Divorce Litigation in Wisconsin

When spouses divorce and can not find agreement the divorce will go through the litigation process. This happens most often when alimony, property division, child custody, and or child support negotiations become contentious. The litigation process is an open court process where evidence is presented to a judge who makes a final ruling absent a settlement. 

Many divorce cases don't need to go through litigation, but during high conflict[1] cases, litigation is the best way to protect yourself and your children. In every divorce, both sides must compromise, but a litigation attorney can ensure you get more of your must-haves. When your spouse is unwilling to negotiate reasonably and has become aggressive or unresponsive we can help facilitate and eventually compel your spouse to settle using litigation tactics granted by the court.

Is Divorce Litigation Right for You?

The divorce litigation process is the correct path when you and your spouse are not communicating well. If there is a high level of conflict on specific issues such as child custody and placement, child support, alimony, dividing assets, debts, retirement accounts and or real estate the divorce litigation process will be the best way for you to protect yourself.

This is also a good option when domestic violence, a mental health issue and or substance abuse is a concern.

What are the benefits of divorce litigation?

  1. Protect your children and yourself when domestic violence or substance abuse is present
  2. Maintain your rights and financial future during high conflict cases
  3. Ensure you are not getting the wool pulled over your eyes by a manipulative spouse
  4. Get some peace of mind with an experienced litigation attorney in your corner

Divorce Litigation Process

Step 1: File the Action with the Court

The first step is filing the right paperwork with the court and paying the filing fee to the county. The paperwork includes the petition, summons, and confidential petition addendum. An order to show cause for temporary orders (see below) may also be filed with the initial paperwork.

Step 2: Serve the Other Party

The second step in the process is the serve the other party. In other words, to make the other party aware of the legal action they're involved in. This can be done using a process server, a county sheriff and or delivered from one party to the other. Once service is complete an affidavit of service must be given to the court to prove the other party was given proper notice.

Step 3: Get a Temporary Order (if needed)

Once the initial paper is filed the other party is properly served, a temporary order hearing may occur depending on circumstances. Temporary orders are generally obtained when there is a high conflict divorce and an agreement can't be found on how to handle certain issues. An example of the types of things a temporary order can clear up are the continued payment of bills, and who gets the children when. Temporary orders also can help with more serious matters, such as if one spouse is financial starving the other spouse. Temporary orders allow both parties to continue living during the divorce process.

Step 4: Complete Co-Parenting Programs and Co-Parenting Agreements (when children are involved)

When children are involved in a divorce the parents may be ordered to take co-parenting classes to ensure the parents are properly prepared for life with their child during and after the divorce. They may also be ordered to go to mediation. These both typically happen when divorcing parents cannot find agreement about what will happen with the children.

Step 5: Request a Settlement Conference Date

The goal of every divorce is to come to an agreement on the major issues. The first opportunity to settle a divorce is at a settlement conference. If settlement is far fleeting, the judge will want to know the progress and check in periodically. If the check in is not done the after a certain period of time the judge will dismiss the case without granting a divorce. Should this happen, the process will need to start over.

Step 6: Complete the Marital Settlement Agreement or Request a Trial Date

As stated above, the goal in every divorce is to complete a marital settlement agreement and get the court to sign off on the agreement. When this is not possible due to one or both side's unwillingness to find a compromise, a request for trial can be made. When this request is done it is up to the judge or court commissioner to decide whether or not to grant the request and schedule a trial. Once granted the judge will hear from both parties on the unresolved issues and grant a judgment based on the evidence presented. It should be noted 95% of family cases do not go to trial as judges prefer to allow parties to find a compromise instead of picking winners and losers.

Step 7: Complete & Submit the Final Divorce Decree

Once an agreement has been found or a judge has weighed in making the decision for the parties a final divorce decree must be submitted to the court and signed by the judge to make the divorce official. Without the divorce decree under the law, you will still be viewed as a married.

Step 8: Complete QDRO Process to Legally Separate Assets & Debts

After the final divorce decree is signed by the judge the QDRO (Qualified Domestic Relations Order) process may begin to legally separate your assets and debts. This process is important as it allows for retirement accounts, credit card accounts, real estate, and all other financial obligations to be separated and reallocated without penalties or taxes.

Legal Options that Work for You

There are three basic legal paths. The first step in executing a legal action is deciding which process is right for you.

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