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Wisconsin Divorce Laws

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Wisconsin Divorce Law

RESIDENCY REQUIREMENTS AND WHERE TO FILE:

One of the spouses must have been a resident of Wisconsin for 6 months and of the county for 30 days immediately prior to filing where the divorce is filed. No hearing on the divorce will be scheduled until 120 days after the defendant is served the summons or after the filing of a joint petition. [Based on Wisconsin Statutes; Sections 767.301 and 767.355].

LEGAL GROUNDS FOR DIVORCE:

Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is the only grounds for divorce in Wisconsin. The irretrievable breakdown of the marriage may be shown by:

  • A joint petition by both spouses requesting a divorce on these grounds.
  • Living separate and apart for 12 months immediately prior to filing.
  • If the court finds an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage with no possible chance at reconciliation. [Based on Wisconsin Statutes; Section 767.07]
LEGAL SEPARATION:

Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is the only grounds for legal separation in Wisconsin. The residency requirements are the same as for divorce. [Based on Wisconsin Statutes; Sections 767.05, 767.07, and 767.12].

MEDIATION OR COUNSELING REQUIREMENTS:

If custody of a child is a contested issue, mediation is required. If joint custody is requested, mediation may be required. In addition, the court may order parents in any child custody situation to attend an educational program on the effects of divorce on children. [Based on Wisconsin Statutes; Sections 767.401].

PROPERTY DISTRIBUTION:

Wisconsin is a "community property" state, with the presumption that all marital property should be divided equally. Marital property is all of the spouse's property except separate property inherited by either spouse, property received as a gift by either spouse, or property paid for by funds acquired by inheritance or gift. The equal distribution may be altered by the court, without regard to marital misconduct, based on the following factors:

  • The length of the marriage.
  • The property brought to the marriage by each party.
  • Whether one of the parties has substantial assets not subject to division by the court.
  • The contribution of each party to the marriage, giving appropriate economic value to each party’s contribution in homemaking and child care services.
  • The age and physical and emotional health of the parties.
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other; whether there is a substantial change in circumstances, is a discretionary decision.
  • The earning capacity of each party, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage.
  • The desirability of awarding the family home or the right to live therein for a reasonable period to the party having physical placement for the greater period of time.
  • The amount and duration of an order granting maintenance payments to either party, any order for periodic family support payments, and whether the property division is in lieu of such payments.
  • Other economic circumstances of each party, including pension benefits, vested or unvested, and future interests.
  • The tax consequences to each party.
  • Any premarital or marital settlement agreements. [li[Any other relevant factor. The court may also divide any of the spouse's separate property in order to prevent a hardship on a spouse or on the children of the marriage. [Based on Wisconsin Statutes; Sections 766.61]
ALIMONY/MAINTENANCE/SPOUSAL SUPPORT:

Either spouse may be ordered to pay spousal maintenance to the other spouse, without regard to marital misconduct. The factors for consideration are as follows:

  • The length of the marriage.
  • The age and physical and emotional health of the parties.
  • The property division.
  • The educational level of each party at the time of marriage and at the time the action is commenced.
  • The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to find appropriate employment.
  • The feasibility that the party seeking maintenance can become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and, if so, the length of time necessary to achieve this goal.
  • The tax consequences to each party.
  • Any mutual agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage, according to the terms of which one party has made financial or service contributions to the other with the expectation of reciprocation or other compensation in the future, if the repayment has not been made, or any mutual agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning any arrangement for the financial support of the parties.
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other; (10)
  • Any other relevant factors the court deems relevant.

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