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How Long Does a Divorce Take in Wisconsin

by | Dec 9, 2022

In the state of Wisconsin, you must file a divorce action in your home county. If you are the one filing for divorce, you must be a state resident for a minimum of 120 days or six months before filing. You are also required to have resided in the county where you plan to file for at least 30 days before the filing. 

It is important to note that many factors go into a Wisconsin divorce. Because of how complex this legal process can be, it is recommended that you hire an attorney to help you along the way. 

While having legal representation is recommended, you can find more information about the Wisconsin divorce process here. 

Filing for Divorce in Wisconsin

You must file the Summons and Petition in your county of residence. If you are filing for divorce, you must also be a county resident and have lived there 30 days prior to the filing. It is necessary that you have state residency and have held this designation for a minimum of six months before filing for divorce.  

It is also necessary to get the proper forms to file for divorce in the state. You can find these forms on the Wisconsin Court website

As the petitioner (the person filing for divorce), you have 90 days from when the forms are filed to serve the opposing party with the Summons and Petition. 

The Divorce Process Timeline

After filing the Summons and Petition for a divorce from your spouse, you must wait an additional 120 days. After 120 days, the law states that you can be divorced; however, it will usually take more than 120 days to finalize. Also, the two parties are not officially divorced until all issues are agreed on or by having a trial where the judge rules on the issues in the divorce. 

Types of Wisconsin Divorces

In Wisconsin, it is possible to file for several types of divorces. 

Divorce vs. Legal Separation

The process for divorce and legal separation in Wisconsin is essentially the same. The biggest difference between these is that if you are legally separated, you cannot remarry. 

With a divorce, you can remarry after you wait six months (this is the required amount of time to finalize a divorce). 

You may wonder why you would want a legal separation instead of a divorce. One advantage of this is the residency requirement. You can also begin the process faster. 

If you file for a legal separation, you must be a resident of the count for the same 30 days as a divorce; however, there are no state residency requirements. 

Also, there are some health insurance plans that, according to the contractual language, will only terminate the coverage for a divorced couple, but this does not apply to cases of legal separation. This means that the spouse covered by their significant other can still receive health care benefits. 

To save money related to healthcare coverage, the non-employee spouse can seek a legal separation instead of a divorce. 

Collaborative Divorce 

If you and your spouse can communicate but struggle to agree on the details of your divorce, and you both want an attorney’s device, the collaborative divorce is a smart choice. If so, a collaborative divorce is a smart choice. This is especially the case when it comes to situations where you want to work together for your children.

There are a few benefits offered by collaborative divorce. This includes the following:

  • It is simpler than litigation
  • It occurs outside of the courtroom and occurs in an informal setting
  • You get to exchange information voluntarily 
  • It is possible to negotiate a settlement agreement that works for both of you 
  • You can decide how you will handle any post-settlement disputes
  • You can save time (studies have shown that collaborative divorces conclude in about eight months while traditional divorces take 12 to 18 months)

It is important to note that there are some considerations to consider when seeking a collaborative divorce. For example, if you break the collaborative pledge, it can be expensive. If you are interested in a collaborative divorce, having an attorney is still recommended. This will help you get the best possible outcome for your situation. 

Filing a Joint Petition for Divorce 

You may wonder if it is possible to file a joint petition for divorce so that neither one is named as the initiator of the action. 

In the state of Wisconsin, this is possible. It can be done if you file a Joint Petition for Divorce. With this, both parties must sign the document, and then each person is designed as the Joint Petitioner. The paperwork must then be filed with the Clerk of Courts in the county where both parties live. To file the divorce action, you must be a State resident for a minimum of six months and a resident in the county for a minimum of 30 days before filing. 

Property Division Considerations in a Wisconsin Divorce

Wisconsin is an “equitable distribution” state. Usually, both parties will agree on how the assets are divided. However, if this is impossible, the court will distribute the assets between the two parties equitably. 

It is important to note that equitable doesn’t always mean equal. Instead, the court will determine what is fair and reasonable. 

Residency Valuation in a Divorce

There are four ways that you can value your marital home:

  • Have a professional appraiser value it. 
  • Request that a real estate agent provide a market analysis by comparing real estate in the market area. 
  • Use the fair market value determined by your total real estate taxes.
  • Agree on a value with your spouse. 

In the modern economy, it is essential that you value your home when a divorce occurs. In some situations, the appraisal is done several months before the divorce, and the value of the real estate could change significantly. 

The Name on the Mortgage or Deed of the House 

In some situations, a house may be in one person’s name. They may believe that because this is how things are set up, they will automatically get the property. 

This is not how it works. 

Unless the house was inherited or given as a gift, it is subject to division. While the person whose name is on the house may get it, they will have to “buy out” their spouse’s interest. 

Just because the house is in one person’s name, it does not mean that the other person has no marital interest in the property. An attorney can help you understand your rights and options regarding the marital house. 

Common Questions Related to Divorce in Wisconsin

If you are planning to file for divorce, you will likely have some questions. Answers to some of the most common questions are found here. 

Can you receive money from your spouse’s Social Security?

If you have been married for 10 years or more, you may receive social security benefits if you are widowed because your ex-spouse passes away. This is true even if you have gotten divorced and your ex-spouse remarries. 

The benefits paid to a divorced, surviving spouse who is 60 years of age or older won’t impact the benefit rates for anyone else who will receive benefits. This means your children’s benefits will not be impacted if you are over 60. 

If you get remarried before turning 60, then you will lose the right to survivor’s benefits from your ex-spouse unless your current marriage ends before your former spouse dies. If you get remarried after you turn 60, you will still be able to receive benefits from your former spouse’s social security. 

What happens if your spouse is trying to hide assets in your divorce?

If you believe that your spouse is hiding assets and they own a business, you need to obtain a copy of the tax return for the business. You can do this by requesting form 4506 from the IRS. You must get your spouse to sign this form; however, the court will compel this to happen. 

There are several methods that your spouse may be used to try to hide money in their business. Examples include paying a salary to friends or family members, delaying the receipt of funds, waiting to deposit funds, purchasing furniture, art, and other items of value in the business’s name to increase depreciation and expense write-offs, inflating the costs of things, and more. 

It is best to hire an accountant to help you determine the true value of your spouse’s business and their income. 

Hire an Attorney for Help with Your Wisconsin Divorce

If you are filing for divorce in Wisconsin, you should have an attorney representing your needs and interests. We have years of experience handling divorce cases and will help you with the process. 

Remember, the amount of time your divorce will take to finalize depends on the situation and circumstances. More complex cases will obviously take longer to settle. 

Written by Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.

Divorce | Family Law

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