Answers to the most common questions we get about divorce in Wisconsin.
Wisconsin divorce law doesn’t have to be complicated. Read answers written by Karp & Iancu’s award-winning family law attorneys about common Wisconsin divorce questions below.
Including the divorce process, children, child support, spousal maintenance, property division, assets, debts, and other common questions
Not only is divorce emotionally taxing, but it can be very confusing and difficult to handle alone. Here are some commonly asked questions about divorce in Wisconsin. If you don’t find the answers to all of your questions, feel free to reach out to us for a free, 1-hour consultation. You can fill out the form at the bottom of this page or on our contact us page, or give us a call. We’d be happy to hear from you!
The basis for divorce in Wisconsin is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” This means there is no chance for reconciliation. A judge may find a marriage “irretrievably broken” even if only one of the spouses wants a divorce. The fact that a husband and wife have lived apart continuously for 12 months is one form of evidence that there is no chance for reconciliation.
You do not have to prove misconduct such as adultery, mental cruelty, incompatibility or any other such reason for divorce in Wisconsin.
Before you can file for divorce, one spouse must have been a resident of Wisconsin for at least six (6) months and either spouse must have been a resident of the county where the action is started for at least 30 days.
Divorce usually begins with the service of four legal documents:
The divorce action begins when the Summons and Petition are filed with the Clerk of Courts and served upon the Family Court Commissioner and the spouse.
On legal documents relating to the divorce, the person who asks for the divorce is called the “petitioner.” The other spouse is referred to as the “respondent.”
If you’d like to learn more about the divorce process in Wisconsin, check out our divorce process page.
There is a mandatory 120-day waiting period before you can be divorced in the State of Wisconsin, but most divorces take more than four months. The complexity of your case, the ability of you and your spouse to agree on property division, child support, maintenance, and other issues, plus the backlog of the particular trial court to whom your case is assigned all affect how long the divorce will take.
Your divorce is final and effective when the judge pronounces you divorced at the final hearing. Both parties; however, must wait at least six months before remarrying, anywhere in the world. Any marriage within six months would be null and void.
If you’d like to learn more about the divorce process in Wisconsin, check out our divorce process page.
Child support is usually set by applying percentage standards to the gross income of the parent without custody: 17 percent for one child; 25 percent for two children; 29 percent for three children; 31 percent for four children; and 34 percent for five or more children. However, the court does not have to apply these standards if it determines they would be unfair in a particular case. Check out our child support calculator to determine what should be paid in your child support case.
Occasionally, the parent without custody must also pay support for other children born before the marriage. In such a case, his or her gross income will be considered and reduced accordingly before the percentage standards are applied.
Violation of physical placement (visitation) rights by a parent with custody does not allow the non-custodial parent to stop child support payments.
In shared placement arrangements, there can be a deviation from the percentage standards to a different formula to calculate child support. This formula compares both parties’ incomes and considers the appropriate percent of time that the children are with both parents. This provision is known as Wisconsin DWD.40, Support Guidelines.
Often a husband and wife agree on custody and placement. If not, the judge determines custody and placement in light of the best interests of the child(ren). In making this decision, the judge considers testimony and other evidence presented in trial. Important considerations include:
There is also a new custody law in the state of Wisconsin that allows the court to consider periods of shared placement between parents. There has been a developing national trend during the past 5-10 years that when a couple gets divorced, rather than one parent having primary custody (placement) the children are not divorcing their parents, and therefore it is better for both parents to have actual equal or periods of shared placement with the children.
The current Wisconsin custody law does not presume equal placement or make it automatic in every case. Every divorce and every family is different and what may be best for one family in having shared placement may not be suitable or appropriate for another family. Every case has to be individually considered.
There is no constitutional or automatic statutory rights to have equal placement of children.
Lastly, Wisconsin also requires both parents to attend a mandatory parenting class to learn how divorce impacts on children before they can proceed to a final divorce. This is not marriage counseling. These are all reasons why it is important to contact experienced Wisconsin divorce lawyers at Karp & Iancu S.C. We can help you understand the steps it will take to file for divorce and answer any questions you have.
There are two types of custody: sole and joint. Under sole custody, the custodial parent makes all major decisions involving the children’s upbringing, such as health, school and religious issues. Under joint custody, both parents make decisions and have equal input regarding the children on major issues. Aside from abuse concerns, such as domestic violence or alcohol or drug abuse, most parents have a joint custodial relationship.
When you’re deciding child custody roles, chances are good that either you or your spouse have primary physical custody of the child. While joint custody may split the time the child is physically in your custody, one parent may spend the most time with the child.
Legal custody, however, is usually granted to both parents, except in cases where the child may be in danger. Legal custody means that you’re still a part in making decisions for the child. For example, you should still be consulted about changes to schooling, medical care, and other major decisions for your child.
“Maintenance,” formerly called “alimony,” is payment of money from one spouse to the other during or after a divorce. Maintenance differs from child support in its tax implications. A parent paying child support can’t deduct it and a parent who receives it doesn’t report it as income. Maintenance, on the other hand, can be deducted by the person who pays it and it must be reported as income by the recipient.
All of a couple’s property, including assets such as pension plans, is subject to equal property division. The only exception is property received either as a gift or an inheritance, except as between the parties. Even gifts and bequests may be divided in some limited circumstances where a “hardship” can be shown. If the couple can’t agree on how to divide the property, the court will usually divide equally the total of the divisible property. It may alter this division, however, by considering certain factors:
Yes. If a woman wants to resume using her maiden name or a former legal name, the court will restore it. If she wishes to continue to use her married name, she may do so.
You must petition the court to enforce its order. This is known as a “contempt motion.” After receiving the court papers, your spouse must appear to explain whether he or she has followed the court’s orders. If not, the court will want to know why. After hearing the facts, the court decides whether your spouse willfully disobeyed. He or she may be found in contempt of court and punished with a jail term or other court sanctions. The court may issue other orders as necessary to remedy the contempt.
If your spouse is disobeying a court order, reach out to us today for help with your case. We can file the necessary paperwork and get this process back on track quickly and efficiently.
Yes. The court’s order does not change the parties’ relationships with creditors. They may sue either spouse and may repossess any property in your possession that was pledged as security. If only one of you is sued, that spouse may bring the other into the lawsuit.
If your spouse is not paying their bills and you are worried about being sued by a creditor, reach out to us today for help with your case.
While some debts may fall on your shoulders as well as your former spouse’s, you may not be responsible for them if they aren’t marital debts. Marital debts include anything that was incurred as a couple. For example, a mortgage on the family home or a car loan might be considered a shared debt that will be split evenly between you.
However, certain debts may be the sole responsibility of your spouse. For example, they may have alimony or child support owed from a previous marriage. These debts are theirs alone, so you’ll need to speak to your attorney about ensuring these debts won’t be left to you.
Learn more about property division in a divorce.
The termination of a marriage, even a short one, produces complicated legal issues involving support, custody, alimony, property division and tax consequences. Attempting to resolve your case without proper legal representation is very risky.
Here are some reasons why hiring a lawyer to help with your divorce case is important:
The bottom line is whether you can afford to trust your legal rights, your children’s future, your property, and everything you have worked for, to your own limited knowledge of family law or to your spouse’s attorney, who is paid to protect his or her rights, but not yours?
If you are going through a divorce and are struggling to understand the divorce process, filing the paperwork, or anything involving your children, contact us today for a free consultation. We really can help!
The cost of a divorce case in Milwaukee is going to vary greatly depending on the lawyer that you hire. More experienced lawyers are going to charge more, less experienced lawyers are going to charge less. Of course there are exceptions to that rule, but as a general rule of thumb in the Milwaukee area, top tier law firms can charge anywhere from $200 per hour and $400 to $500 per hour.
At Karp & Iancu, we do offer divorce packages in addition to hourly rates:
DIY divorce: Starts at $599
Uncontested Divorce: Starts at $1,699
Mediated Divorce: Starts at $1,799/spouse
Collaborative Divorce: Starts at $2,699
Contested Divorce: Starts at $2,999
Filing for divorce in Wisconsin is a pretty simple process:
Step 1: Understand the different types of divorce
Step 2: Draft, File and Serve the Papers [link to papers on file]
Step 3: Obtain Temporary Orders
Step 4: Financial Discovery
Step 5: Negotiation of Final Settlement
Step 6: Divorce Resolution
Having a lawyer to help you through this process is much easier and less time consuming. If you have any questions, you can feel free to reach out to us. We’re happy to walk you through that process as well.
A guardian ad litem is a licensed attorney who’s appointed by a judge to do an investigation in your case. The investigation will include, but is not limited to meeting with both parents, meeting with the child or children, talking with teachers, social workers, therapists, medical providers, and other family members, and obtaining records from a variety of sources, such as schools, therapists and doctors.
Eventually after a number of months, if the guardian ad litem has done a thorough investigation, the guardian ad litem will make a recommendation to both the parties, their attorneys, and the judge.
A temporary order hearing is a court hearing that happens about 30 to 45 days after a divorce case is initiated, or at any point during a divorce case, if either party requests that court hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to ensure that things don’t go to awry during the divorce process.
There could be issues related to child support, property division, child custody or whether there should be any maintenance or alimony exchange. If the parties cannot come to an agreement on those issues while a divorce case is pending, the court will make temporary orders. Those temporary orders will last throughout the pendency of the divorce case.
The general answer is no, kids don’t get to decide where they’re going to live when their parents are going through a divorce. However, they do have input into that decision. When a court appoints a guardian ad litem to do an investigation, one of the first things that the guardian ad litem is going to do is talk to the children and get an idea what their thoughts are on what’s going on in the family dynamic, and where they may want to live and why.
If a child is more mature and is able to clearly articulate his or her desires as to why he or she wants to live with a particular parent, that’s likely to carry more weight with the guardian ad litem and then the judge. The guardian ad litem actually has a duty to tell the judge what the children want, which is an interesting and unique aspect in our statutes.
Custody is decision making – it has nothing to do where the children are going to live. In Wisconsin, there is joint custody, which means both parents have equal input and say so over major decisions involving their children’s upbringing. Soul custody means that one parent is allowed to make all major decisions without having to consult with the other parent.
Placement has to do with where the children are going to live. If custody and placement can not be decided between the parents, the court will often times require both parents to meeting with a court appointment mediator to try to resolve those issues. If you don’t reach an agreement in mediation, the next step is the appointment of a guardian ad litem by the courts.
Child support is paid for any child who is a minor until that child is 18 or 19 if the child is still pursuing a high school diploma. So it is possible that you end up paying child support or receiving child support on a child that is 18 years old if he or she is still a senior in high school or pursuing a high school diploma.
There are two main types of child support formulas: one formula is applied where one of the parents has what is called “primary placement.” The other formula is applied when parents have what is called “shared placement.” Check out our child support calculator to determine what should be paid in your child support case.
Primary placement is defined as one parent having 75% or more of the overnights with the parties’ children. So if you or your spouse has more than 75% of the overnights, then you or your spouse has primary placement and this formula would apply.
Here are the percentage standards:
• 17% of gross income for 1 child
• 25% of gross income for 2 children
• 29% of gross income for 3 children
• 31% of gross income for 4 children
• 34% of gross income for 5 or more children
E-mail us at [email protected] if you’d like a free copy of the Wisconsin child support calculator
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