Wisconsin is a no-fault divorce state which means that only one spouse needs to file divorce stating that he or she believes that the marriage is irretrievably broken.

The first step is to file a Summons and Petition for Divorce in the county where you reside, and your spouse will then need to be served the court-stamped divorce paperwork. Once your spouse is served, Wisconsin’s mandatory waiting period of 120 days begins. Although it depends on how complicated the issues are in your specific case, most divorces in Wisconsin generally take six months to a year.

When there are even more complicated issues that come up in a case, this time frame could be even longer. Some of the most common factors that can affect the length of the divorce process include whether it is contested or uncontested, whether there are minor children involved, and whether there are valuation issues relating to assets owned by the parties.

Uncontested Divorce

A divorce is considered uncontested when both spouses choose to amicably end their marriage and reach a marital settlement agreement addressing all issues. This means that both spouses reach an agreement with each other on issues such as marital property, support, or child custody/placement.

In this case, it is possible for a couple to be granted a divorce by the court shortly after the 120 day waiting period if a written marital settlement agreement is on file that has been signed and agreed upon by both spouses, financial disclosure statements completed by both spouses are filed with the court, and any court-mandated mediation or parenting classes are completed.

Contested Divorce

A divorce is considered contested when both spouses do not agree on how all of the issues of the marriage should be resolved. In this case, it can take quite a bit longer than 120 days to go through the court process.

If spouses do not agree on issues like marital property, support, or child custody/placement, a judge will have to decide for them. Both spouses will have to present evidence and testimony to the court at a final contested divorce hearing that supports his or her position.

Divorce with Children

If you are filing for a divorce and you have children, your divorce could take longer if you do not agree on issues relating to child support, custody, and child placement. The court will often order the parties to mediation to try to resolve these types of disputes.

If mediation is not successful, a Guardian ad litem may be appointed to represent the best interests of the children, and to make recommendations to the court relating to placement and custody matters.

It’s important to realize that the court will always consider what is in the best interests of the child. In general, unless there is sufficient evidence that supports child abuse, domestic violence, or alcohol/drug abuse, there is a presumption that parents will share joint legal custody and share placement. This is to maintain the relationship the child has with each of their parents.

Asset Valuation Disputes

Sometimes there is a need to obtain appraisals in valuations of marital property if there is a dispute. Sometimes there is a need for real estate appraisals, personal property appraisals, or business valuations. This can extend the time it takes to obtain a divorce.

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Attorney Shari Lynn Stevens has worked extensively with residents of Northeastern Wisconsin to secure their financial freedom through filing Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies.  She also advocates and represents disabled clients in their Social Security disability claims.