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Navigating the Divorce Process: A Step-by-Step Guide

by | Oct 1, 2023

Going through a divorce brings intense emotions – sadness, anger, and confusion, to name a few. Rest assured, you are not alone in this process. With empathy, understanding, and experience by your side from a law firm like VHD Law,  you can navigate through the divorce process with confidence.

Let’s take an inside look at what walking down the divorce road entails from start to finish right here in Wisconsin. 

Preparing for Divorce

Before any legal filings, paperwork, or proceedings, take time to process the profound life change ahead. That means self-care and leaning on trusted friends or family. You can also seek counseling to provide stability when everything seems uncertain. Once you are ready to take the next steps, sound legal advice guides you in making smart, thoughtful moves. The divorce attorneys at VHD Law have plenty of experience and can guide you in these trying times.

Next, arm yourself with details and documents involving:

  • Assets and debts 
  • Income and expenses
  • Retirement funds
  • Insurance policies
  • Wills and trusts

Compiling these items into one place saves time for all involved down the road. It will prove helpful for you, VHD law divorce attorneys, financial experts, and even the courts. Honest evaluations set expectations on dividing property fairly. Or determining potential child support arrangements if kids are involved. 

Filing for Divorce

Moving forward with the filing of a divorce remains the inevitable next step. Wisconsin divorce laws dictate that this involves submitting various court papers. Among these is the official Summons and Petition, documenting in writing your desire to dissolve the marriage. VHD Law excels at completing these initiator documents as the first building blocks in developing your case.

The divorce petition covers critical areas defining the divorce. That includes the proposed date of separation, custody requests, and division of personal property. Note that the papers must get “served .”That simply means they must be delivered in person. For the most part, this step runs smoothly, as both parties understand what lies ahead. 

This starts the timeline for the other spouse to respond. Our divorce attorneys can serve papers the right way. We do it with dignity and care. This filing also marks the beginning of the cooling-off period. Wisconsin law allows for a “cooling-off” period of 120 days before any final divorce decree is filed. That gives the parties time to think things through and potentially work on settlement agreements. 

Response and Negotiations

The receiving spouse is referred to as the respondent. Once served, the respondent only has 20 days to address the initiation of divorce proceedings by the Petitioner. No response means agreeing to what the papers say. As such, securing counsel immediately is crucial. It allows the Respondent time to craft an appropriate reply. They may dispute certain portions or negotiate for alternative solutions.

A lot rides on the response content and timing. Areas up for discussion range from mundane, like the furniture, to more meaningful areas. Things like retirement accounts and child visitation. Reasoned debate and compromise through representation smooths the process of resolving lumpier questions. Established firms like VHD Law shepherd even the most complex divorce negotiations toward fair conclusions.

Divorce Mediation

Not every divorce ends up in a dramatic courtroom showdown with divorce lawyers. Mediation provides an alternative path for finding a middle ground through open communication. An impartial, neutral mediator facilitates discussions. They aim to lower tensions while identifying common interests both parties share. 

Oftentimes, cooperation and collaboration generate beneficial solutions for both parties. For many ex-couples, it is a preferable option to escalate disputes to a judge who will rule in favor of one side over the other.

The mediation format allows creativity in crafting win-win scenarios with sticking points like:

  • Child custody scheduling
  • Appropriate spousal maintenance payments
  • Division of physical assets like houses or cars

Successful mediation depends on good faith negotiations where participants seriously consider reasonable proposals. Without it, the process can devolve back to square one, which is when legal representation becomes necessary.

Going to Trial

When mediation fails, courts decide unsettled divorce disputes. Wisconsin courts prefer fast case timelines to reduce stress. However, high-asset or child custody cases can take up to 6-12 months.

In court, each party presents evidence and calls witnesses aiming to justify their side’s positioning. VHD Law divorce lawyers play a pivotal role in subjecting testimony to intense scrutiny in relation to the law through objections or fiery cross-examination. At times, special court appointees like guardians and financial experts assess asset valuations and influence judicial outcomes depending on the case complexity. 

Your divorce attorney will take care of the complex legal procedures and paperwork. They will also represent you in court, making sure that your rights are protected and your arguments are heard. Going to trial can be an intimidating experience. Having a skilled divorce lawyer on your side can greatly increase your chances of a favorable outcome.

Ultimately, the judge makes binding decisions. These dictate the terms of the divorce if warring spouses remain at odds.

Finalizing the Divorce

Even after the decree, divorce finalization takes time. Closing the book on married life only occurs over time with practical changes. Critical post-divorce checklist items include:

  • Updating beneficiary status on insurance policies, wills, and trusts
  • Submitting qualifications for mortgage refinancing
  • Changing back to maiden names via the DMV and Social Security Administration

If kids are involved, custody details adapt over time. Periodic parent coordination and mediation provide an adaptable way to smooth out wrinkles while avoiding future court interference. 

Consider VHD Law your partners along the whole journey – from legally ending the marriage to restructuring life afterward. 

Choose Wisely Who to Walk With

One day in the future, your divorce will transform from painful to another chapter in a winding life story. The professional support and counsel surrounding you along the way impacts how fast you reach that point. 

Do your due diligence in researching and selecting who to trust during these major legal decisions. With deep expertise in family law and commitment to client well-being, VHD Law is here every step, navigating the road to a smooth divorce. Our experience builds the confidence and empathy to advocate through even the thorniest cases. Contact VHD Law today to schedule a free initial consultation with a divorce lawyer in Wisconsin. You’ll get educated answers to all your pressing divorce questions. With reliable advisors by your side, the fog will soon lift to reveal brighter days ahead.

Written by Vanden Heuvel & Dineen, S.C.


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