Wisconsin Divorce FAQs

Wisconsin Divorce Law FAQ’s

Milwaukee Divorce Lawyers Answer Your Questions

If you want to know how to get a divorce in Wisconsin, look no further. Gathered below is the basic information about Wisconsin divorce laws you need to get you started if you are filing for divorce. If you are unsure how to file, what to do if you’ve been served papers, or are still unsure if you really want a divorce or not we’ll give you the initial resources (in Wisconsin divorce FAQs form) to get started. If you have any further questions or concerns, either check out our services or contact us directly to set up a free consultation.


How do I begin divorce proceedings?

To begin a divorce, you must file a Summons and Petition for Divorce. Your spouse must be served with this Summons and Petition for Divorce within 60 days after you file. You can file a motion with the Court asking that this 60-day deadline be extended but it would be up to the judge assigned to your case whether or not to extend this deadline. There are two ways you can serve papers on your spouse: (1) Your spouse can sign an Admission of Service or (2) a process server or police department/sheriff’s department can serve the papers. 


What do I do if I am served with divorce papers?

You must file a written Response and Counterclaim within 20 days from the date you are served with the Summons and Petition for Divorce. This must be sent to the Court with a copy sent to your spouse or his/her attorney. If you do not file a written response, the Court could enter a default judgment against you in the future.

If you want the divorce as well, you should also file a Counterclaim for Divorce. This means that if your spouse changes his/her mind in the future and asks that the divorce be dismissed, the Court could deny that request and grant you a judgment of divorce instead on your counterclaim. 


What if I don’t want a divorce?

In Wisconsin, we have a “no fault” state. The only grounds for a divorce is irretrievable breakdown or an inability to repair the marriage. Because it takes two willing people to have a marriage, the Court will most likely grant a judgment of divorce even

if only one party wants the divorce as long as one party testifies that he or she feels that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that the marriage cannot be repaired. 


How long does a divorce take?

There is a 120-day waiting period in Wisconsin during which your divorce cannot be finalized. Most divorces take between six months and one year to finalize although it can be longer if there are contested issues. 


How do I support myself or see my children while the divorce is pending?

In most cases, temporary orders need to be set which are effective during the time it takes to complete your divorce action. These temporary orders could cover custody, placement, support, maintenance, temporary use of personal property and/or bank accounts, temporary use of the marital residence, and temporary allocation of debts. While these orders are temporary and should have no bearing on the final outcome of your divorce, in reality, many courts continue temporary orders as permanent orders if they appear to work (i.e. placement schedules). 


How do I obtain these temporary orders?

To request temporary orders, you must file an Order to Show Cause for Temporary Orders and Affidavit for Temporary Orders. These documents compel your spouse’s appearance at a first or temporary hearing which is almost always scheduled before a court commissioner rather than a judge. This first or temporary hearing is usually scheduled within four to six weeks of the date you request a hearing.


 What if I don’t like the court commissioner’s decision?

If you do not agree with the court commissioner’s orders at this first or temporary hearing or any other hearing before a court commissioner, you may request a Hearing De Novo before the judge assigned for your case. A Hearing De Novo is a hearing where the judge hears the matter as if it had not been heard before and is not supposed to give any deference to the court commissioner’s decision. 


What if my spouse leaves me for someone else or is living with someone else?

Because Wisconsin is a “no-fault” state, one party’s infidelity is irrelevant for most issues. The court cannot consider this fact in dividing property, awarding maintenance, setting support or other financial matters. It can impact on custody and placement issues, however, if this significant other has a negative or harmful impact on the minor children.

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