The True “Ten-Hour Divorce”: A Road Map

“How long will my divorce take?” is surprisingly similar to asking “How far is it to Green Bay?” In both scenarios, the answer depends on two things: where you start, and your perspective. From Milwaukee, Green Bay is 116.7 miles, or “about an hour and a half.” Both answers are correct. The miles in distance will never change — but the time it takes can be influenced by a million factors. Did you stop for lunch? Did you get lost along the way, or run out of gas?

In Wisconsin, a divorce will take a minimum of 120 days. That will never change. But the time it takes to get there can be influenced by many factors: Do you have children? Do you and your spouse agree on the “big issues?” Are either of you planning to hire an attorney?

Under optimal circumstances – clear roads, fair weather, and no roadblocks – you can get to Green Bay in “about an hour and a half”. Under optimal circumstances, you can get divorced in “about 10 hours”.

Here’s how we break down the “trip” in five easy milestones.

1. Setting Course

By the time you consult with a divorce lawyer, you have often planned your divorce trip. You have a clear idea of where you want to go and how you want to get there. When you hire an attorney, your trip “meter” starts running, and the first thing your attorney will do is prepare the initial pleadings. They will draft and file a Summons and Petition for Divorce, and an “Affidavit of Service” for your spouse to sign — acknowledging receipt of the papers. This paperwork will take approximately one hour of legal time.

2. The First Leg

After your initial pleadings are filed, your attorney will ask you to begin preparing a financial declaration. If you have children, they might also ask you to prepare a parenting plan. Both documents are forms that you and your spouse can fill out separately or together. Completing these documents takes approximately one to two hours of legal time.

3. The Second Leg

Once your attorney is familiar with you and your spouse’s finances and your custody/placement arrangements, they can begin negotiating a settlement. They will meet with you to develop and discuss options, which they will then present to your spouse for consideration. Your spouse will then respond with their own ideas and suggestions. This process will go back and forth until you and your spouse agree on all the major issues. This process takes approximately three hours of legal time.

4. The Home Stretch

Once you and your spouse have reached a settlement agreement, your attorney will draft it as a formal contract called a “Marital Settlement Agreement”. You and your spouse will then review and approve this agreement. The process of drafting, refining, and approving the agreement takes approximately two hours of legal time.

5. The Arrival

Your attorney will file the Marital Settlement Agreement and your financial declarations with the court. You and your spouse and your attorney(s) will then attend a final divorce hearing. The judge or commissioner will ask you and your spouse questions to ensure you both understand & will follow the MSA. They will then grant the divorce. After that, your attorney will prepare your “official” divorce papers called the “findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Judgment of Divorce”. The final court hearing and preparation of the final judgment take approximately two hours of legal time.

These estimated times follow a few assumptions:

  • You and your spouse can reasonably transact and communicate throughout the process.
  • You and your spouse both cooperate with the process.
  • You “stay the course”, sticking to your original strategy with respect to the overall settlement.
  • Your spouse either does not have a lawyer, or if they do, their lawyer works well with yours.
  • You take your attorney’s advice.

Just as with any road trip — with the right attitude, preparation, and conditions, you’ll arrive safely and promptly at your destination

The road to divorce does not have to be bumpy, or a directionless dead end. For expert navigation of the divorce process, and for ideas as to how you can improve your chances of a true 10-hour divorce, contact our experienced attorneys for a consultation.