The Difference between a Wisconsin Legal Separation and a Wisconsin Divorce
You may hear the words “separated” and “divorced” used interchangeably. But legal separation and divorce are two very different things and it is important to know and understand the differences.
Divorce ends the marriage
There is a reason we say that a marriage ended in divorce. Divorce — also known as dissolution of marriage – terminates the marriage and dissolves the bonds of matrimony under the rule of law in a particular state. Because Wisconsin is a “no fault” state, the spouses do not need to provide justification or supporting evidence to file for divorce. Only one spouse is required to testify that they believe the marriage is irretrievably broken, meaning there is no chance for reconciliation.
In Wisconsin, when a couple divorces, the court rules on several related matters including how the property will be divided, any spousal support, and — if there are minor children from the marriage — arrangements for child custody, placement and child support. Wisconsin has a mandatory 120-day waiting period to get a divorce; once the divorce is finalized, neither party can remarry for a period of six months according to current Wisconsin law.
Legal separation lacks the finality of divorce in that it does not end the marriage. The spouses may reconcile at any time. In a legal separation, the spouses must provide a reason as to why they are requesting a legal separation instead of a divorce. And, as is done in a divorce proceeding, the Wisconsin court rules on property as well as issues concerning any minor children. Couples are required to complete a 120-day waiting period to obtain a legal separation.
While legally separated, the spouses may not marry another person. However, where both spouses agree, they may change the legal separation to a divorce at any time. After one year from the date of legal separation either spouse may ask the court to convert the legal separation into a divorce, by attesting that the marriage is now irretrievably broken. If accepted by the court, the Judgment of Legal Separation is adopted by the court as the Judgment of Divorce. No additional proceedings are necessary.
Thinking of legally separating from your spouse or contemplating divorce? Contact our skilled Wisconsin divorce lawyers for guidance
The decision to legally separate from your spouse – or file for divorce – is a personal, emotional, and important decision. It is critical you understand Wisconsin family law as it applies to both legal separation and divorce in order to make an informed decision. The divorce lawyers at Milwaukee family law firm Bandle & Zaeske, LLP can help. Our experienced attorneys assist couples through the legal separation and divorce process, skillfully navigating the court system to reach the best possible outcome in each situation. We offer a free initial consultation to discuss your case. To schedule an appointment, contact us at 414-359-1424 or contact us online.