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Filing for Divorce in Wisconsin > Step 1: Types of Divorce

Types of Divorce

A party seeking to end a marriage has several options. It should be noted that the process may convert to a different type by agreement or necessity.

Contested Divorce

The most common type of divorce in Wisconsin is referred to as a “contested divorce.” A contested divorce is handled by the court system and involves a series of court hearings in front of a judge who is assigned to the case.

Note: A contested divorce does not always end in a trial; our lawyers successfully resolve more than 90 percent of contested divorces before trial.

A contested divorce is recommended when any of the following statements is true:

Average contested divorce time from start to finish: ten to twelve months.

Uncontested Divorce

An “uncontested divorce” simply means that there are no substantive points of disagreement between the divorcing parties. This can either be because the spouses are able to come to an agreement on all issues or because the case is simple enough that no material issues arise in the first place.

In the case of uncontested divorces, we offer flexible and affordable fee options. Our role in an uncontested divorce is to help you move through the divorce process from start to finish quickly and efficiently.

An uncontested divorce is recommended when:

  • There are no material issues in dispute.
  • Both spouses wish to complete the divorce quickly and inexpensively.

Average uncontested divorce time from start to finish: four to six months.

Collaborative Divorce and Cooperative Divorce

“Collaborative divorce” and “cooperative divorce” share many of the same characteristics. Ultimately, spouses who wish to avoid the stress, time, and money of the courtroom should opt for collaborative divorce or cooperative divorce.

These cases will involve more out-of-courtroom negotiation and settlement conferences in order to avoid the stress, cost, and trauma of courtroom battles.

A collaborative divorce requires (1) both parties to retain an attorney and (2) that both parties and their attorneys sign contracts agreeing to resolve the matter out of court through a series of settlement conferences. The attorney must be certified to practice collaborative divorce. (We have the necessary certifications.)

A cooperative divorce is similar to a collaborative divorce in that the parties work together, with counsel, to stay out of court, but there are no binding contracts mandating the same.

Collaborative divorce and/or cooperative divorce are recommended when:

  • There are still disputed issues that need to be negotiated.
  • There is a basic level of trust between the spouses.
  • Both spouses wish to stay out of the courtroom.
  • Both spouses are willing to fully disclose income, assets, debts, etc., in order to avoid lengthy and costly discovery.
  • When there are children, both spouses place their children at the forefront of all decisions that will be made throughout the process.
  • When there are children, both spouses desire to effectively co-parent post-divorce.

Average cooperative or collaborative divorce time from start to finish: five to nine months.

Mediated Divorce

A “mediated” divorce is possible when the spouses mutually agree on hiring a single, neutral attorney to assist the parties in coming to agreements on all relevant areas of their divorce.

Recent changes in the law now permit mediators to assist the spouses in all aspects of the divorce, allowing the mediator to draft and even file documentation on behalf of divorcing couples.

A mediated divorce is recommended when:

  • Both spouses wish to utilize the services of the same attorney in a neutral manner to help them through the divorce process efficiently and fairly.
  • The spouses are comfortable proceeding without individual attorneys (although they may retain individual attorneys should they so desire).

Average mediated divorce time from start to finish: four to six months.

Legal Separation

As far as the process goes, a “legal separation” in Wisconsin is very similar to a divorce. In that regard, any of the above processes can be utilized for legal separation in the same way they would be for a divorce.

A legal separation is recommended when:

  • One spouse wants to remain on the other spouse’s employer-sponsored health insurance plan post-divorce (not always possible).
  • The spouses do not believe in (or want) a divorce for religious reasons.
  • The spouses think there may be a chance of reconciling in the future and don’t want the permanency that comes with a divorce.

Our experienced team of Milwaukee divorce and family lawyers can help you decide which type of divorce or legal separation is right for you and your family.

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