Through a divorce, you need a compassionate attorney to listen to what you are experiencing. You also need an aggressive lawyer to get you what you feel is fair. Whether we reach a fair settlement out of court or get a favorable ruling in court, we will work for what you want when your marriage is ending.

Divorce is a very stressful time for everyone involved. It is essential that you understand that divorce is a process that takes time to get through and get past. Divorces are very complex from financial and emotional perspectives. It is important that you hire an attorney that you are comfortable working with and are completely honest with. It is also important to remember that if you are reasonable throughout this process, you will most likely be happier with the final resolution. While the cause for divorces are a generally a myriad of reasons from the past, to get through a divorce you must concentrate on the future.

We do collaborative divorces. That means we try to work amicably with the other side throughout all aspects of the case to reach a desirable and cost effective resolution without going to trial. In northwestern Wisconsin technical “Collaborative Divorces” are not a formalized process as they are in other parts of the state. To have a collaborative divorce, we attempt mediation and settlement conferences in all cases. Sometimes, collaboration and cooperation are not possible. When agreements are not reached, cases are taken to court. We pride ourselves on working cooperatively with other attorneys and parties, however our clients know that if collaborative efforts fail, we aggressively advocate for you in court without hesitation.

You are considering divorce or legal separation in Wisconsin; now what happens? We are here to guide you and advise you through the difficult process.

How do I begin a divorce in Wisconsin?

First, you will meet with an attorney. At that conference you will discuss all the issues in your life from the standard details of your address and place of marriage, to the issues of your children and your assets and debts. I will need to know everything about your marriage, assets and debts, children, work history, finances, and dynamic in your marriage.

If you decide you want to proceed with a divorce (or legal separation), the Summons and Petition for Divorce must be drafted and filed with the Court. The Summons and Petition are the initial court documents asking for a divorce or legal separation. If you are the person filing the Summons and Petition, you are called the Petitioner. Your spouse is the Respondent. If your spouse has
already filed for divorce, you are the Respondent and will need to answer the Summons and Petition within 20 days.

Does it matter who files for divorce?
There is no legal significance in Wisconsin as to whether you are the Petitioner or Respondent in a divorce. Wisconsin is a “no-fault” divorce state. You do not have to have any specific reason for wanting a divorce, nor does fault make any difference to the court in granting a divorce.

Should I file for divorce or should I file for legal separation?
In both a divorce and legal separation, the court will have to make the same determinations in your case: divide property, allocate placement and custody of the kids and set support. There are few advantages to a legal separation over a divorce, if any. Discuss your preference with me at the time we meet to discuss your case.

How long does a divorce take in Wisconsin?

Once your spouse is served the Summons and Petition for Divorce, there is a 120 day waiting period before your divorce can be finalized. While obtaining a divorce takes a minimum of 120 days, divorce cases generally take much longer.

Who lives in a house while the divorce is pending?
After the divorce has been filed, a Temporary Hearing can be held. A Temporary Hearing is held
with the Family Court Commissioner who decides the immediate issues of your case while the divorce is pending. These issues include placement and custody of your children, child support and maintenance, who will live in the marital residence, who will have temporary use and possession
of marital property, and the payment of bills. The Family Court Commissioner only makes a Temporary Order and that Order has no permanent effect on the final divorce hearing. At the Temporary Hearing, if you and your spouse have children and do not agree as to custody and
placement of your children, you will be ordered to attend Mediation.

What happens in Mediation?
In the initial mediation session, you and your spouse will attempt to work out placement and
custody arrangements of your children. If Mediation is not successful, a Guardian ad Litem will be appointed.Mediation will also be attempted later in the process to resolve all issues in your divorce. Alternative dispute resolution is very important to keep costs down and reach an amicable
settlement without going to trial.

What does a guardian ad litem do?
A Guardian ad Litem is an attorney who represents the best interests of your children. He or she will conduct an investigation of you, your spouse, your children, teachers, doctors and anyone else you may designate as a reference regarding your children. The Guardian ad Litem’s investigation may take several months. After a complete and thorough investigation, the Guardian ad Litem will
submit a recommendation for custody and placement. The Guardian ad Litem’s recommendation is just that – a recommendation. The judge is not required to follow that recommendation at the trial, but the Guardian ad Litem’s recommendation is very persuasive to the judge.

What happens if my spouse breaks the court order?
Court hearings throughout your pending divorce action may be necessary. If one spouse is not following the Temporary Order or violating other rules, a contempt hearing may be necessary. You may be able to get attorney fees for willful violations of court orders as well.

What if my spouse and I reach an agreement on everything in our divorce?If you and your spouse have reached an agreement, then a Marital Settlement Agreement is prepared by one of the attorneys. A Marital Settlement Agreement covers the issues in your case and reflects the agreements reached. After the Marital Settlement Agreement is signed by everyone, it is presented to the Court for the judge’s review at a final or default divorce hearing. If the judge agrees that the Marital Settlement Agreement is fair and reasonable and in the children’s best interest, it will be approved and made part of the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Judgment of Divorce (your “Divorce Decree”).

What if my spouse and I cannot reach an agreement?If a settlement is not reached, then the case will proceed to a trial. There is no jury in a divorce trial, the judge decides the issues. Witnesses can be called and subpoenas can be issued to require people to appear in court. Both you and your spouse will testify at a trial. If you have children and have not reached an agreement regarding custody and placement, the Guardian ad Litem will present their recommendation. At the end of the trial, the judge will make a decision and enter the Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law and Judgment of Divorce resolving all issues in your case.

How much is child support in Wisconsin?
Child Support is financial support paid by one party to the other for the support of the children. It is generally a percentage of the paying party’s gross income:

●One child: 17%
●Two children: 25%
●Three children: 29%
●Four children: 33%

These are general guidelines however there are some variations for higher income payers. If each
parent has more than 25% of the overnights, a mathematical calculation is used to determine child support.

How much is maintenance in Wisconsin?
Maintenance is formerly known as alimony. Maintenance is spousal support paid from one spouse to the other. It is calculated after child support payments are deducted from gross income. The
length of time maintenance is paid depends on many factors including length of the marriage.

Do courts favor moms or dads when awarding custody?
No. Wisconsin statutes direct courts to presume that legal custody should be joint, meaning both
parents should make decisions for their children together. Wisconsin statutes also direct courts to
presume that each parent should spend the maximum amount of time with the children. There is no
presumption that a mom or dad is more fit to have custody or placement of the children.

Can I move out of state with my children?
This is a very common question that we face due to being a border region. Generally, the rule is that if one parent wishes to move out of the state or more than 150 miles away with the children,
they must seek permission from the other parent. Due to the proximity of the Minnesota border, this is frequently dealt with. However, you may have to request permission from the court to move even to Minnesota.

How much does a divorce cost?
I charge an advanced fee to begin your divorce case. The amount of that fee will depend on the facts of your case. That fee will be held in a trust account and billed against on a monthly basis at my hourly rate. The final cost of the divorce is generally unknown because the cost depends on how your spouse responds throughout the case, which we cannot control. Filing fees, service fees,
expert and witness fees, appraisals and other professional fees may also come up and must be paid throughout your case.

Will my spouse have to pay for my attorney’s fees?
That depends. Generally, each party is responsible for their own attorney fees. However, courts may award attorneys fees if one party is found to be in contempt of court orders. A party can be found in contempt of court if they disobey court orders without justification. There are other unusual circumstances when attorney fees are awarded, but generally each party should be prepared to pay their own attorney fees.

Will I lose my retirement if I get divorced?
Wisconsin is a marital property state. That means that the courts presume all the property you own and all the debts you owe at the time the divorce action is filed, are jointly owned by you and your spouse and should be divided equally. This includes retirement accounts. Retirement accounts are generally divided at the time of the final divorce and can be divided without facing tax consequences or penalties. Retirement funds earned prior to the marriage may be excluded from the property division.

I received an inheritance. How can I protect those funds?
Inheritances generally are not presumed to be marital property. If you have kept the inheritance separate, the inheritance could be considered separate and not divided upon divorce. The specifics of your situation should be discussed in detail with your lawyer.

I just moved, should I file for divorce in Wisconsin or Minnesota?
In Wisconsin either you or your spouse must be a resident of the County in which you want to file for 30 days and a resident of the State of Wisconsin for 6 months before you file. If both of those criteria apply to you, you can file for divorce in Wisconsin.

How do I change my placement and custody of my kids?
Changes to a final judgment or divorce decree, depend on the circumstances. Generally there are time frames to look at when modifying judgments. Also, a substantial change in circumstances may be necessary. Some aspects of divorces are not modifiable. Whether you can change your judgment will have to be explored with your attorney.

Wisconsin State Bar Divorce Brochure