It takes a long time to get divorced in Wisconsin. In fact, it takes longer in Wisconsin than in almost any other state. This is because Wisconsin has a mandatory 120-day “cooling off” period between the time a divorce is filed and the time it can be finalized.
However, this 120-day waiting period can often turn into 6 months or longer and certain circumstances can delay a divorce for a year or more.
This is the main factor that will impact the speed of your divorce. The waiting period is mandatory and, generally, cannot be shortened by the court.
You must file a divorce in the county in which you or your spouse lived for at least 30 days immediately preceding the filing.
Some counties have a much smaller volume of divorce cases and can, therefore, process them more quickly and efficiently. Very large or populous counties have a much higher volume of divorce filings. Therefore, you may have to wait much longer to get into court for a final divorce hearing.
Upon filing your divorce action, your case will be assigned to one of the county judges. In some counties, the judges hear all kinds of matters—from family law cases to criminal cases. In other counties, judges are assigned only to family law cases.
Judges also have their own rules and preferences about how to schedule final divorce hearings. If the judge assigned to your case has established more onerous or stringent rules, it may take longer to obtain a final hearing.
In general, the earliest you can expect to finalize your divorce is 4 to 6 months after you file it.
The opposing party and his or her attorney can also impact the duration of your divorce case. If your spouse or his attorney is cooperative and responsive, your case will go faster. But if your spouse is difficult to locate or does not show up for court or if he does not provide documents when requested, your divorce will take much longer.
The issues in dispute can also significantly impact the length of time it takes to finalize your divorce. Disputed custody and placement issues routinely take the longest to resolve. This is because the courts will often appoint third parties such as a Guardian ad Litem or child custody evaluator to perform investigations.
These investigations typically take at least four months to resolve and sometimes take much longer.
If the value or division of a closely held business is in dispute, it can exacerbate the time it takes to finalize your divorce because, again, the court will likely invoke third parties to perform a formal valuation of the business. This investigation can take several months to accomplish. It is also possible that if one party disagrees with the valuation, he or she will seek an independent “second opinion” and, if a second valuation is performed, it will take another several months to complete.
The same is true for any major asset in dispute. For example, if the parties cannot agree on the value or disposition of their home, the divorce will likely be delayed while the parties undertake competing appraisals or wait for the house to be sold so that the proceeds can be split in the final divorce.
One factor that can completely derail a divorce is pregnancy.
If the wife becomes pregnant while a divorce is pending, the divorce cannot be finalized until after the child is born—even if everyone agrees the child is not the husband’s.
This rule is in effect for a couple of reasons. First, there is a legal presumption that any child conceived during the marriage is the biological child of a woman’s husband. This legal presumption cannot be overcome by mere consent. The child must be born and genetically tested—and the husband must be scientifically excluded as the father by those tests. Only then can the divorce proceed.
Furthermore, the court must ensure the proper support of any child born during the marriage. If the child is not the husband’s, the court must determine who is the father of the child and the child’s father must take financial responsibility for the baby before the wife can finalize her divorce.
Child support can only be ordered for a child once the child is born. Since genetic testing to determine paternity cannot be performed until the child is born and because child support cannot be determined until paternity is established, the divorce cannot proceed until after the child is born.
As a result of this rule, the divorce will be delayed by the amount of time it takes for the wife to complete her pregnancy and give birth.
If you would like to discuss the factors that may impact the time it takes to finalize your divorce, or if your divorce has been pending for too long and you would like to know what you can do to move it forward, please contact us to schedule a 100% confidential consultation.
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