Wisconsin Divorce Laws – An Overview

Wisconsin Statute Chapter 767 lays out the laws for Wisconsinites related to Actions Affecting the Family including divorce. Wisconsin divorce laws include rules related to adultery, 401k, no-fault grounds for divorce, alimony, child custody and visitation, child support, and property division.

Adultery | 401k | No-Fault Divorce | Alimony | Child Custody | Child Support | Property Division | Health Insurance | Remarrying after Divorce

Adultery and Divorce

Wisconsin is one of the many states that is a “no-fault” state for divorce. Put simply, this means neither side has to prove why the marriage has broken down. Therefore, a judge can't consider infidelity or any other reason for the divorce when making a final judgment. In special circumstances where an affair had a significant financial or provable emotional impact, it may be considered when determining property division, alimony, and custody. However, in order for it to affect child custody or support, it would need to be proven that the new relationship is significantly harming the child in some form.

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401(k) in a Wisconsin Divorce

As a community property state, Wisconsin divorce laws divide all property, including retirement accounts, equally between the two parties. A retirement plan can be split through either offset or division. For division, the account will be split into two separate accounts. The offset, on the other hand, is closer to a buyout but allows the holder of the 401(k) to keep it in entirety. The holder of the 401(k) would give up other parts of the marital property in equal value to the half of the 401(k) he's keeping.

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No-Fault Divorce in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is one of a handful of states that is known as a true “no-fault” divorce state. No reasons like adultery or mental cruelty are needed to file a divorce. Instead, the only reason the court needs and will accept is that the marriage has broken down irrevocably and can't be repaired. It does not matter if the other party doesn't want a divorce, only one side has to believe that the marriage is beyond repair to proceed with a divorce.

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Alimony payments are generally paid from one spouse to another for a set amount of time after a divorce, especially when there's a significant financial gap between them. In Wisconsin, there is no formal calculation that will determine how much alimony a spouse will receive. Generally speaking, a marriage must have lasted ten years or more and the wages between the two spouses have to be significantly different for alimony to be considered.

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Child Custody

In Wisconsin, it's possible to either get sole custody or to share joint custody of your children. Courts will almost always prefer if parents can co-parent and take joint custody as this is generally seen as in the children's best interest. “Custody” is split into legal custody and physical custody. Legal custody determines who gets the final say in major decisions about their children like their education, health, and extracurricular activities. Physical custody refers to where the children live and decide how much time they spend with each parent. Custody is determined by many different factors including the children's ages, the parent's relationship with them, the parent's living situation, and more.

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Child Support

Wisconsin has several specific calculations for determining child support. These are primarily determined by how many overnights (how many nights the child spends with you a year), combined with a fixed percentage of income based on the number of children in the marriage. Even in joint physical custody cases, one parent will usually be required to pay the other unless the child spends almost exactly 50% of their time with each parent.

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Property Division

Wisconsin is a community property state when it comes to divorce. This means Wisconsin divorce law states any marital property and assets are to be split down the middle between the two divorcing parties. This includes debts and retirement accounts in addition to the marital house, cars, furniture, and bank accounts. Property division, especially for longer marriages, remains one of the most complex aspects of divorce and is made much easier by having an experienced family lawyer on your side.

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Health Insurance

Many people depend on the health insurance provided by their spouse's employer and divorce can turn that on its head. In most cases, a judge will order that the dependent spouse is not dropped from any insurance policies while the divorce is being finalized. After the divorce is finalized, you will need to find new health insurance or try to continue the old plan through COBRA. Sometimes, the premium costs of a new plan could be included as part of Alimony.

Remarrying after Divorce

After divorcing, Wisconsin imposes a 6 month period before you can marry again. That includes getting married outside the state, or even the country. It may be tempting to ignore the six-month wait and go for it, but there are serious consequences for doing so.

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Read more about specific Wisconsin divorce laws on wilawlibrary.gov or on docs.legis.wisconsin.gov

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