How Long Does a Divorce Take in Wisconsin?

A typical Wisconsin divorce takes six months to one year to finalize. After you file for divorce and papers are served, there’s a mandatory 120-day waiting period before the final hearing. A standard Wisconsin divorce may take up to one year to finalize due to a mandatory 120-day “cooling off” period.

While a divorce usually takes six months to a year, the exact length depends on the specifics of the case. If there are contested issues that come up over the course of the negotiation, finalizing could be delayed for months or even years while the divorcing parties come to an agreement.

How Long Does It Take To File Divorce Papers?

Wisconsin is a no-fault state which means it only takes one person can file for divorce simply if they believe the marriage is irretrievably broken. 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 other party, your spouse, is served with the completed paperwork.

If you and your spouse live in different counties, it is important to contact an attorney like one from Sterling Law Offices to protect against issues such as a dismissal of a case or the inability of the Court to rule on the case due to jurisdiction issues. It is generally in your best interest to contact an attorney either way because attorneys make the process much smoother and can advocate effectively for you.

The mandatory waiting period is 120 days, and it's sometimes referred to as the “cooling off period” because it ensures 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. The 120-day waiting period can be waived by the court during extreme situations such as health, safety, or emergency reasons.[1]

How Long Does It Take to Finalize a Divorce in Wisconsin?

In order to finalize a divorce in Wisconsin, there must be a marital settlement agreement on file that has been signed and agreed upon by both spouses, financial disclosure statements completed by both spouses and filed with the court, and any court-mandated mediation or parenting classes must be completed.

Depending on the situation, finalizing a divorce can take anywhere from six months to one year. If there are issues that come up in a case, this time frame could lengthen.

How Long Does an Uncontested Divorce Take?

A divorce is considered uncontested when both spouses are choosing to amicably end their marriage. This means that there are no disputes between the spouses on financial or other matters related to divorces, such as marital property, support, or child custody/placement. Both spouses must also comply with the divorce action.

This type of divorce streamlines the process and could lead to the divorce being finalized as soon as the 120-day “cooling off” period ends.

How Long Does Divorce Mediation Take?

Divorce mediation can be ordered by the court, particularly for spouses with children, in order to peacefully work through any disagreements that arise during the divorce action. This will take place during the 120-day waiting period and requires the spouses to attend between 2-5 sessions with a mediator in order to reach an agreement on all legal aspects of the divorce.


There are many factors to consider when determining how long your divorce will take from start to finish. One of the primary issues that can delay a divorce would be the complications that can arise when a couple has minor children.

How Long Divorce Takes With Children

Filing for a divorce that will include minor children usually means that the divorce will take longer than the typical timeline of 6 months to a year. Negotiations with child support, custody, and child placement can be very difficult due to the emotionally fraught situation. 

It's important to realize that the court will always consider what is in the best interest of the child. In general, unless there is sufficient evidence that supports child abuse, domestic violence, or alcohol/drug abuse, there is a presumption of joint legal custody in order to maintain the relationship of the child with both of their parents.  

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take for a divorce to be final in Wisconsin?

Six months to a year–From the time the other party gets served to the time you are fully divorced is usually around six months to a year. It could be shorter if both parties agree on everything or almost everything. However, it could take much longer, sometimes as long as 2-3 years, if there are kids and/or multiple disputed items.

What is the divorce process in Wisconsin?

The divorce process depends on your situation because you may not need every step, but the framework is as follows: You petition for divorce, serve the other spouse, attend mediation, have the temporary order hearing, figure out property division and child custody/placement (have a guardian ad litem and social worker do their investigations if necessary), hear the court's ruling, then go to trial if necessary.

How long does a divorce take once papers are signed?

It depends on what papers you mean. If you mean the petition for divorce and acknowledgment of service, then it will be around six months to a year. But if you mean once the marriage settlement agreement is signed, then the divorce can be finalized at the next court hearing. Some counties have busier courts than others.

How long after divorce can you remarry in Wisconsin?

Six months–All couples who have received a finalized divorce in Wisconsin must wait six months before remarrying. Any out-of-state marriages that are performed sooner than six months after a divorce is finalized will be considered null and void, and the divorced spouse could face fines and prison time upon returning to Wisconsin.

How long do you have to be married to get alimony?

The longer the better but after 10 years, spousal support, also known as alimony, becomes much more likely. Spousal support is not required in Wisconsin and varies widely depending on the situation specifically how much each party makes and how long they have been married.

How much does it cost to get a divorce in Wisconsin?

The cost of divorce in Wisconsin can vary based on the county and the types of issues involved in the divorce. Typically, you can expect to pay fees between $175 and $190. The court does allow for people of low income to file an Affidavit of Indigency which, if approved, qualifies them to have those fees waived.

Some other fees could include attorney fees, service fees, mediation fees, and guardian ad litem fees.

References: Video by Divorce: Answering Your Legal Questions. State Bar of Wisconsin. (2013, September).

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