As expected, many individuals believe that their marriage will last an eternity. With this expectation comes the lack of knowledge regarding divorce. Nevertheless, divorce happens and if your marriage falls apart, it is extremely important to understand your legal rights and obligations. You never thought you would be here, but you are and you have to know what to do.

There is no such thing as an “ultimate divorce guide,” as every end to a marriage is unique. Even so, there are a few general principles under Wisconsin law that can help you begin to understand the basic process.


First, you can only file for divorce in the state of Wisconsin if you have been a resident for at least six months. Furthermore, your residency must total 30 days or more in the county in which you file. This means that you may have to wait a little while before beginning the process if you are new to your town.

Commencing a divorce

Divorce begins with the filing of a petition and summons. The petition for divorce provides the court with a factual explanation of the marriage and states the desired outcome of the divorce. The summons notes that a response must be filed within 20 days. After one spouse files the petition and summons with the court, these documents are given to the family court commissioner (in some counties) and to the other spouse. This is called service.

Sometimes, the court issues temporary orders once the divorce has been filed. These orders lay out the rules that each spouse must follow until the final divorce hearing. Generally, these instructions concern issues relating to children. For example, orders may discuss temporary child custody arrangements or provisional support orders.

Grounds for a divorce

In Wisconsin, the only basis for divorce is that the marriage is “irretrievably broken,” meaning that a couple can find no way to resolve their differences. In this state, if you desire a divorce and your spouse does not, this is typically enough legal evidence to suggest that a marriage is unsalvageable, and court will probably conclude that the marriage is broken.

Length of procedure

Ending a marriage is stressful. You may wonder how long you must endure the tumultuous dissolution process. Unless the court makes an exception for an emergency, you can expect your case to last at least four months. This period must pass between the serving of the initial papers and the final hearing. Most divorces take longer; however, if you work with an experienced Wisconsin family law attorney, this can help expedite the process. A divorce is official at the final hearing.

Ultimately, the length of the process will depend on the complexity of your case. Issues such as child custody, child support, spousal support, property division and other matters that relate to your marriage may be considered.

Depending on your particular situation, you can work collaboratively with your ex-spouse to help expedite the progression. Nevertheless, it is always a good idea to have a divorce lawyer by your side. An attorney can serve as your advocate and help make a divorce favorable to your circumstances.

These are just the basics of the process. If you would like to learn more about divorce, you should contact a knowledgeable family law attorney in your area.