It typically takes six months to a year to finalize a divorce in Wisconsin. However, the length of time it takes to complete a divorce in Wisconsin varies based on a number of factors, including the case’s complexity, the model the parties choose to resolve their issues, whether or not the divorce is contested or uncontested, and how busy the court is.
Generally, the divorce process can be completed more quickly if both parties are in agreement on every matter and there is no conflict. In Wisconsin, a final divorce judgment cannot be issued until 120 days have passed since the date the divorce petition was filed (if a joint petition) or served on the responding party if only one person signs and files the petition. If the divorce is contested, it may take much longer—possibly several months or even a few years—as the parties sort out the legal, custody, and financial issues and go through the judicial process.
Every divorce case is different, and depending on the particular circumstances involved, the timing can change. It’s important to speak with a Madison divorce lawyer for advice on your particular situation.
Wisconsin Divorce Process
The divorce process in Wisconsin has multiple steps that need to be followed in order to properly finalize a divorce.
Filing for Divorce
In Wisconsin, a Petition for Divorce must be submitted to the Circuit Court in the county where either the petitioner or the respondent resides. Parties may agree to sign and file the petition together, in which case they are called joint petitioners. If only one spouse wishes to file, that spouse is the petitioner, and the other spouse who receives the petition and has the chance to reply is the respondent. The petition should state that the marriage is irretrievably broken and state the relief sought, such as a judgment of divorce, terms of child custody, child support, spousal support, and property division. Wisconsin is a no-fault divorce state, which means that the only grounds for a divorce are an “irretrievable breakdown” of the marriage with no hope of reconciliation. A divorce will be granted without the need to prove fault or blame on either spouse.
If the parties both sign and file the petition, no one needs to be served. If only one spouse is the petitioner, then the petitioner must serve a copy of the petition and a summons on the respondent. Someone other than the petitioner must carry out service, such as a private process server or a sheriff’s deputy, and the court must receive proof of service. After the respondent has been served, the respondent has the opportunity to file an answer, or response, to the petition, which may include a counter-petition setting out what the respondent seeks for the terms of the final divorce judgment. The respondent has 20 days from the date of service to file a response in Wisconsin.
Temporary orders are court orders that may be issued while a divorce case is pending to provide stability to the parties and their families and to ensure that the parties and any children involved are taken care of until the final divorce judgment is entered. These orders may address issues such as temporary child custody and placement (the schedule for the children), child support, spousal support, and property division. Either side may request temporary orders, and the parties may submit a written agreement to the court setting out the terms they want in their temporary order. If they do not have an agreement, a hearing will be held before a commissioner, who will decide the terms of the temporary order. The court will consider the parties’ arguments about their children’s best interests, each party’s financial circumstances, and the parties’ circumstances before the divorce.
Temporary orders are often meant to maintain the status quo, but they may be altered when circumstances change. One party may ask the court to modify the temporary order, for instance, if the party’s living situation or income changes. It’s crucial to remember that the temporary orders are binding only while the action is pending, and ultimately, the terms of the final divorce judgment will take their place. Nevertheless, they should be taken seriously because they can have a significant impact on the parties’ lives and the lives of their children.
Discovery is a pre-trial process where both parties exchange information and evidence relevant to the issues in their divorce case. The purpose of discovery is to give both parties the opportunity to compile all the pertinent information they need to work out the terms of their settlement or get ready for trial if they can’t reach a settlement. Discovery may include a variety of methods, such as informal requests for documents (the preferred option), formal requests for the production of documents, formal questions or interrogatories that the other party is to answer under oath, depositions, when a party may be questioned under oath with a court reporter taking everything down, and requests for admission, again to be answered under oath. The parties’ money, possessions, debts, and any other information pertinent to the issues in their divorce may be discovered using these techniques. In Wisconsin, throughout the discovery process, both parties have an obligation to provide all pertinent information and evidence. Penalties and punishments may be imposed for failing to provide pertinent information. Parties can spend thousands of dollars on formal discovery if they or their attorneys are unwilling or unable to exchange information voluntarily in response to informal requests.
Negotiation and settlement are the most important aspects of the divorce process in Wisconsin. The parties should always try to settle their case through settlement talks before considering going to trial. Settlement talks must include all of the issues involved in the parties’ divorce: child custody, placement (schedule), child support, spousal support, and property distribution. Negotiation and settlement typically take place outside of court, either through direct negotiations between the parties and their attorneys or through an alternative dispute resolution method such as mediation. If parties use the collaborative process for their divorce, they agree to resolve all of their issues without using the court process, and their attorneys are trained to use mediation and negotiation techniques. In both mediation and collaborative processes, the parties negotiate a solution that is acceptable to both of them without turning to the court system.
If the parties are unable to come to an agreement, the matter will move forward to trial, at which both parties present evidence and arguments to the judge, and then the judge decides the issues the parties are unable to resolve. Judges typically support parties reaching agreements regarding the issues in their divorce. Agreements give the parties control over the process and spare them the time, anxiety, expense, and uncertainty of a trial. Having a skilled Madison family law attorney helps a party reach an agreement or get through the trial process, if that is what is necessary.
Once all issues have been resolved, either by agreement or a court’s decision, the court will issue a final judgment of divorce. In Wisconsin, there is a mandatory waiting period of 120 days from the date of service of the divorce petition before a final divorce judgment can be entered. The judgment will include the terms of the settlement agreement or the court’s decision on all issues, including property division, child custody, placement (schedule), child support, and spousal support. Parties are divorced and considered single as of the date the divorce is entered, but they may not remarry for six months from that date.
How Long Does It Take To File Divorce Papers?
One of the parties must be a resident of the state of Wisconsin for at least six months before either of them may file for divorce, and one of the parties must be a resident of a county for at least 30 days before either of them may file a divorce action in that county. Both parties may sign a joint petition, or only one person may sign and file a petition and summons. The only justification for filing for divorce is if the party believes the marriage is irretrievably broken with no possibility of reconciliation. There is a 120-day waiting period from the date a joint petition is filed or the responding spouse is served before a divorce judgment may be granted.
How Long Does It Take To Finalize a Divorce in Wisconsin?
In Wisconsin, a divorce cannot be finalized until 120 days have passed since the joint divorce petition was filed or a petition filed by one party has been served on the other. This waiting period is intended to give the parties time to work out the issues in their divorce and, if possible, come to a settlement of all the issues. After the waiting period has passed, the divorce might be finalized quickly if the parties are able to come to a settlement agreement. However, the matter can go to trial if the parties are unable to come to an agreement, which adds more time (and expense) to the divorce process.
The intricacies of the case, the court’s timetable, and whether or not there are any contentious matters that need to be resolved are additional factors that will influence the timeline for concluding a divorce.
How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take in Wisconsin?
In Wisconsin, a divorce is considered uncontested if the parties can agree on terms resolving all of the issues between them, including the division of assets, spousal support, child custody and placement, and child support. A disputed divorce typically takes much longer to finalize than an uncontested divorce.
Regardless of whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, there is a mandatory waiting period of 120 days from the date a joint petition is filed or the divorce petition is served on the responding party before the divorce can be finalized in Wisconsin. An uncontested divorce can often be finalized soon after the 120-day waiting period, provided that the parties have agreed on all matters and can file the required signed agreement in a timely manner. A realistic time frame for an uncontested divorce is four to six months.
How Long Does Divorce Mediation Take in Wisconsin?
The complexity of the issues between the parties, their willingness to provide full financial information and documentation, their desire to reach a resolution, and the skill of their mediator are some of the factors that can affect how long divorce mediation takes in Wisconsin.
The mediation process can range from a few weeks to many months. Most mediation sessions last no more than two hours. In the first mediation session, the mediator will outline the procedure and assist the parties in identifying the issues that need to be resolved. After that, mediation sessions are scheduled as needed to address the particular issues and concerns between the parties. The number and duration of mediation sessions will vary according to how complicated the parties’ issues are and how able they are to share information and negotiate agreements resolving their issues.
If the parties agree, the mediator may draft a written document setting out the parties’ agreements that can be submitted to the court for approval. The divorce can be finalized, and the parties will be divorced as soon as the court approves their agreements and grants their divorce.
For immediate help with your divorce case, please call (608) 219-8619 now!
Wisconsin Divorce Timeline FAQs
Does Wisconsin Require Separation Before Divorce?
A physical separation is not necessary in Wisconsin before either or both parties request a divorce. Wisconsin has no formal separation procedure. Wisconsin recognizes that physical separation is a personal choice that the state does not mandate for couples experiencing marital difficulties. Parties should keep in mind that even though they are living apart, they are still legally married until the divorce is finalized.
How Long After Divorce in Wisconsin Can You Remarry?
All divorced spouses are required to wait six months after the date their divorce is granted in Wisconsin before getting married again (Wisconsin Statute 765.03). Any out-of-state weddings performed earlier than six months following the finalization of a divorce will be regarded as void.
How Long Do You Have to Be Married to Get Alimony (Maintenance) in Wisconsin?
In Wisconsin, the word for alimony is maintenance, and there are no set rules regarding the duration of the marriage to qualify for maintenance. Instead, the length of the marriage is just one of ten factors the parties and the court will consider when deciding whether or not one party should receive maintenance. If the parties or the court determine that maintenance is appropriate, the amount and duration of the payments must also be set.
The factors set out in Wisconsin statutes for consideration in maintenance include the length of the parties’ marriage, each spouse’s age and health, their earning potential, the standard of living they enjoyed while they were together, their education and training, and their contributions to the marriage, as well as “such other factors as the court may… determine to be relevant.” Maintenance is not automatically given in Wisconsin and is only awarded if one spouse can show a need for support and the other has the means to pay the support. In addition, the term and amount of maintenance may differ significantly based on the particulars of the case.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Divorce in Wisconsin?
Whether the divorce is contested or uncontested, the complexity of the issues involved, the model the parties use to resolve their issues, and their attorney fees are just a few of the variables that will affect how much their divorce in Wisconsin will cost.
The costs may be modest if the parties are able to agree on all issues in their case. In Wisconsin, the filing fee for a divorce is currently $184.50 if there is no request for child or spousal support. It is $194.50 if there is a request for a support order, and there may be extra costs for serving papers or creating a parenting plan if minor children are involved. The cost of a divorce lawyer may also differ significantly depending on the model the parties choose (mediation, collaborative law, litigation), the attorney’s “style” and hourly rate, and the complexity of the parties’ issues. Costs will be significantly greater if the divorce is contentious and requires lengthy negotiations or litigation. In this situation, expert witnesses or protracted court hearings may be necessary, both of which dramatically raise the couple’s divorce costs.