Learn about legal separation from award-winning Wisconsin family law attorneys
A legal separation, like divorce, is a court-ordered agreement in which a married couple lives separate lives—however, with legal separation, that marriage hasn’t legally ended. Learn the details of legal separation in Wisconsin below.
Legally reviewed for accuracy by Attorney Kelly Dodd
The information provided does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Talk to a lawyer today for legal advice
A Legal Separation is different than simply living apart while you try to decide if you should formalize your arrangements via a legal separation or divorce.
Legal Separation dissolves a marriage. It is a distinct legal status. When you are “legally separated” you are no longer married. However, you are not divorced.
Physically separating is not the same as legally separating. If you physically separate without taking any further legal action, you remain legally married—and will continue to enjoy (or suffer) all the rights and responsibilities that come with it.
Legal separations are rare. They used to be invoked because it would keep the marital bond intact for purposes of, for example, continuing a separated spouse’s health insurance through the other spouse. However, insurance companies are wise to this and now commonly refuse to continue benefits for a legally separated spouse.
Aside from the rare continuation of health insurance benefits, the other most common reason parties choose a legal separation instead of divorce is due to personal or religious reasons. If parties belong to a religion that prohibits divorce, or if they are attempting to honor a personal tenet to never get divorced, parties will sometimes choose “legal separation” as a work-around because it has the legal effect of a divorce, but the semantic distinction of not actually being a “divorce.”
There is virtually no practical difference between a legal separation and a divorce in Wisconsin. Both dissolve a marriage and require the court (or the parties) to divide their property, their incomes, and their time with their children in the same manner and with the same finality as if they were formally divorcing.
There are a few minor differences between a Legal Separation and Divorce in Wisconsin:
A legal separation is only guaranteed for one year; one year after receiving a final judgment of legal separation, either party can move the court to convert the matter to divorce without going through the formal divorce process.
Parties to a legal separation can reconcile at any time and revoke their Judgment of Separation; parties to a divorce only have 6 months after the divorce is final to reconcile and revoke their Judgment of Divorce.
After a divorce, parties can remarry someone else after a six-month waiting period. Parties to a legal separation cannot get remarried.
Parties can file a legal separation if at least one party has lived in a county for 30 days; to file a divorce, at least one party must have lived in the county for 6 months.
If you are ready for legal separation, schedule a confidential consultation with us or complete the form below.
We'll prepare information like a list of your assets and debts, financial documents, and child custody goals.
We'll file an application that requests for your separation to be legally recognized.
The forms, instructions, procedural information, and waiting period (120 days) for obtaining a divorce are exactly the same for obtaining a legal separation. Learn more about the how-to -file process here.
Filing for Legal Separation is identical to filing for divorce in Wisconsin—except that the court will assign the case a different case code to distinguish it internally as an action for Legal Separation instead of an action for Divorce.
Because the Legal Separation process is identical to the Divorce process, the cost of legal separation and the cost of divorce are the same; $3,000 – $6,000 on average for Wisconsin couples.
Short answer: Indefinitely.
Parties who legally separate, can remain legally separated indefinitely. However, they are not eligible to remarry anyone else while they are legally separated. Also, after one year of legal separation, if one party wants to convert the separation to a divorce, he or she can do so by simply notifying the court.
Short answer: Yes.
Getting a legal separation without a lawyer is no different than getting divorced with out a lawyer. For more information on the pros and cons of representing yourself, click here.
To talk to an attorney about the differences between a legal separation and divorce or for help deciding which process is right for you, please contact a legal separation attorney at Karp & Iancu for a 100% confidential consultation!
We're known for our expertise in legal separation. We've also won awards for cases involving the following practice areas of family law in Wisconsin:
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