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Wisconsin Divorce Information

The following information is to provide a basic understanding of the various aspects of divorce in the State of Wisconsin.

You can get more specific information regarding Wisconsin divorce laws using the links provided to Wisconsin divorce laws or at your local library.

This information is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Before taking any action you should seek the advice of an attorney familiar with the laws in the state in which you will be seeking a divorce.

Every effort has been made to assure that the information contained in these pages is accurate however, due to the ever changing nature of the law some material may be outdated or may no longer apply.

Wisconsin Divorce Resources

Residency Requirements No action for divorce may be brought unless at least one of the parties has been a bona fide resident of this state for not less than 6 months next preceding the commencement of the action.
Grounds for Divorce Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage. The irretrievable breakdown of the marriage may be shown by a joint petition by both spouses requesting a divorce on these grounds, living separate and apart for 12 months immediately prior to filing or if the court finds an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage with no possible chance at reconciliation
Voluntary or required mediation Yes
Property Distribution Any property shown to have been acquired by either party prior to or during the course of the marriage in any of the following ways shall be considered that spouse's separate property:
  • As a gift from a person other than the other party
  • By reason of the death of another, including, but not limited to, life insurance proceeds; payments made under a deferred employment benefit plan, or an individual retirement account; and property acquired by right of survivorship, by a trust distribution, by bequest or inheritance or by a payable on death or a transfer on death arrangement
  • With funds acquired in one of the two manners above
All property that is not listed above is considered marital property. The court shall presume that all marital property is to be divided equally between the parties, but may alter this distribution without regard to marital misconduct after considering all of the following:
  • The length of the marriage
  • The property brought to the marriage by each party
  • Whether one of the parties has substantial assets not subject to division by the court
  • The contribution of each party to the marriage, giving appropriate economic value to each party's contribution in homemaking and child care services
  • The age and physical and emotional health of the parties
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other
  • The earning capacity of each party, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage
  • The desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for a reasonable period to the party having physical placement for the greater period of time
  • The amount and duration of an order granting maintenance payments to either party, any order for periodic family support payments and whether the property division is in lieu of such payments
  • Other economic circumstances of each party, including pension benefits, vested or unvested, and future interests
  • The tax consequences to each party
  • Any written agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning any arrangement for property distribution; such agreements shall be binding upon the court except that no such agreement shall be binding where the terms of the agreement are inequitable as to either party. The court shall presume any such agreement to be equitable as to both parties
  • Such other factors as the court may in each individual case determine to be relevant
Mixing marital property with property other than marital property reclassifies the other property to marital property unless the component of the mixed property which is not marital property can be traced.

If one spouse contributed substantial labor, effort, inventiveness, physical or intellectual skill, creativity or managerial activity to either spouse's separate property, that portion of the property can be considered marital property if reasonable compensation was not received for the contribution, and substantial appreciation of the property resulted from the contributions of that spouse.
Child Custody Wisconsin laws require the court to consider all facts relevant to the best interest of the child, when determining child custody. The court may not prefer one parent or potential custodian over the other on the basis of the sex or race of the parent or potential custodian. The court shall consider the following factors in making its determination:
  • The wishes of the child's parent or parents, as shown by any stipulation between the parties, any proposed parenting plan or any legal custody or physical placement proposal submitted to the court at trial
  • The wishes of the child, which may be communicated by the child or through the child's guardian ad litem or other appropriate professional
  • The interaction and interrelationship of the child with his or her parent or parents, siblings, and any other person who may significantly affect the child's best interest
  • The amount and quality of time that each parent has spent with the child in the past, any necessary changes to the parents' custodial roles and any reasonable lifestyle changes that a parent proposes to make to be able to spend time with the child in the future
  • The child's adjustment to the home, school, religion and community
  • The age of the child and the child's developmental and educational needs at different ages
  • Whether the mental or physical health of a party, minor child, or other person living in a proposed custodial household negatively affects the child's intellectual, physical, or emotional well-being
  • The need for regularly occurring and meaningful periods of physical placement to provide predictability and stability for the child
  • The availability of public or private child care services
  • The cooperation and communication between the parties and whether either party unreasonably refuses to cooperate or communicate with the other party
  • Whether each party can support the other party's relationship with the child, including encouraging and facilitating frequent and continuing contact with the child, or whether one party is likely to unreasonably interfere with the child's continuing relationship with the other party
  • Whether there is evidence that a party engaged in abuse of the child
  • Whether there is evidence of interspousal battery or domestic abuse
  • Whether either party has or had a significant problem with alcohol or drug abuse
  • The reports of appropriate professionals if admitted into evidence
  • Such other factors as the court may in each individual case determine to be relevant
If the court finds that a parent has engaged in a pattern or serious incident of interspousal battery, or domestic abuse, the safety and well-being of the child and the safety of the parent who was the victim of the battery or abuse shall be the paramount concerns in determining legal custody and periods of physical placement
Child Support Either or both parents may be required to provide the support of maintenance, insurance, and education of the child. There are specific guidelines and percentage standards to be considered, unless when proven to be unjust. The following factors are generally considered:
  • a child's need for contact with both parents
  • the joint responsibilities for the welfare of the child
  • the financial resources
  • cost of day care
  • the standard of living the child would have otherwise enjoyed had not the divorce taken place
Spousal Support Wisconsin laws allow the court to grant alimony payments to either party for a limited or indefinite length of time after considering:
  • The length of the marriage
  • The age and physical and emotional health of the parties
  • The division of property made during the divorce settlement
  • The educational level of each party at the time of marriage and at the time the divorce is filed
  • The earning capacity of the party seeking alimony, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to find appropriate employment
  • The feasibility that the party seeking alimony can become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and, if so, the length of time necessary to achieve this goal
  • The tax consequences to each party
  • Any mutual agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage, according to the terms of which one party has made financial or service contributions to the other with the expectation of reciprocation or other compensation in the future, where such repayment has not been made, or any mutual agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning any arrangement for the financial support of the parties
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other
  • Such other factors as the court may in each individual case determine to be relevant


Wisconsin Divorce Attorneys by County

Wisconsin Divorce Mediators by County


DISCLAIMER:
This information has been compiled directly from the most recently available statutes online for each state. Every effort has been made to assure that this information is correct and complete. Be aware that laws frequently change. Do not take any action based on this information without first consulting an attorney to be certain that the laws pertaining to your particular situation have not changed.

The language used in most cases on this page is legal terminology taken directly from the statutes and laws of each state. The terminology is not always easy to understand. If you are not sure of something you should consult an attorney so that you can fully understand the meaning of the laws.

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Do not take any actions based upon the information contained within this web site without first consulting an attorney or an appropriate professional depending upon the content of the information.