WISCONSIN DIVORCE BASICS AND OVERVIEW
|This is a reference guide to understanding Wisconsin divorce information. Each state has its own requirements, laws, and documentation, so we decided to gather it all in one location to make it easy and quick for you to find the information you need before, during and after your divorce.|
- Time Frame: The judge may or may not want to hold a hearing on the case after all the paperwork is filed. In any event, the court will not grant a divorce unless at least 120 days has passed since the Joint Divorce Petition was filed.
- Where to File: Circuit Court/Family Court. "State of Wisconsin: Circuit Court, ___________ County." (See Wisconsin Court Addresses)
- Statute Statutes: Wisconsin Statutes Annotated; Chapter 767.
- Name of Action: Petition for Divorce.
- Name of Parties: Petitioner or Respondent or Co-petitioner.
- No-Fault or Fault and No-Fault Only: No-fault only.
- Primary Documents Filed: Petition for Divorce and Decree of Divorce. (See WI Forms List With Explanations)
- Physical Separation Required: Yes, for one route to no-fault.
- Separation Time to File: One year.
- Legal Separation Permitted: Yes.
- Grounds: Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage: when both of the parties by petition state under oath or affirmation that the marriage is irretrievably broken, or when they have lived apart continuously for 12 months or more immediately prior to commencement of the action and one party has so stated, the court, after hearing, shall make a finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken. (See Wisconsin Laws for Divorce)
- Residency Requirement: One of the spouses must be a resident of the state of Wisconsin for at least 6 months and a resident of the filing county for at least 30 days immediately prior to filing for the divorce action. (See Wisconsin Residency Requirements for Divorce)
- Mediation Required: There is no legal requirement for mediation in Wisconsin.
- Counseling Required: The court may, when both spouses want to try to reconcile, enter an order suspending the divorce action for up to 90 days. The couple may attempt reconciliation without prejudice to their respective rights. During this period, the spouses may live as husband and wife. Cohabitation does not constitute an admission that the marriage is not irretrievably broken or a waiver of the ground that the parties have voluntarily lived apart continuously for 12 months. Suspension may be revoked upon motion of either party or by court order. If the parties reconcile, the court dismisses the case; if the parties do not reconcile after the suspension, case proceeds as though no reconciliation was attempted.
- Parenting Classes Required: Both parties must attend a mandatory parenting class before the divorce is final. The required classes range in length and parents receive a Certificate of Completion to provide to the court. The goal of the classes is to educate the parents on best practices for co-parenting during and after divorce.
- Filing Fee: $180-$220. (See WI Filing Fee Waiver Form)
- Where to File for Child Support: Within Wisconsin's Department of Children and Families is a special unit called the Child Support Program (CSP). CSP provides child support services to both custodial and noncustodial parents, including establishing paternity, collecting and processing child support payments, helping employers to withhold income from parents with support obligation, locating vanished parents, and establishing, modifying, and enforcing child and medical support obligations.
- Child Support Guidelines Model: Wisconsin uses the percent of income method to calculate child support payments. Adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services in 1983, the noncustodial parent pays 17 percent of his or her gross pay for one child and up to 34 percent for five or more children. (See Wisconsin Child Support)
- Property Division: A community property state, Wisconsin uses dual classification of marital and separate property.
- Appreciation of Separate Property: The appreciation of separate property is separate.
- Attendance at Hearing: Yes. The clerk will not schedule a hearing until the expiration of 120 days after the filing of the joint petition. (Read more about Wisconsin divorce hearings)
- Fault Considered in Property Division: No.
- Waiting period after Divorce for Remarriage: 180 days.
- Ways to Serve Spouse: Service of process is not required for uncontested divorces where both spouses sign the petition.
- Divorce Records: The Wisconsin Vital Records Office.
- Learn More About Wisconsin Divorce.
Wisconsin child support is outlined in Wisconsin Statutes Chapter 767: Actions Affecting the Family, Subchapters VI: Support and Maintenance & VIII: Enforcement and Chapter 769: Uniform Interstate Family Support Act as well as the Wisconsin Administrative Code, Department of Children and Families (DCF) Chapters 152: Child Support Administrative Enforcement & 153: Child Support Incentive Payments -- considers the income of the parent, time the child spend with each parent, and support for other children. The standard percent is 17% of income 1 child; 25%, 2 children; 29%, 3 children; 31%, 4 children; 34%, 5 or more children. When it comes to child support and in determining income, Wisconsin considers all earned and unearned income, worker’ compensation and personnel injury awards, unemployment, Social Security Disability (but not SSI or public assistance, military allowances and veterans benefits and voluntary retirement contributions. In addition, past earnings, health, education, work experience, work history, and the local job market, imputed values to intangible or non-cash sources, (life insurance, cash, deposit accounts, stocks, bonds, and business interests) – all can be used as a basis for child support. Special support regimes can be ordered for parents who share custody at least 25 percent of the time, split custody of two children, support another family and have high or low incomes. When parents agree to a support amount that is different than the guidelines the court must see it as reasonable and well suited to financially support the child(ren).
The Wisconsin Vital Records Office maintains vital records including divorce certificates for the state. By Wisconsin state statute a requestor must complete and submit a formal application and the associated fee to receive any records. Unfortunately if a requestor is just trying to find out if a divorce is on record (exists), he or she must still pay the fee and submit the application. If the office does not find a record of a divorce the fee is not refundable. Both certified and uncertified copies of a certificate of divorce is made available. The State Vital Records Office is located at, 1 West Wilson Street, Madison, WI 53701-0309. Spouses who need a copy of an existing Finding of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Judgment should contact the county court the divorce was filed and finalized in.