggrieved party.

If you feel that you have experienced behavior on the part of the other party in your case causing an unnecessary delay or further expenses for you, contact our experienced attorneys at Divergent Family Law.




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