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How to File for Divorce in Wisconsin 2024 Guide

Wisconsin Divorce Requirements

  • You must be a Wisconsin resident for at least 6 months
  • You must reside in the county you are filing in for at least 30 days
  • You must file a petition to divorce either jointly with your spouse or separately
  • You must serve your spouse and document proof if filing separately
  • You must wait 120 days after filing the petition before a final hearing can take place
  • You must enter mediation if you and your spouse cannot agree on property division, child custody, child support, or spousal support
  • You must follow any outstanding rulings of the judge in the final hearing

Wisconsin Divorce Requirements

The basic Wisconsin divorce filing fee is $184.50, plus an additional $10 if you are requesting any maintenance payments. You must decide whether you and your spouse are filing jointly or separately. You can file online for an extra $20 charge.

Once you file the paperwork, you must wait 120 days before a final hearing can take place. If the parties cannot reach a mutual agreement on property division and/or child custody, the court will require mediation. If an agreement cannot be reached after mediation, the judge will rule on any outstanding issues during the final hearing.

May 22, 2024 Key Takeaways

  • 7 requirements for Wisconsin divorces
  • The total cost of filing fees to file a divorce in Wisconsin
  • 12-step guide to getting a divorce in Wisconsin
  • Custom checklist to begin your Wisconsin divorce filing with links to the forms

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Stephanie Guzy was amazing and helped me through one of the toughest times during my life. Divorce may be what's best in a situation but damn it is hard! Especially when kids are involved! I am grateful Stephanie hung in there with me. She offered not only her sharp legal skills but also provided a lot of patience, support and kindness - when I needed it most. And I got more than fair result in my divorce! I could not have done this without you- Thank you so much!

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12 Steps to Divorce in Wisconsin 2024

To file for divorce in Wisconsin, you must be a Wisconsin resident for 6 months and a county resident for 30 days.


Step 1: Decide How to File & Get Organized

Are you bringing the action against your spouse (filing alone) or signing the petition together (filing jointly). What are your grounds for divorce and legal separation in WI? Wisconsin is a no-fault divorce state, meaning the only grounds for divorce is for one spouse to tell the court the marriage is irretrievably broken. As far as who should file first, there is no legal advantage but there are personal advantages to filing first.

If you anticipate disputes over children, spousal support or maintenance, bills, the use of automobiles or your marital residence, now is the time to consider requesting temporary orders.

Step 2: Consider the Children

You may request a temporary hearing before the Family Court Commissioner by completing an Order to Show Cause and an Affidavit for Temporary Order if you and your spouse agree on any of the following issues:

Child Custody Child Placement Child Support Use of the family residence

If there are minor children, you may be required to complete parenting programs and file Parenting Plans during the divorce process., In Wisconsin, parents of minors are required to complete the Helping Children Cope with Divorce seminar before the court date. If child custody or placement is an issue, the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem to determine the child/children's best interest.

Step 3: File the Forms

The most common forms you need to complete are the Summons, Petition & Confidential Addendum. The presence of minor children in a marriage will require additional forms.

Gather the necessary information for both you and your spouse. Birth dates, social security numbers and Wisconsin addresses are requried.

The summons and petition (or petition) for divorce or legal separation and confidential petition addendum must be the Clerk of Circuit Court. To file, the Wisconsin Circuit Court's fee for divorce ranges from $175 - $188.

Step 4: Serve Your Spouse

For the court to hear the case, your spouse must be provided with copies of the summons, petition, confidential petition addendum, and proposed parenting plan. An Affidavit of Service or Admission of Service must be filed with the Clerk of Circuit Court.

3 Ways to Serve Your Spouse

Admission of Service A legal adult delivers the court documents. The served spouse either signs and dates the Admission of Service paper or refuses. If refused, another form of service must occur.

Service by the Sheriff's Department or Process Server For a fee, a Sheriff or professional process server can serve your spouse. After, they'll file the proof or service with the court.

Publication If you have exhausted all efforts to locate the opposing party, the court will accept service by publication. There are strict requirements for serving by publication.

If you were served divorce papers, you have 20 days to respond with an "answer." Your answer must include verification, denial/admissions, affirmative defenses, any counterclaims, and requests for relief. Wisconsin Statute 801.095 (1) explains:

The court may grant judgment against you for the award of money or other legal action requested in the complaint, and you may lose your right to object to anything that is or may be incorrect in the complaint. A judgment may be enforced as provided by law.

Decide if you or your spouse believe a formal temporary order is necessary. If the situation changes before the final hearing, either spouse may seek a temporary order.

Step 5: Abide by the Time Restrictions

There is a mandatory 120-day waiting period before the court can hear the final hearing. Depending on the form or action, service will need to be accomplished by varying numbers of days before the trial.

 Deadline
Summons and Petition for Divorce 90 days from the date the petition was filed
Order to Show Cause and Affidavit 5 days before trial
Response and Counterclaim 20 days after the date of service; can be mailed to the courthouse
Order to Appear 24 hours if the other party lives in the same county; otherwise 72 hours if they live in a different Wisconsin county from the one the action was filed.
Notice of Motion and Motion 5 days before the trial
Petition to Enforce Placement 5 days before the trial

Step 6: Schedule the Hearing

In some counties the court automatically schedules the next hearing. In other counties, you may have to contact the court to schedule the next hearing. This next hearing, depending on the county, may be the final hearing.

Step 7: Wait 120 Days for Mediation

Only 4% of all court cases actual go to trial

A divorce trial is only necessary when you and your spouse cannot reach a settlement agreement through lawyer-led mediation. While rare, going to trial for divorce can take weeks or even months to reach a final decision. The more issues unresolved from mediation; the longer the trial will take.

The 120-day waiting period required by the State of Wisconsin before a divorce can be granted is designed to allow for mediation between you and your soon-to-be-former spouse. The goal is to cover child custody, division of assets, and other changes without having to go to trial.

Step 8: Attend Temporary Hearing (if requested previously)

Both parties are required to complete a Financial Disclosure Statement and bring it to the hearing. A commissioner or judge in Wisconsin will hear each side's requests and then decide on temporary orders.

Temporary orders must be followed until the final divorce settlement. If you are unhappy with the outcome, you have 10 days to file an appeal of the commissioner's decision. A judge would then review the orders and make a final decision.

Step 9: Prepare for Pre-Trial Conference

You and your spouse will receive a Notice of Pre-Trial Conference and a Pre-Trial Order. Parents of minors are required to complete the Helping Children Cope with Divorce seminar before the court date. If you and your spouse have resolved all issues, the court can proceed with a stipulated divorce. If you still have outstanding issues, you must notify the court of the specific issues. If child custody or placement is an issue, the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem to determine the child/children's best interest.

Step 10: Complete the Paperwork for the Final Hearing

Marital Settlement Agreement (if you and your spouse can agree on everything) or a Proposed Martial Settlement Order (if you don't agree)

Financial Disclosure Statements

The finding of Face, Conclusions of Law, and Judgment of Divorce

Vital Statistics Form (from the Clerk of Circuit Court office.)

Step 11: Attend the Final Hearing - The 3 P’s

Be Prepared, Polite and bring the necessary Paperwork.

Step 12: Complete the Divorce & Final Documents

A divorce can be granted in 3 ways: stipulated, default, or in a trial.

Stipulated hearing: Both parties agree on the terms of the divorce. The judge decides to approve or adjust the settlement.

Default hearing: One party fails to appear at the final hearing. The judge will use the other party's proposal when approving the settlement.

Trial hearing: The parties cannot come to an agreement. A courtroom trial will take place. The judge will give a final divorce decree. If you are unsatisfied with the final hearing, you have the option to appeal the divorce decree.

Sign car titles and real estate deeds; complete documents to divide pension plans (QDRO); change beneficiaries on life insurance policies; revise your will and other matters when appropriate.

We're Here To Help Let us handle the filing

Your Step-by-Step custom List

1. Who will sign the petition?
2. Will you need a temporary hearing? Temporary decisions on child custody, child support, alimony, bill paying, and living arrangements during the duration of the divorce proceedings
I need help filing
Step 1:Complete the Joint Petition form

Choose 1FA-4110V or FA-4111V & GF-179

Step 2:Complete Order to Show Cause and Affidavit for Temporary Order

Choice 1FA-4128VA & FA-4128VB or Choice 2FA-4129VA & FA-4129VB

Step 3:File the documents and pay the filing fee to the Clerk of the Circuit Court
Step 4:Complete service. Attend temporary hearing, if necessary
Step 5:A 120-day waiting period is required
Step 6:If there are minor children, complete any required parenting programs and file any required documents
Step 7:Obtain a date and time for the next court hearing
Step 8:Complete your paperwork for the final court hearing
Step 9:Attend your final hearing
Step 10:Court approves Marital Settlement
Step 11:Divorce/Legal Separation Granted
Step 12:Complete any other documents required
Skip The Reading
Contact Us
Step 1:Complete the Joint Petition form

Choose 1FA-4110V or FA-4111V & GF-179

Step 2:Complete Stipulation for Temporary Order

Choice 1FA-4126VA & FA-4126VB or Choice 2FA-4127VA or Choice 3FA-4127VB

Step 3:File the documents and pay the filing fee to the Clerk of the Circuit Court
Step 4:Complete service. Attend temporary hearing, if necessary
Step 5:A 120-day waiting period is required
Step 6:If there are minor children, complete any required parenting programs and file any required documents
Step 7:Obtain a date and time for the next court hearing
Step 8:Complete your paperwork for the final court hearing
Step 9:Attend your final hearing
Step 10:Court approves Marital Settlement
Step 11:Divorce/Legal Separation Granted
Step 12:Complete any other documents required
Skip The Reading
Contact Us
Step 1:Complete the Summons and Petition forms

Choice 1FA-4104V or Choice 2FA-4105V | FA-4108V or Choice 3FA-4109V & GF-179

Step 2:Complete Order to Show Cause and Affidavit for Temporary Order

Choice 1FA-4128VA & FA-4128VB or Choice 2FA-4129VA & FA-4129VB

Step 3:File the documents and pay the filing fee to the Clerk of the Circuit Court
Step 4:Complete service. Attend temporary hearing, if necessary
Step 5:A 120-day waiting period is required
Step 6:If there are minor children, complete any required parenting programs and file any required documents
Step 7:Obtain a date and time for the next court hearing
Step 8:Complete your paperwork for the final court hearing
Step 9:Attend your final hearing
Step 10:Court approves Marital Settlement
Step 11:Divorce/Legal Separation Granted
Step 12:Complete any other documents required
Skip The Reading
Contact Us
Step 1:Complete the Summons and Petition forms

Choice 1FA-4104V or Choice 2FA-4105V | FA-4108V or Choice 3FA-4109V & GF-179

Step 2:Complete Stipulation for Temporary Order

Choice 1FA-4126VA & FA-4126VB or Choice 2FA-4127VA or Choice 3FA-4127VB

Step 3:File the documents and pay the filing fee to the Clerk of the Circuit Court
Step 4:Complete service. Attend temporary hearing, if necessary
Step 5:A 120-day waiting period is required
Step 6:If there are minor children, complete any required parenting programs and file any required documents
Step 7:Obtain a date and time for the next court hearing
Step 8:Complete your paperwork for the final court hearing
Step 9:Attend your final hearing
Step 10:Court approves Marital Settlement
Step 11:Divorce/Legal Separation Granted
Step 12:Complete any other documents required
Skip The Reading
Contact Us

Choose the Divorce Option That's Right For You

While divorce is never easy, choosing the appropriate legal process can help minimize stress. Our attorneys guide you in understanding the different divorce options to determine the best fit for your unique situation.

Uncontested Divorce

If you and your spouse can reach agreements on all terms like asset division, custody and spousal support, an uncontested divorce allows for faster, more affordable and low-conflict resolution.

Contested Divorce

In cases where spouses cannot mutually agree, a judge will make the final decision on any unresolved matters after each party presents evidence. Contested divorces tend to involve more adversarial in court, added expenses and extended timelines to complete the process.

Mediated Divorce

In mediation, a neutral third party facilitates cooperative negotiation between spouses to reach mutually agreeable terms. Mediation encourages open communication and allows you an active role in determining the outcome.

Annulments

Certain circumstances like fraud, failure to consummate, bigamy or incapacity at the time of marriage may qualify to have the marriage fully annulled or voided as if it never legally existed. An annulment relieves both parties of all marital rights and responsibilities.

Factors That May Affect Your Divorce

  • Length of the marriage
  • Children
  • Jointly Owned Assets or Debts
  • Income Disparity
  • Business Ownership
  • Employment Status
  • History of domestic violence, substance abuse or criminal history

Family Law Services in Milwaukee

We offer support and legal guidance in Milwaukee for:

Child Custody

Divergent Law helps parents navigate legal and physical child custody determinations during Wisconsin divorces. Wisconsin courts aim for arrangements allowing both parents to remain actively involved, but we will help advocate for solutions aligning with your child’s best interests - whether you would like to pursue sole or joint custody. We will also help you through the process of modifying custody or placement if circumstances change. Our attorneys take the time to understand your family’s dynamics to pursue a custody outcome to benefit your children’s well-being in the long run.

Child Support

Our lawyers ensure child support orders are fair and in compliance with Wisconsin guidelines based on income and child-related expenses. We protect your rights while calculating appropriate financial obligations for your unique situation. Child support amounts can vary significantly, so it’s crucial to have an accurate understanding of what you may owe or be owed.

Use our Wisconsin child support calculator tool to get an initial estimate of monthly payments based on factors like custody arrangements and medical expense costs. Our attorneys go beyond basic calculations to advocate for any adjustments needed due to special circumstances like specialized education or medical needs.

Divorce Mediation

For those seeking to avoid adversarial court battles, our mediators foster a cooperative environment to resolve divorce issues like property division and co-parenting plans out of court. Mediation allows you to have an active voice in crafting divorce terms you can both agree on, rather than leaving it entirely to a judge. It’s typically a much less expensive and less stressful option than litigation.

Paternity

We assist with legally establishing paternity, which determines visitation rights and child support responsibilities for fathers. Taking this step to confirm the biological father is important for pursuing parental rights and ensuring children receive fair financial support. Our lawyers handle paternity cases skillfully whether the parents are married or not.

High Net Worth

Our experienced Milwaukee divorce attorneys skillfully divide complex assets and finances in divorces involving significant wealth and property like businesses or trusts. With high net worth cases, properly valuing and equitably distributing assets is crucial to protecting your interests and investments. We apply a sophisticated understanding of tax implications, asset transfers, business valuations and more.

Military

For military members and spouses, we provide specialized guidance in navigating jurisdictional issues, military benefits and the unique challenges surrounding deployments and relocation. Our attorneys have a deep understanding of how military service and frequent moves impact divorce proceedings. We ensure your entitled benefits like pensions and healthcare are properly divided and we diligently represent your interests even when handling a multi-state or international divorce case.

Flexible Divorce Payment Plans for Milwaukee Families

Turn to Divergent Family Law in Milwaukee for compassionate guidance protecting your rights and future. Our award-winning attorneys provide flexible payment plans to make top-tier legal representation accessible to local families.

We’re proud to serve Milwaukee and communities throughout Wisconsin, including Brookfield, Glendale, Appleton and Madison. Contact us to learn more about divorce costs, timelines and how we can strategically protect your interests.

Milwaukee Free Divorce Seminars

Get honest answers and practical advice by attending one of our free divorce seminars in Milwaukee. Our experienced attorneys will explain Wisconsin’s divorce process clearly and offer strategies for resolving common issues. Learn more today.

What's Next?

You don’t have to walk the divorce path alone. Our compassionate Milwaukee divorce lawyers provide skilled legal guidance to protect your future every step of the way. Whether you need assistance with alimony, child support, obtaining records, dividing property or any other family law matter, we are here to help.

Contact Divergent Family Law today to schedule a private, no-obligation consultation. We serve families from Lake Country, to Germantown, to Oak Creek and everywhere in between.


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