The end of a marriage is often an emotional and challenging time for those involved. As difficult as this transition may be, understanding the legal process of divorce in Wisconsin can help alleviate some of the stress and uncertainty.
This post will double as an informative guide to navigating the complexities of divorce in Wisconsin. Read on, so you can focus on the next chapter of your life.
How does divorce work in Wisconsin?
Whether you’re the one filing or are responding to a divorce filing, it’s important to understand the legal process.
Wisconsin is a “no-fault” divorce state. Either spouse can file for divorce without proving any wrongdoing or fault by the other party. To initiate the divorce process in Wisconsin, you must meet certain requirements and follow procedures. Here’s an overview of what to expect:
Residency Requirements: To file for divorce in Wisconsin, at least one spouse must have been a resident of the state for a minimum of six months. They must also be a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least 30 days.
Filing the Petition: The divorce process begins when one spouse files a Petition for Divorce with the Clerk of Circuit Court. The petition outlines the details of the marriage, the grounds for divorce, and any requests.
Since divorce is a civil matter, it’s important to keep the language used in the petition respectful and avoid making accusations. The petition must be signed and notarized before being filed with the court.
Serving the Papers: Once the petition is filed, the other spouse (the respondent) must be served with the divorce papers. This can be done either by a process server, sheriff’s deputy, or through the mail. The respondent then has 20 days to respond to the petition, either by agreeing to its terms or contesting them.
Mandatory Waiting Period: Wisconsin law requires a 120-day waiting period before the divorce can be final. This cool-off period allows both parties time to consider their options. If possible, they may even attempt reconciliation.
Temporary Orders: During the waiting period, either spouse can request temporary orders from the court. These orders can address issues such as child custody, child support, and spousal support. Assets and property use are also in play.
Discovery Process: If the spouses cannot agree on the divorce terms, they may engage in a discovery process. They will gather information about each other’s assets, debts, income, and other relevant matters. This can include exchanging financial documents, conducting depositions, and serving interrogatories.
Mediation or Settlement Conferences: Before the case goes to trial, the spouses and their lawyers may attend mediation. In other words, they can attempt to resolve their differences and come to an agreement. Mediation is an excellent option in amicable divorces, as it allows the couple to have more control over the outcome of their divorce.
Trial: If the spouses cannot reach an agreement through mediation or a settlement conference, the case will proceed to trial. During the trial, both parties present evidence and arguments to the judge, who will then make a final decision on all contested issues.
Finalizing the Divorce: Once the judge has made a decision, a Judgment of Divorce will be issued. It finalizes the divorce and sets forth the settlement terms. The divorce becomes final once the judgment is entered by the court.
Why You Should Hire an Attorney to Help File for Divorce in Wisconsin
Mind you; it is possible to file for divorce without legal representation. However, hiring an experienced family law attorney to assist you with the process can provide many benefits:
Expert Knowledge: Divorce lawyers are well-versed in the intricacies of Wisconsin law. They can ensure that your paperwork is filed correctly and that you comply with all legal requirements.
Negotiation and Mediation: A skilled divorce attorney can help negotiate a fair settlement on your behalf. You can potentially avoid the need for a lengthy and costly trial. They can also represent you in mediation sessions, increasing the likelihood of reaching an agreement.
Objective Advice: Going through a divorce can be emotionally charged, and it can be challenging to make rational decisions. A divorce attorney can provide objective advice, helping you make informed decisions in your best interest.
Protection of Your Rights: A divorce lawyer will work to ensure your rights are protected throughout the divorce process. They will advocate for a fair division of assets, child custody arrangements, and support payments. If the opposing party shows up with an attorney, you’ll be at a disadvantage without one. Level the playing field by obtaining experienced legal representation.
Wisconsin Divorce Best Practices and Tips
Navigating the divorce process in Wisconsin can be smoother and less stressful if you follow these best practices and tips:
Gather Financial Documents: Prepare for the divorce process by gathering the necessary financial documents. These include bank statements, tax returns, property deeds, and retirement account statements. This will help all parties involved understand your financial situation.
Create a Support Network: Surround yourself with supportive friends, family members, and professionals. Lean on them for emotional support and guidance during the divorce process.
Stay Organized: Keep track of all paperwork, correspondence, and deadlines throughout the divorce process. Being organized will help ensure you are prepared for meetings with your attorney and court appearances.
Maintain Open Communication: Be honest with your attorney about your goals and concerns. Clear communication is key to a successful attorney-client relationship and can help you achieve the best possible outcome in your divorce.
Prioritize Self-Care: Don’t forget to take care of your well-being during the divorce process. Exercise, eat healthily, and seek therapy or counseling if needed.
Contact Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C. Today
If you are considering filing a divorce in Wisconsin, the skilled family law attorneys at Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C. are here to help. We understand the complexities and emotional challenges of a divorce. Our team is committed to providing our clients with compassionate and effective legal representation.
Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. Discuss your case with an experienced attorney who can guide you through every step of the divorce process.