Divorce in Wisconsin: Everything You Need to Know

1 min readLast updated April 30, 2024by Unbiased team

Discover more about the costs and processes associated with filing for divorce in the state of Wisconsin.

Summary

  • Wisconsin is a “no-fault” divorce state, and there is only one ground for filing - irreconcilable differences. 

  • The average cost of a divorce in Wisconsin without children is $11,000. While for divorces with children involved, this can rise to over $16,000 and beyond. 

  • Before you can file for divorce, you must reside in Wisconsin for at least six months and in the county where you'll file for at least 30 days.

  • A financial advisor can help you protect your finances through a divorce and develop a long-term plan to rebuild afterward.

What are the different types of divorce in Wisconsin?

According to Forbes, Wisconsin is a “no-fault” divorce state, and there is only one ground for filing - irreconcilable differences. 

While filing for divorce in Wisconsin, you can either have a contested or an uncontested divorce. 

  • Uncontested divorce: This occurs when both parties agree on all major issues, including asset division, alimony, child custody, and support. Often, faster and less expensive, uncontested divorces can be a smoother path for couples willing to work together to resolve their differences.

  • Contested divorce: When spouses cannot agree on one or more key issues, the divorce is considered contested. These divorces can be more complex and time-consuming, requiring court intervention to resolve disputes. The process involves negotiations, mediation, and potentially a trial, where a judge will make the final decisions on unresolved matters.

How much does a divorce cost in Wisconsin?

The cost of a divorce in Wisconsin can vary widely, influenced by factors like the presence of children, the complexity of asset division, and whether the divorce is contested. 

For example, the average cost of a divorce without children is around $11,300. While with children, costs range between $16,900 and $30,000, varying with child placement, support, alimony, and property division.

Regardless of whether you have children or not, there are a number of key expenses associated with getting a divorce in the state of Wisconsin. These include:

  • Filing fees: These fees are mandatory for initiating the divorce process and usually range from $150 to $200, depending on where in Wisconsin you live and the type of petition you file.

  • Attorney fees: This is the largest variable when it comes to divorce. In Wisconsin,  rates range between $200 and $350 per hour, depending on the case's complexity and the attorney's expertise.

  • Mediation costs: Mediation is a common option for resolving disputes outside of court. The typical hourly rate for a mediator ranges between $100 and $300.

  • Other expenses: You will also need to factor in other expenses, including court motion fees and costs for professional services, such as financial advisors or appraisers.

How do you file for divorce in Wisconsin?

While filing for divorce in Wisconsin, you must follow a series of steps to ensure your marriage is legally dissolved.

  1. Meet eligibility requirements: Before you can file for divorce, you must reside in Wisconsin for at least six months and in the county where you'll file for at least 30 days.

  2. Prepare the necessary documents: You must complete the necessary paperwork, including the Petition for Divorce and Confidential Petition Addendum, which can be obtained from the Wisconsin court's website or local courthouse.

  3. File the documents: Submit the completed documents to the county clerk in the county where either spouse resides. Along with the papers, you'll need to pay the filing fee, which ranges from $150 to $200.

  4. Serve your spouse: Wisconsin law requires that the other spouse be formally notified of the divorce action. This can be done through a process server or by the sheriff's department in some counties, ensuring the spouse receives the divorce petition and any other filed documents.

  5. Obtain temporary orders: If necessary, you may request temporary orders from the court to address immediate concerns such as child custody, support, or use of marital assets during the divorce process.

  6. Complete financial disclosure statements: Both parties are required to complete a financial disclosure statement detailing assets, debts, income, and expenses. This step is crucial for the equitable division of assets and the determination of alimony and child support.

  7. Attend court hearings: If the divorce is contested, both parties will need to attend court hearings. In uncontested cases, a hearing may still be necessary to finalize the divorce, depending on the county.

  8. Finalize the divorce: Once all issues are resolved and the judge approves the divorce agreement, the court will issue a final divorce decree, legally ending the marriage.

How do you split assets in a divorce in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, the law typically mandates an even split of marital property to ensure fairness. However, exceptions exist, particularly when considering individual assets brought into the marriage or acquired separately during the union.

Marital assets are those bought or jointly acquired by the couple during their marriage. These are subject to equal division. 

Some exceptions may apply, and certain assets may be excluded from equal division, including:

  • Inheritance

  • Gifts to one party

  • Pre-marital property

It’s also worth noting that short-term marriages might warrant different treatment for premarital assets.

How does alimony work in Wisconsin?

Alimony, also known as spousal support in Wisconsin, is a payment from one spouse to the other to ensure financial fairness following a divorce. 

Not all divorces result in alimony payments. 

Wisconsin courts evaluate numerous factors when deciding on alimony, including:

  • The length of the marriage

  • Each spouse’s age and physical and emotional health

  • The division of marital property

  • Each spouse’s educational level, earning capacity, and feasibility of becoming self-supporting

  • Contributions to the marriage, including homemaking and childcare

  • Any agreements made by the spouses

Wisconsin recognizes different types of alimony tailored to the specific circumstances of the divorce. This can range from temporary support during the divorce process to more permanent arrangements.

The court determines the duration and amount of alimony based on the evaluated factors. Long-term marriages are more likely to result in longer periods of alimony, but each case is judged individually.

Alimony agreements can be modified if there's a significant change in circumstances. Additionally, alimony typically ends if the recipient remarries or either spouse dies.

What happens to children during a divorce in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin distinguishes between legal custody (the right to make major decisions regarding the child) and physical placement (where and with whom the child lives). 

Courts encourage shared parenting responsibilities unless evidence suggests it's not in the child’s best interest.

To decide on custody and placement, the court considers various factors, including:

  • The wishes of the child and parents

  • The child’s relationship with parents, siblings, and other significant individuals

  • The child’s adjustment to home, school, and community

  • The mental and physical health of all parties involved

  • Evidence of parental abuse or neglect

  • Each parent’s ability to provide a stable, loving environment

Regarding child support, Wisconsin uses a standard formula based on the parents' incomes, the amount of time the child spends with each parent, and other relevant factors. This ensures that financial responsibilities for the child’s welfare are equitably shared.

As circumstances change, custody and support arrangements can be revisited and modified to reflect the current situation, always with the child's best interests at the forefront.

Get expert financial advice

A financial advisor can help you assess your current financial status, create a post-divorce budget, and develop a long-term financial plan that aligns with your needs and goals.

Unbiased can connect you with a financial advisor perfectly suited to meet your needs. Simply provide some details about what you’re looking for, and Unbiased’s platform will match you with your advisor.

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Unbiased team

Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing and retirement, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.