File for Divorce in Wisconsin

Five Things You Should Know About Divorce in Wisconsin

1. What’s the Difference between a Wisconsin Legal Separation and a Wisconsin Divorce?

Photo courtesy of and Stuart Miles

A Wisconsin divorce is very similar to a Wisconsin legal separation, but there are some differences. The main difference is that a divorce will end a marriage, a legal separation will not. Another difference is that to request a divorce, one spouse must assert that the marriage is irretrievably broken. To request a legal separation, one party must assert that the marriage is broken (but not irretrievably). Both parties do not have to agree that the marriage is broken in order to request a divorce or legal separation; just one party must believe that the marriage is broken.

Residency Requirement: To obtain either a divorce or a legal separation, one party must be a resident of the county in which the action is filed for at least 30 days prior to filing the action and one party must be a resident of the State of Wisconsin for at least 6 months prior to filing for the divorce or legal separation.

The parties do not need to be legally separated in order to file for divorce. In other words, the parties do not need to first be legally separated before requesting a divorce. A divorce can be granted without a legal separation.

Dividing Property, Child Custody, and Child Support: In both a Wisconsin divorce and a Wisconsin legal separation, the court will decide (if the parties cannot agree) issues regarding how the parties will divide up marital property, the amount of alimony and maintenance, child support, child custody and placement issues.

Waiting Period: Both have a 120-day waiting period, meaning that the parties are not officially divorced or officially legally separated until 120 days have passed. The parties can reconcile at any time prior to the court officially granting the divorce or legal separation.

Expert Tip: One important thing to keep in mind is that a legal separation may be converted into a divorce at any time if the parties agree, or by one party filing a motion to convert the legal separation into the divorce if at least one year has passed since the court granted the legal separation.

For a helpful handout containing additional information about Wisconsin divorce and Wisconsin legal separation, click here.



2. Can I remarry right after I get divorced?

wisconsin divorce
Photo courtesy of and George Hodan.

No. For the first six months after the Wisconsin divorce is granted, neither spouse may remarry, unless the spouses remarry each other. The six-month period begins to run the day the divorce is granted by the court. Also, the parties cannot remarry while they are legally separated.



3. Do I have to give a reason for wanting a divorce?

No. But you must assert that the marriage is “irretrievably” broken, which means that there is virtually zero chance of reconciliation between you and your spouse. Also, because Wisconsin is a “no fault” divorce state, neither spouse needs to show that the other spouse did anything wrong during the marriage. And, only one of the spouses needs to testify under oath that the marriage is irretrievably broken. This means that both spouses need not agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken in order to get divorced.



4. My spouse and I agree on everything, do I still need a Wisconsin divorce lawyer?

Yes. Even if you and your spouse believe that you agree on everything, you need an experienced Wisconsin divorce lawyer to look over your Marital Settlement Agreement before filing it with the court. A Marital Settlement Agreement is the document that states how all issues in your divorce will be resolved. This agreement will determine how your property is divided and distributed, whether one spouse is required to pay maintenance (alimony), whether one spouse will pay child support, who the child or children will live with, and many other issues. This document must be submitted to and approved by the court before a divorce is granted.

Wisconsin divorce law is very complicated, and you may not even know what you are entitled to under the law. A divorce lawyer’s job is to make sure you get everything you are entitled to in the divorce. Under Wisconsin divorce law, there are certain issues that are waived if not raised by the parties. For example, if you do not request maintenance (alimony) from your spouse, you lose your right to ever request maintenance (alimony) in the future. An experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney will make sure that your rights are protected.

Also, if you and your spouse have children, an experienced Wisconsin divorce lawyer will save you a lot of money and frustration in the future by making sure that any agreements between you and your spouse with regard to the children are clear and enforceable, which will save you the time and money of having to go back to court if you and your spouse later disagree. This happens frequently.

Not hiring a Wisconsin divorce lawyer to represent you may save you money in the short-term, but in the long-term it could cost you much more money and you may not receive everything you are entitled to in the divorce.



5. How Long Do I Have to Pay Child Support in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, child support ends when the child turns 18. However, if the child is still in school pursuing a high school diploma, then child support ends when the child turns 19. You can find more information about Wisconsin child support here, or visit Top 3 Questions about Wisconsin Child Support.


Experienced Wisconsin Divorce Lawyer Christopher Glinski was recently recognized as one of the “Top 40 Trial Lawyers under 40 in Wisconsin.” He has the highest rating on Avvo and many endorsements from other lawyers. Call Glinski Law Office at (414) 313-7918.

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