State Of Wisconsin Divorce Law


Wisconsin Family Law And Divorce Resource

U.S. Divorce Laws are enacted by each state using their respective legislative process. Once legislation is enacted into law, the divorce courts in Wisconsin have the authority to manage the divorce proceedings, including, spousal and child support payments, custodial rights of parents and the division of community property.

Since state laws are repealed and amended frequently, it is always advisable to consult with an experienced divorce lawyer before making any important decisions about your marriage. You can also visit the GotTrouble Divorce Resource for a more in-depth understanding of related divorce and family law topics.

As of 2016, all states allow for “no fault” divorce. Yet many courts still factor in the respective parties past behavior when determining the division of community property, debts, custody, support and related issues.


On June 26, 2015, the US Supreme Court ruled that gay marriage is a right protected by the US Constitution in all 50 states. It follows, therefore, that the rights and obligations between same-sex divorcing parties are subject to the same dissolution laws of that state. Reference: US Supreme Court Opinion: Obergefell v. Hodges. (For more information visit


One of the spouses must have been a resident of Wisconsin for six months and of the county for 30 days immediately prior to the filing of the divorce. No hearing on the divorce will be scheduled until 120 days after the defendant is legally served the divorce papers or after the filing of a joint petition.


There are only two legal grounds for divorce and both are based on no-fault:

  • The marriage is irretrievably broken; and
  • The joint declared assertion that the marital relationship is broken.


Not mandatory if both parties legally agree to end the marriage through the Affirmance process discussed above.


If custody of a child is a contested issue, mediation is required. If joint custody is requested, mediation may be required. In addition, the court may order parents in any child custody situation to attend an educational program on the effects of divorce on children.

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Wisconsin is a community property state with the presumption that all marital property should be divided equally.

Distribution may be altered by the court based on these and other factors:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • Whether one of the parties has substantial assets not subject to division by the court;
  • The contribution of each party to the marriage, giving appropriate economic value to each party’s contribution in homemaking and child care services;
  • The age and physical and emotional health of the parties;
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other; whether there is a substantial change in circumstances, is a discretionary decision;
  • The earning capacity of each party;
  • Other economic circumstances of each party, including pension benefits, vested or unvested, and future interests;
  • The court may also divide any of the spouse’s separate property in order to prevent a hardship on a spouse or on the children of the marriage.


Either spouse may be ordered to pay maintenance to the other spouse, without regard to marital misconduct.

The factors for consideration include but are not limited to the following:

  • The length of the marriage;
  • The age and physical and emotional health of the parties;
  • the property division;
  • The educational level of each party at the time of marriage and at the time the action is commenced;
  • The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to find appropriate employment;
  • The feasibility that the party seeking maintenance can become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and, if so, the length of time necessary to achieve this goal;
  • The tax consequences to each party;
  • Any mutual agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage, according to the terms of which one party has made financial or service contributions to the other with the expectation of reciprocation or other compensation in the future.;
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other;
  • Any other relevant factors the court deems relevant.


Upon request, either spouse’s former name may be restored.


In rendering a judgment of divorce, the court shall make whatever determinations it deems just and reasonable, concerning the legal custody and physical placement of any minor children to the parties. Joint or sole child custody is based based on the best interests of the child.

The court determines child custody based on these and other considerations:

  •  The preference of the child;
  • The wishes of the parents;
  • The child’s adjustment to his or her home, school, religion, and community;
  • The mental and physical health of all individuals involved;
  • The relationship of the child with parents, siblings, and other significant family members;
  • Any findings or recommendations of a neutral mediator;
  • The availability of childcare;
  • Any spouse or child abuse;
  • Any significant drug or alcohol abuse;
  • And any other factors the court deems necessary to be in the best interests of the child.


Wisconsin uses the Percentage of Income standard to determine the level of child support. Either or both parents may be ordered to pay child support and health care expenses.

The support amount must be expressed as a fixed sum unless the parties have stipulated to expressing the amount as a percentage of the payer’s income. The court may require that child support payments be guaranteed by an assignment of income, that the payments are made through the court, or that health insurance be provided for the children. The court may also order a parent to seek employment. The court may order spousal maintenance and child support payments be combined into a “family support” payment.

The factors to be considered by the court include but are not limited to:

  • The financial resources of the child;
  • The standard of living the child would have enjoyed if the marriage had not been dissolved;
  • The physical and emotional conditions and educational needs of the child;
  • The financial resources, earning capacity, needs, and obligations of the parents; (5) The age and health of the child, including the need for health insurance;
  • The desirability of the parent having custody remaining in the home as a full-time parent;
  • The cost of daycare to the parent having custody if that parent works outside the home or the value of the childcare services performed by that parent;
  • The tax consequences to each parent;
  • The award of substantial periods of physical placement to both parents; Any extraordinary travel expenses incurred in exercising the right to periods of physical placement;
  • The best interests of the child; and (12) any other relevant factors.




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