Guide to the Divorce Process in Wisconsin
Contemplating divorce is never easy, and if you need a divorce in Wisconsin, you may feel overwhelmed by paperwork and jargon. Divorce is essentially a civil lawsuit, and it entails all of the legal snarls that a lawsuit can. This guide will help you to understand the divorce process in Wisconsin, including explaining some of the confusing jargon that surrounds divorce procedure.
Petition and Summons
While you and your spouse may or may not have spoken about divorce before, the actual legal divorce process in Wisconsin begins only when one spouse files a petition for divorce. While some states require that you state specific grounds for a divorce, Wisconsin has only one legal basis for allowing divorce: you must certify that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”
The divorce petition also allows the spouse filing for divorce to make requests of the court. The first and most obvious of these is the request for the divorce itself. Other things that may be requested include child custody, child support, spousal support (alimony), health insurance for the spouse or child, or even a restraining order.
The petition, along with a summons that notifies the other person legal proceedings have begun in their name, must be filed and then a copy served to the other spouse. Usually, this part of the divorce process in Wisconsin is done by the sheriff's office for a low fee.
Response and Temporary Hearing
The spouse served with divorce papers will be able to file a response in turn. The response allows the other spouse to make similar requests to the initial complaint, so that the divorce process in Wisconsin is fair to both spouses.
Soon after the complaint and response are filed, a temporary hearing will decide some basic issues (who keeps the marital house, who keeps the children) on a temporary basis. This brief hearing is not a full trial and will not generally change the outcome of the divorce itself.
If both spouses can agree on how to divide their property and parental responsibilities, they may be able to work on a “stipulated divorce.” This is a kind of divorce agreement that the court must see and agree to. Stipulating an agreement makes the divorce process in Wisconsin substantially cheaper and faster.
You may wish to see a trained mediator to help you work out the details of a stipulated divorce. Mediators understand the divorce process in Wisconsin and can help you to negotiate with your spouse in a way that minimizes animosity.
Discovery and Trial
Most of the time, the divorce process in Wisconsin ends in a stipulated divorce. However, if you and your spouse cannot agree to the terms of the divorce, a discovery process (mutual investigation) will proceed, and a trial will begin. The contested divorce process in Wisconsin is expensive and time-consuming, so most divorcing couples at least try to negotiate a settlement agreement before going to trial. Depending on your situation, a judge may even order you to go to mediation before allowing your divorce to go to trial.