Uncontested Divorce in Wisconsin
Understanding the uncontested divorce process in Wisconsin.
Divorce doesn’t require you to take the leading role in a Lifetime movie drama. There is a better way – an uncontested divorce. Although divorce is never easy, it doesn’t have to be ugly. For spouses who can’t stand to live together but can still stand each other, an uncontested divorce is a cheaper and typically faster option to traditional divorces in Wisconsin.
This article provides a general overview of process to obtain an uncontested divorce in Wisconsin. If after reading this article, you still have questions about obtaining an uncontested divorce, you should contact a local family law attorney for advice.
Overview of Uncontested Divorces in Wisconsin
Wisconsin allows a simplified process for divorces for spouses that are able to agree on all major issues in the divorce, referred to as an uncontested divorce. If you are unable to agree with your spouse on any major issues in the divorce, your divorce is considered contested and you will be required to attend a trial to decide the issues in your case.
Uncontested divorces are a faster option available to couples with or without children and are generally much less expensive than contested divorces. Additionally, this type of simplified or summary divorce can save couples the stress associated with going to trial, a hearing before the judge is required to finalize your divorce.
With an uncontested divorce, the spouses must agree on every issue in the divorce including child custody and child support, if children are involved. For more information on calculating child support for divorce purposes in Wisconsin, click here. The following is a list of major issues that must be resolved by the spouses before filing an uncontested divorce action in Wisconsin:
- child custody and visitation arrangements if minor children are involved
- child support, health and dental insurance coverage
- division of real estate and personal property
- division of assets and debts
- alimony, if any, and
- any other issues related to the marriage.
Starting the Uncontested Divorce Process in Wisconsin
Spouses seeking an uncontested divorce in Wisconsin may file a joint divorce petition. Wisconsin courts maintain an informative website for individuals who want to file for divorce on their own with forms and a Basic Guide to Divorce. Nevertheless, before commencing the divorce process, you or your spouse must have resided in Wisconsin for at least 6 months, and the county in which you are filing for divorce for at least 30 days. If you are a Wisconsin resident, your spouse does not need to reside in the state for you to obtain a Wisconsin divorce.
If you elect to file for divorce without the help of an attorney, you will be responsible for filing the correct documents in the correct court. Circuit courts are Wisconsin’s trial courts that cover divorce proceedings. Each of Wisconsin’s counties has at least one circuit court branch with the exception of 6 counties, which share judges. Presently, Wisconsin has 249 circuit court judges, and the largest county, Milwaukee County, has 26 circuit judges.
You will typically file your divorce paperwork in the county where you live. However, if you and your spouse have separated at the time you file for divorce, either the county in which you live or where your spouse lives would be proper to file your paperwork.
Preparing the Divorce Forms
The Wisconsin Judicial Branch maintains a comprehensive website with forms needed to complete an uncontested divorce found here or available in hard copy at the local circuit courthouse. If you decide to file a Joint Divorce Petition, you and your spouse will be joint petitioners. The following documents must be filed before a divorce may be granted:
- Joint Petition for Divorce
- Stipulation for Temporary Order (optional)
- Marital Status Agreement or Request for Status Conference
- Vital Statistics Form
- Financial Disclosure Statement, and
- Findings of Fact Conclusions of Law and Judgment.
Completing the Divorce
Different counties have different requirements and may ask you to file forms in addition to those listed above. It is best to check with your local court clerk to verify that everything the judge needs has been filed. After all the proper forms have been filed with the circuit court, the judge may or may nor want to hold a hearing on your case. Regardless, your divorce will not be granted unless it has been at least 120 days since the Joint Divorce Petition was filed.
If you are required to attend a hearing, it will likely be simple and you will need only to confirm that you have lived in Wisconsin for at least 6 months, cannot repair your marriage and explain the settlement that you and your spouse have reached. If there are no issues with your paperwork, the judge will sign the Findings of Fact Conclusions of Law and Judgment and your divorce will become final.
If you have additional questions about obtaining an uncontested divorce in Wisconsin, contact an experienced family law attorney for assistance.
For more information on uncontested divorces in Wisconsin, see Wisconsin Statutes 767.301 et seq.