Wisconsin Divorce Laws

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.
CHILD CUSTODY:

Joint or sole child custody, "legal custody and physical placement," may be awarded based on the best interests of the child and the following:

  • The preference of the child.
  • The wishes of the parents.
  • The child's adjustment to his or her home, school, religion, and community.
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved
  • The relationship of the child with parents, siblings, and other significant family members.
  • Any findings or recommendations of a neutral mediator.
  • The availability of childcare.
  • Any history of spouse or child abuse.
  • Any significant drug or alcohol abuse.
  • Whether 1 parent is likely to unreasonably interfere with the child's relationship with the other parent.
  • Any parenting plan or other written agreement between the spouses regarding the child.
  • The amount of quality time that each parent has spent with the child in the past.
  • Any changes that a parent proposes in order to spend more time with the child in the future.
  • The age of the child and the child's developmental and educational needs.
  • The cooperation and communication between the parents and whether either parent unreasonably refuses to cooperate with the other.
  • The need for regularly-occurring and meaningful periods of physical placement in order to provide predictability and stability for the child.
  • Any other factors except the sex and race of the parent. [Based on Wisconsin Statutes; Section 767.41].
    CHILD SUPPORT LAWS:

    Wisconsin uses the "Percentage of Income" standard to determine the level of child support. Either or both parents may be ordered to pay child support and health care expenses. The factors to be considered are:

    • The financial resources of the child.
    • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had not been dissolved.
    • The physical and emotional conditions and educational needs of the child.
    • The financial resources, earning capacity, needs, and obligations of the parents.
    • The age and health of the child, including the need for health insurance.
    • The desirability of the parent having custody remaining in the home as a full-time parent.
    • The cost of daycare to the parent having custody if that parent works outside the home or the value of the childcare services performed by that parent.
    • The tax consequences to each parent.
    • The award of substantial periods of physical placement to both parents [joint custody].
    • Any extraordinary travel expenses incurred in exercising the right to periods of physical placement.
    • The best interests of the child.
    • Any other relevant factors.

    The support amount must be expressed as a fixed sum unless the parties have stipulated to expressing the amount as a percentage of the payer’s income. The court may require that child support payments be guaranteed by an assignment of income, that the payments be made through the clerk of the court, or that health insurance be provided for the children. The court may also order a parent to seek employment. The court may order spousal maintenance and child support payments be combined into a "family support" payment.

    [Based on Wisconsin Statutes; Sections 767.511]