Contested Divorce in Wisconsin

A contested divorce is when one party begins the divorce process, but the other party doesn’t want a divorce. Contested can also mean both parties want to divorce, but disagree on how to split things. According to Wisconsin law, the only thing needed to get a divorce is for one party to believe the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

Do you agree with your soon-to-be ex-spouse on all the divorce issues? Probably not.

If the disagreements surround important topics, the divorce should likely be contested.

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

The best way to understand a contested divorce is to first understand an uncontested divorce.

An uncontested divorce is when both parties agree on all the major issues in divorce. Parties don’t have to know exactly how everything is going to work, but they must be able to work together. For uncontested divorces, parties file the paperwork jointly.

Now, a contested divorce is when parties disagree about one or more major issues in a divorce. Major issues include property division, alimony, child support, and child custody/placement. The vast majority of divorces are contested because people file for divorce separately.

Grounds for Divorce

In law, grounds to do something are the basis or justification to do that thing. The only grounds needed to get a divorce in Wisconsin is for one party to say the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”[1] So, if the other party refuses to acknowledge the divorce, the divorce still happens. There is nothing the other party can legally do to stop the divorce if the filing party continues to want it.

Contesting for Litigation

A contested divorce goes through the litigation process. In some instances, a divorce is contested so that the issues can be litigated. Litigation means the case goes through the standard court process in front of a judge.

Litigation is necessary when parties disagree on important topics. It creates a space to work through those issues and be solved for them if needed. A divorce is contested even if parties agree on everything except one major issue like one party wanting sole custody.

Benefits and Drawbacks to a Contested Divorce

A contested divorce protects each party and makes sure the settlement is fair. A contested divorce is especially important in high-conflict cases where one party is manipulative or refuses to compromise. One of the court’s goals is to protect people, so they will do their best to keep things fair for all parties involved.

However, the contested divorce process is usually longer, more expensive, and more stressful. it's longer because a contested divorce will take at least 4 months. It’s more expensive because there are more attorney fees as well as other potential fees. And, it’s more stressful because it lasts longer and the outcome isn’t certain.

One way to protect yourself is by getting an attorney. Having an attorney in your corner means you have an expert fighting for your best interests. Contact Sterling Law Offices if you’re interested in meeting with an attorney or getting more information.

Contested Divorce Process

A contested divorce follows the standard divorce process. This means there is the initial filing, the service of the other party, a temporary hearing, a pretrial conference, a trial, and the finalization. If parties end up finding a compromise early and can agree on a settlement, the case does not have to go through all of the steps.

Considerations

What Must I Do If I Am Served With Divorce Papers?

If you are served divorce papers, you have 20 days to respond by filing a Response and Counterclaim. If the response is not filed in 20 days, the court can give a default divorce which gives the other party whatever they asked for.

Is It Possible To Stop a Divorce Due to Financial Reasons?

A divorce is only stopped when both parties agree to reconcile. In Bartz v. Bartz, one party attempted to block the divorce judgment for insurance purposes.[2] The court ruled there were no legal grounds to deny the divorce. So, no, a divorce cannot be stopped for financial reasons.

If Attempts To Serve My Spouse Do Not Work, What Is My Next Step?

If a spouse refuses service, there are other options. You can pay a process server who can sign an Affidavit of Service proving the other party was served. This way, there is legal proof they were served. Another option is service by publication.

What if I Cannot Locate My Spouse?

If a spouse cannot be located after significant effort, they can be served by publication. The court only allows this as a last resort, and there must be proof of the previous attempts. Service by publication is where you serve the other party by posting it in relevant newspapers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if divorce is contested?

When a divorce is contested it goes through the standard divorce process. Most divorces are contested, but when a party refuses to compromise, it can drag a divorce out. Eventually, the court will decide any remaining issues.

Can you refuse a divorce in Wisconsin?

As long as one party claims the divorce is broken and cannot be fixed, the other party cannot refuse the divorce. A divorce can only be stopped when both parties agree to stop it. Even if the other party refuses to get involved at all, the divorce can go through the courts without them.

How long does a divorce take if contested?

A contested divorce can take anywhere from four months to over a year or even two. The sooner both parties can come to an agreement the sooner the divorce can be over. Also, if there are no children and minimal property, the divorce will likely take less time.

How can I speed up my contested divorce?

The quickest way to speed up a contested divorce is to start agreeing with the other party. If that’s not an option, your best bet is to get an attorney. They can help you get through all the paperwork and either get the other party to concede or get a trial scheduled.

Is it worth contesting divorce?

If you think the other party will not give you a fair settlement, it is probably worth it to contest the divorce. But, if you are only fighting over how to split a thousand-dollar savings account, it might not be worth the attorney fees and emotional stress. Ultimately, the decision is up to you.


References: 1. WI Statute, § 767.315(1)(a). Definitions, Scope, Jurisdiction, and Recognition of Judgements. | 2. Bartz v. Bartz, 452 N.W.2d 160 (Wis. Ct. App. 1989).


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