How long does it take to get a divorce in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin has established a mandatory 120-day waiting period between when both parties are notified of a divorce action and when the divorce is finalized. However, most divorces are finalized between 6 months and 1 year, depending on the county they are filed in and the issues surrounding the divorce.

Length of a Divorce Case in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a ‘no fault' state, and that means it only takes one person to initiate a divorce for any reason. To get a divorce in Wisconsin, the first step is to file a Summons and Petition for Divorce in the county where you reside. Once this is filed, the 120 day waiting period starts when the 2nd party, your spouse, is served with the completed paperwork. It's important that you contact an attorney if you and your spouse live in different counties to help avoid future issues such as a dismissal of a case, or the inability of the Court to rule on family law issues such as support, property division, etc.

The mandatory waiting period is 120 days and it's sometimes referred to the “cooling off period” to help ensure that each person will make more rational decisions during this emotional life changing event. It's important to understand that 120 days is the shortest amount of time that a divorce can take place, but a divorce is usually finalized between 6 and 12 months. The reason it takes this long is that each family has different circumstances. Sometimes children are involved, assets and debts must be separated, and division of the home or business that a person owns must be considered before the divorce is finalized.

The 120 day waiting period can be waived by the court during extreme situations such as health, safety, or emergency reasons.

If you and your spouse decide you don't want a divorce, you can both sign a Stipulation for Dismissal and submit it to the judge. If you're working together but have yet to reconcile, you can request that the judge put a 90-day hold on the divorce procedure. You'll have 90 days to submit the Stipulation for Dismissal, but if you don't submit this form your divorce will continue as normal after the 90 days. If you get back together and decide you're not going to get a divorce, the court will dismiss the divorce that was pending upon request. Also, if you're in the 90 days ‘on hold' period and one person decides they don't want to reconcile, they can submit a request to the judge to continue with the divorce at any time.

Scenario 1:
Person 1 and Person 2 decide they no longer want to be married. Person 1 files a Summons and Petition for Divorce with the court. Person 1 then serves Person 2 divorce papers. 120 days after Person 2 was served, the Court will grant the divorce if issues (support, custody/placement, property division, etc.) are agreed on by both parties.

Scenario 2:
Person 1 cheats on Person 2. Person 2 files a Summons and Petition for Divorce with the court and serves Person 1 divorce papers. After the 120 day waiting period (which starts after Person 1 was served papers) the Court will hear the case. Before the court date, Person 1 and Person 2 decide they want to try and reconcile their marriage so they request a 90 day hold period from the Court. If they decide to stay together, they would submit a Stipulation for Dismissal and the divorce will be dismissed. If they don't file a Stipulation for Dismissal before the 90 day hold period is over, the Court will proceed with the divorce case.

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