You hope that this day never comes, but if it does, then you need to be prepared. I am an attorney that focuses on divorce; here is what you generally need to know:
1. Legal Grounds for Divorce: The only basis for divorce in Wisconsin is "Irretievable Breakdown."
2. Residency: If I recently moved to Wisconsin, how long do I have to wait to get divorced? You must have been a Wisconsin resident for at least six months before filing for divorce. Also, you must have lived at least 30 days in the county where you file.
3. Process of Filing for Divorce: A Summons and Petition for divorce must be filed with the Clerk of Courts. If both huband and wife agree to get divorced, they can file a Joint Petition for Divorce, which saves money and foregoes the need to serve the opposing party. Otherwise, the person filing the action must serve the other party with those documents. Generally, then, the party filing for divorce also requests the Court set a Temporary Hearing, to set out the ground rules in effect during the divorce process. In order to get a Temporary Hearing, the petitioner (the person who started the action) must file either a motion for a temporary order, or an order to show cause.
4. Settlement or Trial: If both parties agree on all of the issues in play, child support, child custody, property division, debt allocation, etc., then they may prepare a Marital Settlement Agreement to memorialize the stipulation. If issues remain in dispute, then the matter will eventually continue to trial unless resolved, where the judge will resolve the issues in dispute.
5. Time Period: How long does it take to get divorced? There is a mandatory 120 day waiting period from the filing of the initial materials until the final hearing. It often takes longer if issues are in dispute, especially if it goes to trial, because the Court has many hearings and little time to hear them all.
6. Custody and Placement: The Court will determine, unless you both agree, as to Custody (Who makes the decisions on the child's behalf) and Placement (where the child stays). Generally, Wisconsin is a 50/50 state; however, in reality women often times get the preference when it comes to these areas, especially if it involves young children.
7. Child Support: The Court also determines the amount of child support to be paid. Generally, there are guidelines that are followed, depending upon the number of children involved. Remember, child support is for the child. You are not free to stop paying child support if you are prevented from seeing your child. Also, the Child Support Agency will almost always be involved. The paying party should never pay the other party, as you are to pay in accordance with the rules provided by the Child Support Agency. If you fail to pay for 60 days, you may be found in Contempt and charged criminally and incarcerated. If you fail to pay for 120 days or longer, you may be charged criminally with a felony and incarcerated.
8. Maintenance: This is not a right. However, if you make significantly more than your spouse and you've been married a long time, you are more likely to be ordered to pay an amount of maintenance to your spouse. There are several factors that the court considers in making this determination.
The information provided herein is general in nature and is provided for informational purposes only. You are not to rely it or its accuracy for legal purposes, as this is not legal advice, nor does it constitute a legal contract or attorney/client relationship. If you need assistance, feel free to contact me to discuss you legal rights.
Atty. Eric P. Pitsch
Pitsch Law Offices, LLC
614 N. Oneida St.
Appleton, WI 54911