WI Divorce in Wisconsin – Laws, Attorneys & Family Lawyers WI


Getting a divorce in Wisconsin takes at least 4 months as there is a mandatory waiting period of 120 days after the WI divorce papers have been filed before the decree can be issued and the marriage dissolved. Wisconsin is a “no fault” state, this means the only grounds for a WI divorce is if the marriage is “irretrievably broken” and thus there is no burden to prove wrongdoing.

According to an estimate, divorce rate in Wisconsin is 3.0% per 1,000 of the population which is low compared to other states.

In Wisconsin, for religious reasons annulment is not encouraged. Divorce is a relatively easy process to deal with, along with this there is a clear award in divorce which is distributed equally between the parties whereas annulment doesn’t have it. In addition to this, the requirements for annulment are difficult and severe to prove both legally and religiously.

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Wisconsin State’s qualified and professional divorce lawyers are there to help you with the legalities of a divorce process.

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Grounds for Divorce in Wisconsin

To file for divorce in WI, you have to base your case on a divorce ground. Like other states, Wisconsin has following divorce grounds:

Voluntary Irretrievable Breakdown of Marriage

Irretrievable breakdown of marriage is a valid divorce ground in Wisconsin. If a marriage is irretrievably broken and both or any of the spouses have voluntarily lived apart for at least one year or more with no hope of reconciliation, the divorce court will announce divorce after hearings.

Involuntary Irretrievable Breakdown

If it was an involuntary separation for a period of 12 months and one of the spouses petitions in favor of marriage’s irretrievable breakdown, the court will consider it a valid divorce ground. However the divorce will be granted only after the court takes in account:

  • All the relevant factors i.e. grounds leading to petition of divorce
  • Any possible hope of reconciliation.

Breakdown of Marital Relationship

Breakdown of marital relationship is a valid ground for divorce in Wisconsin state. If one of the spouses claim that marital relationship is broken, the court will investigate the matter before granting a divorce decree on this divorce ground in Wisconsin.

Contact a professional divorce attorney or divorce lawyer for detailed information regarding divorce grounds in Wisconsin.

WI Divorce Laws

Wisconsin has following divorce laws:

Residency Requirements

According to the Wisconsin divorce laws, you can only file your divorce case if it falls under the jurisdiction of Wisconsin courts. For that you have to meet with the Wisconsin courts’ strict residency laws.

Residency Requirements in Wisconsin

The state of Wisconsin has following residency requirements:

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  • You or your spouse must be a Wisconsin resident for at least six (6) months.
  • You and your spouse should be the resident of the county in which you will be filing a case, for a period of atleast thirty (30) days.
  • Divorce laws of Wisconsin require 120 days expiration after service of the petition before the hearing is approved.
  • It also requires expiration of 120 days after you file the joint appeal.

Documents Required for Filing Divorce in Wisconsin

Wisconsin divorce laws require possession of following documents if you want to file for divorce:

  • Complaint for Divorce
  • Final Decree of Divorce

Distribution of Property in Wisconsin

Wisconsin’s divorce laws have “Marital Settlement Agreement” for settling property distribution issues. You and your spouse can settle it by signing this agreement. Incase both of you are unable to reach a workable agreement; the divorce court will distribute the property basing its decision on a number of variables, like:

  • Segregation of marital property from individual property.
  • According a value to your marital or community property in keeping with the current property prices.
  • Appropriate and fair distribution of marital or community property. This division is not necessarily equal.

Change of Name or Restoration of Name in Wisconsin

According to the dictates of the WI divorce laws, both you and your spouse can take up the former names after the finalization of the divorce.

Mediation Counseling in Wisconsin

Incase you and your spouse are unable to settle child custody issue, Wisconsin divorce laws will require both parties to go for mandatory mediation. Divorce laws of Wisconsin may also dictate mediation in favor of joint custodial arrangements or parental support program.

Alimony in Wisconsin

Permanent or temporary alimony is usually granted during the case proceedings under Wisconsin divorce laws. You and your spouse or one of you can also be awarded maintenance for a particular or unspecified time period by Wisconsin courts.

Child Custody in Wisconsin

All divorce courts under Wisconsin divorce laws take in account following aspects when deciding child custody issues:

  • Wishes of you and your spouse or both of you and your child.
  • Child’s preference. Either communicated by him/herself or vocalized by the guardian.
  • Interrelationship of your child with you, your spouse, his/her sibling or any other person.

Child Support in Wisconsin

For settling child support issue, Wisconsin divorce laws require divorce courts to take in consideration merit, burden, financial situation and other relevant variables.

Contact a professional divorce attorney or divorce lawyer for comprehensive divorce laws information in your state.

How to file for divorce in WI

There are several steps to file for divorce in WI, below are the most basic. Fees and form requirements vary form county to county;

  1. Prepare your plan for divorce (ideally come to an agreement with your spouse)
  2. Prepare your forms (these will depend on your circumstances)
  3. Complete your forms and collect the required documentation
  4. File your forms with the county clerk and pay the required fee
  5. Serve your forms (officially notify your spouse)
  6. Prepare financial disclosures (be clear and detail everything)
  7. Await a response (default, uncontested or contested)
  8. Attend trial (if the divorce is uncontested, this is relatively easy)

A contested response is where your spouse disagrees with your filing. This is the most expensive and complex of divorces, thus it is recommended that you agree your plan with your spouse in advance. The WI family law court have a handy online tool to help you find the correct papers and forms – you can access it here.

Wisconsin Annulment Laws

Annulment is a legal decree terminating an already illegal marriage. To get annulment in Wisconsin, you need to have a valid annulment ground recognized by Wisconsin annulment laws. Following are the legal Wisconsin annulment grounds:

Underage Marriage

If you or your spouse is under the legal marriageable age that is 16 years, you cannot get married without the permission of your parents or court. However if you have gotten married, both you and your spouse can obtain annulment under Wisconsin annulment laws.

Mental Incapacitation

It is a state in which a person looses all the senses and does not have enough discretion left to judge things. To obtain annulment on this annulment ground, you have to give a surgeon’s certificate seconding your claim.

Influence of Drugs or Alcohol

According to Wisconsin annulment laws, if your spouse is involved in habitual intoxication of drugs or liquor like opium, cocaine or morphine, you can obtain annulment.


Fraud is a valid annulment ground in Wisconsin. If you have been tricked into a marital contract, you can bail out by filing a petition under Wisconsin annulment laws.


Getting the consent for marriage by force or duress is a crime. If your spouse has forced or threatened you into a marriage, you can claim Wisconsin annulment.

Physical Disability

Physical disability in a spouse is a legal annulment ground according to Wisconsin annulment laws. You can file for annulment if physical disability in your spouse is adversely affecting your married life.

WI Divorce Laws- Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What should I do when served with divorce papers?

    According to Wisconsin divorce laws, if you are served with divorce papers, you must reply in writing and counter-claim within 20 days. If you ignore this then the court will enter a default judgment against you in future.

  2. I want a divorce but my spouse does not, what should I do?

    Wisconsin is a no-fault state, which means that each spouse has a right to file a Wisconsin divorce. The only divorce ground is irretrievable breakdown of marriage.

  3. How long does it take to get divorced in Wisconsin?

    Wisconsin divorce takes a minimum of 4 months, but usually around 6 months to 1 year.

  4. What are the residency requirements for a WI divorce?

    According to Wisconsin divorce laws, a person who is filing for a Wisconsin divorce must be a resident of the state for at least six months and must be residing in the country for the last 30 days.

  5. Can I get a Wisconsin divorce if I don’t know where my spouse is?

    Yes, you can claim a divorce but you have to give a proof of the efforts made by you in finding your spouse. You have to publish an advertisement in the newspaper when you file for a divorce in Wisconsin.

  6. What is the procedure of child custody?

    Child custody is one of the main issues of a divorce. Wisconsin divorce laws give full rights to the child for choosing the custodial parent. In case the child is too young to decide, the court considers other issues like behavior, affection etc of the parents.

  7. What is maintenance?

    The money given by one spouse to another for fulfilling the financial requirements during or after a divorce is known as maintenance. Maintenance is commonly known as alimony or spousal support.

  8. How does the divorce court decide the amount of maintenance?

    Wisconsin divorce laws require the divorce court to take in account following factors for deciding maintenance: * Duration of marriage * Earning capacity * Living standards * Age of the spouse * Or any other factor the court finds relevant.

  9. Can I and my spouse hire the same divorce lawyer in WI?

    WI divorce laws strictly prohibit one divorce lawyer to represent both the spouses at the same time. Generally in Wisconsin, one spouse acquires a divorce lawyer while the other one represents him/her self.

  10. What is mediation?

    Mediation is an attempt to reconcile the differences between husband and wife with the help of a mediator. The role of mediator is to communicate and clear all the differences of the spouses.

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