Going through a divorce is difficult and takes an emotional toll on all parties involved. The legal process of finalizing the divorce is arguably even more difficult, requiring both parties to make tough legal decisions. With the help of a competent divorce lawyer, people going through a divorce can get the insight they need to make the process go more smoothly.
Wisconsin Divorce Law
There are a number of guidelines that Wisconsin residents must follow before a divorce is finalized and legitimized in the state. Wisconsin state law refers to this process as the dissolution of marriage.
First, in order to file for divorce in Wisconsin, at least one party must meet the residency requirements for a court to accept a case. Either the petitioner (the individual initiating the divorce process) or the other party listed on the marriage certificate must have been a resident of the state for at least six months prior to the date that a petition is filed. The petitioner must also be a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least 30 days before filing it.
When these requirements are met, the summons and petition will be served to the respondent (the individual who is notified that their partner wants a divorce). Wisconsin allows couples to petition the court for a divorce together, rather than separately. This is called a joint petition. A total of 120 days must pass after a respondent is served or a joint petition is filed before the divorce may be finalized.
A petitioner must file a petition for the dissolution of their marriage in a Wisconsin circuit court. The respondent has only 20 days to file a response or a counterclaim to the court after being served. In the original petition, there must be several elements included that suggest the marriage can not be salvaged in any circumstances, also known in legal terms as an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
When a case for the dissolution of a marriage or a legal separation is in process, both parties can choose to give their marriage another try by attempting a reconciliation. An effort to make a reconciliation consists of both parties expressing in writing their desire to try again. After this, the court may suspend upcoming orders and proceedings for a time period that doesn't exceed 90 days, to ensure that each party has time enough to decide what's best for their marriage, whether that be a dissolution or a continuance of it. Usually, within the duration of time proceedings are suspended, a couple will continue to live together as partners. Either party may decide that the suspension is revoked, but if the parties both decide to reconcile, the court will dismiss all pending actions. If in the period of suspension both parties feel that they have not reconciled, all actions will continue as planned.
Name Change or Restoration
According to Wisconsin law, when the court grants a divorce, each spouse is granted the opportunity to resume to a former legal surname. By law, this right is not offered to those who are labeled as a sex offender.
If the divorcees had a child or children together, the one parent may be ordered to pay child support. In some cases, the court determines a parent's support payments by calculating a set percentage of his or her income to pay every month. This percentage varies depending on the number of children involved, and the income level of the parent. In some cases, the court determines a parent's support payments by combining a percentage of income calculation with a calculation of how many nights per year the child or children are placed with each parent. This is usually calculated using the shared placement formula. Under these circumstances, the goal is to equalize the funds available for the support of the child or children between two homes where the child or children spend their time. No matter which way the court calculates its order, the order can be modified based on a number of elements that will be evaluated by the court. Of these elements are the financial needs of the child, the standard of living the child has become accustomed to and the best interests of the child. Each child support case is highly individualized since every child is unique and has different needs.
Some cases will involve spousal support, or the financial support of one estranged partner to the other. This is known in Wisconsin as "maintenance," but is often referred to outside the legal system as "alimony." A spousal support order requires one spouse to provide funds for the other temporarily or permanently, so they can continue the lifestyle they were living prior to the divorce. This arrangement will only be ordered by the court after several factors are thoroughly evaluated. Some of these factors are:
- The length of the marriage
- The age of the parties
- Physical, mental and emotional well-being
- The division of property
- Educational levels of each party at the time of marriage and divorce
- The earning capacity of each party
- Tax consequences
Distribution of Property
Wisconsin is a Community Property state, which means that all property that was acquired during the marriage is presumed to be owned jointly, and equally, by both spouses. This includes salaries of the parties, interest on investments, and appreciation of real estate, among other things.
Experienced Wisconsin Divorce Attorney
If you don't know how to initiate a divorce, or just feel like you need legal guidance throughout the process, contact Mara Spring today for a consultation.