Divorce in Wisconsin

" ... And we drove that car as far as we could, abandoned it out west, split up on a dark sad night both agreeing it was best, she turned around to look at me as I was walking away, I heard her say over my shoulder, we'll meet again someday on the avenue." from the song "Tangled Up In Blue" by Bob Dylan.

In order to file for divorce in Wisconsin, one party must reside in the county in which the action is being filed for thirty days and reside in Wisconsin for at least six months. The process of filing for divorce is begun by the filing of a summons and petition for divorce with the clerk of Circuit Court in the county of residence. After the petition and summons are filed, it must then be served on the other spouse. This puts the other spouse on notice that a divorce action has been commenced. Because the Wisconsin Statutes require a four month waiting period before a divorce can be finalized, the divorce process can take anywhere from four months to over a year if it is contested.

If the parties can come to an agreement over the terms of their divorce, it is possible to have an uncontested divorce. In a stipulated or uncontested divorce the parties or the parties' attorneys draft a marital settlement agreement. This agreement states how the parties' debts and assets are to be split up, disposition of the parties' residence, whether there will be maintenance (formerly known as alimony) and other important concerns of the parties that should be stipulated to in writing. If the parties have minor children, the agreement would also specify how legal custody, physical placement and child support for the children are to be allocated.

The Wisconsin legislature has recently redefined the concepts of custody and visitation. Legal custody is "the right and responsibility to make major decisions concerning the child." Major decisions include, among other things, consent to marry, enter military service, obtain a motor vehicle operator's license, and choice of school and religion. If the parties are awarded joint legal custody, then both parents share legal custody and neither party's legal custody rights are superior unless specified in decisions by the court or the parties.

Physical placement has replaced the concept of visitation and is defined as "the right of a party to have a child physically placed with the party and the right and responsibility to make routine daily decisions regarding the child's care during that placement." These routine decisions may not be inconsistent with any major decisions made by the party with legal custody.

Under the statutes, the court is to allocate periods of physical placement with both parents unless the court finds, after a hearing, that physical placement with a parent would endanger the child's physical, mental, or emotional health. In addition, the court may specify one parent as primary caretaker and one home as the child's primary home for purposes of determining eligibility for aid or other purposes.

Child support is determined by a percentage standard which is established by the Department of Health and Social Services. The percentage standard is based on the payer's gross income with certain adjustments. Currently, the standard is 17% for one child, 25% for two children, 29% for three children, 31% for four children and 34% for five or more children. The court may require either or both spouses to pay support, must specifically assign responsibility for health care expenses, and is allowed to express support as either a fixed sum or as a percentage of parental income.

After a divorce is granted in Wisconsin, the parties are required to wait six months before remarrying. In addition, if both parties agree, a divorce judgment may be revoked by the court if the parties apply to the court within six months of the granting of their divorce.

If you would like more information on any topics which concern a legal matter, please contact Rob Wertheimer for a free initial consultation at 715-381-1273 or click here.