Wisconsin Divorce Laws

In Wisconsin, divorce laws and divorce cases are considered under family law. There are specific laws that dictate filing, property division, child custody, and alimony.

To begin a divorce, the law states the marriage must be irretrievably broken.

Wisconsin Divorce Laws

Starting a Divorce

If you are beginning or already in the divorce process, this article will give you a good overview of everything you need to know.
Before you can get a divorce or separation, you need to make sure you are legally able to file in Wisconsin


In Wisconsin, the petitioner must meet the residency requirements. First, they must have lived in Wisconsin for at least 6 months. Then, to file in their county, they must have lived in that county for at least 30 days. Only the person filing needs to meet these requirements.

Grounds for Divorce

When it comes to grounds for divorce, Wisconsin in a no-fault divorce state. This means that neither party has to prove any specific reason for wanting the divorce. Instead, it is enough to say that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

Wisconsin Divorce Laws No Fault

The Divorce Process

The standard divorce process includes filing, temporary orders, mediation, a pretrial conference, the trial, and finalization. Though if you get an uncontested divorce or mediated divorce, you can skip some of these steps.

For an uncontested divorce, you and the other party agree on all the divorce issues and just need help with the legal process.

In a mediated divorce, the two parties meet with a third-party mediation attorney who helps them go through the divorce process together.

A contested divorce is where the two parties go through the process separately because they do not agree on one or more divorce issue.

Step 1

File For Divorce

To file for your divorce, you file the correct paperwork and serve the other party.

Step 2

Temporary Orders

Temporary orders outline how things like child custody, property division, and alimony will look during the divorce process.

Step 3


In court-ordered mediation, a third-party mediator will work with parties to try to find a compromise on each of the divorce issues.

Step 4

Pretrial Conference

The conference prepares the judge for the trial and the case can end here if the parties agree on how to settle everything.

Step 5

Trial and Finalization

In the trial, all evidence is laid out and each side makes their case for how the final order should be.
After the trial, the judge makes their decisions and lays out the final orders.

Types of Divorce

For an uncontested divorce, you and the other party agree on all the divorce issues and just need help with the legal process.

In a mediated divorce, the two parties meet with a third-party mediation attorney who helps them go through the divorce process together.

A contested divorce is where the two parties go through the process separately because they do not agree on one or more divorce issue.

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Key Components

You've heard a lot about divorce and all that information has certainly led to some questions. Here are more answers and links to pages with more information. For information and advice specific to your case, call Sterling Lawyers.

Divorce Information

There has been a lot of information about divorce above, the next sections give more details on the different types of separations, how long a divorce is, and how much a divorce will cost.

Types of Divorce

There are a few ways to separate from a spouse and there are a few ways the legal process can go.

The types of separations are divorce, annulment, and legal separation. A standard divorce is what people normally think of where parties separate their assets and end their marriage. An annulment is only for certain cases and make it so that the couple was never legally married. Then, legal separation is for people who want to separate but not fully end the marriage.

As for how the divorce proceedings actually work, you can either get an uncontested, mediated, or contested divorce. What each of those means is defined through their process above.

How Long a Divorce Takes

The length of a divorce mostly depends on how easily you and the other party can agree on things. The more disagreements there are, the more complicated a divorce is and the longer it will take.

Most divorces take six months to a year, but they can go longer.

Paying for a Divorce

Similar to how long a divorce takes, how much a divorce costs will depend on how complicated it is. The more complicated a divorce, the more work the attorney needs to put in.

The average cost of a divorce is around $10,000. That number can go up or down depending on the specifics of your case.

What Gets Split

There are two kinds of property in Wisconsin, marital property and non-marital property. Marital property is the stuff that both spouses share and gets split during the divorce. Non-marital property is the stuff that doesn’t get split.

Key Assets

Some key assets you may want more information on include:

How The Court Decides

When parties cannot agree on who gets what, the court makes the decision for them. When the court has to decide, they split things down the middle to the best of their ability. To learn more, read more on our property division in divorce article.

Property Division

How property is divided is one of the most important and contentious sections of a divorce. This section covers everything from the marital home to retirement accounts to student loans.

Child Custody

Whether there is one child or five, it’s rarely easy to figure out child custody and placement and child support. Parents first try to find a compromise together. If the parents can't agree, the court decides based on the child's best interests.

How Custody Works

The Wisconsin child custody laws outline how the court determines child custody. Custody is the parents’ ability to make major decisions in the child’s life. The court assumes that both parents will share custody unless one parent is a danger to the child.

Placement Schedules

Placement is who the child lives with day-to-day. There are many different placement schedules and the best one for your family will depend on each party’s needs and schedules.

Child Support

One parent pays child support when there is an imbalance in income or in placement time. Child support is meant to support the child and create positive living situations with both parents. How much child support a party pays can be calculated using our child support calculator.

How Decisions Get Made

The court uses Wisconsin’s list of alimony factors when deciding if a party needs financial support. Some of the key factors include marriage length, property division, and earning capacity.

Calculating Alimony

Wisconsin law doesn’t have a set equation to calculate alimony. So, our alimony calculator estimates using equations used by attorneys. For a personal estimate that takes all factors of your situation into account you will need to speak with one of our attorneys.


Alimony, also called spousal support or maintenance, is when one party financially supports the other.

Frequently Asked Questions

How are assets split in a divorce in Wisconsin?

Divorcing parties first have the option to split assets and come to an agreement on their own. If they cannot agree, the court will decide for them. When the court decides, property is split 50/50, but they do take other factors into account.

What is a wife entitled to in a divorce in Wisconsin?

When a couple gets divorced in Wisconsin, the wife is presumed to be entitled to half of the marital property, which includes all property acquired during the marriage, and potentially property brought into the marriage, regardless of who’s listed as the owner. Possible exceptions to this 50/50 rule include property acquired before the marriage or inherited/gifted to one spouse. Furthermore, the wife may be entitled to spousal maintenance in addition to property, depending on the length of the marriage, the income of each spouse, and a variety of other factors.

What is the first step in getting a divorce in Wisconsin?

The first step to getting a divorce is deciding you want a divorce. Once you are certain you want one, then you need to ensure you have residency established. What you need for residency is detailed above. But, the first actual step you take is filing for divorce.

How long do you need to be separated before divorce in Wisconsin?

Some states require couples to be separated to establish grounds for divorce before they can file. The only grounds needed to get a divorce in Wisconsin is for a party to say the marriage is irretrievably broken. This means, there isn’t a set amount of time the parties need to be separated.

Is alimony required in Wisconsin?

Alimony is not required in Wisconsin, but it might be ordered in your case. To learn more about this, look at the alimony factors in Wisconsin.

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