Wisconsin Divorce Laws Staff Profile Picture
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The adjusted divorce rate in Wisconsin has been one of the lowest nationwide. One study showed 11.7 divorces per 1,000 married women in the Badger State in 2022. Only Minnesota, Alaska, New Jersey, and Vermont had lower divorce rates than Wisconsin at 10.91, 10.49, 10.41, and 9.19, respectively.

While there are relatively few divorces in Wisconsin, it is important that couples, especially those who have given up on their marriages, know Wisconsin divorce laws.

If your marriage is one that is likely headed for divorce, this article will guide you through the divorce process in Wisconsin, from the paperwork that you need to complete to the individual steps that you must go through to terminate your marriage.

But first things first: ask yourself if divorce is the best option for you, or will other actions like legal separation or annulment work better for your situation? Comparing these solutions will help you make an informed decision on the fate of your marriage. 

Divorce vs. Annulment vs. Legal Separation in Wisconsin

Divorce in Wisconsin is a way to end a valid marriage. It results in a couple splitting their marital property as well as their rights and obligations as regards child custody and spousal support. Couples who believe their marriage to be irreparable may opt for divorce on grounds stated in Wis. Stat. § 767.315.

Legal separation involves a court judgment that a couple is legally separated. But unlike divorce, legal separation does not end the marriage. The couple may live separately with new rights and responsibilities, but they remain married. 

This option is recommended for couples who wish to live apart but keep their marriage intact for religious or financial reasons. It is also ideal for marriages in which reconciliation is still possible.

Annulment is different from divorce in that instead of terminating a marriage, it declares the marriage null and void. In other words, in the eyes of the law, no marriage took place between the couple granted an annulment.  

Compared to divorce and legal separation, an annulment is more difficult to obtain in Wisconsin. The law requires certain grounds for an annulment, such as impotence, mental incapacity, or one spouse being underage. If there is no evidence of these, the marriage cannot be considered null and void. 

To learn more about the pros and cons of divorce, legal separation, and annulment, you can talk to a Wisconsin divorce attorney.

Is Wisconsin a No-Fault State When It Comes to Divorce?

Wisconsin is a no-fault divorce state. This means that it is not necessary to establish that the collapse of the marriage is due to the fault of one of the spouses.

Instead, what the law requires in a divorce petition is the following:

  • The parties state under oath that their marriage is irretrievably broken;

  • The parties must have lived apart for at least 12 consecutive months before filing for divorce;

  • The party seeking a divorce must have resided for 30 days in the county in which the petition is filed and six months in Wisconsin.

If reconciliation is still possible, such as when the couple continues to live together and does not agree that their marriage is irretrievably broken, the court may advise them to undergo counseling and suspend the divorce proceedings for 30–60 days.

How to File for Divorce in Wisconsin

If a couple sees no chance of reconciliation between them, then the divorce process may proceed. The steps for obtaining a divorce in Wisconsin are outlined below. While the list may not be exhaustive, it will provide you with a map for achieving your divorce goals.

1. Prepare the Divorce Petition.

The forms that parties in a divorce fill out are available on the Wisconsin Court System website. The first document you must prepare is the petition for divorce. 

The name and number of the form you will fill out depend on whether you and your spouse are filing the petition jointly or separately and whether you have any children, as shown in the following table:


(You and your spouse are filing the divorce together.)

Joint Petition with Minor Children (FA-4110V)

Joint Petition without Minor Children (FA-4111V)


(Either you or your spouse alone are filing the divorce.)

Petition with Minor Children (FA-4108V)

Petition without Minor Children (FA-4109V)

Summons with Minor Children (FA-4104V)

Summons without Minor Children (FA-4105V)

Remember to have the divorce petition notarized. If you are filing a joint petition, you do not have to sign it at the same time as your spouse as long as a notary public is present during the signing of the document. 

Meanwhile, the summons is required if you are filing the divorce on your own. It will notify your spouse that you have initiated legal action against him or her. 

In addition to the summons and petition, a confidential petition addendum must also be submitted. To ensure that you have prepared all the necessary documents, you can inquire with the circuit court clerk’s office in your county.

2. File the Divorce Papers.

Once your divorce papers are ready, you may file them with the Clerk of Circuit Court and pay the fee. As of November 2023, the filing fee for divorce in Wisconsin is $184.50. If there is a request for alimony or child support, an additional fee of $10 will be collected. 

If you are unable to pay the fees because you do not have the financial capacity to do so, you may apply for a waiver of court fees and costs. After filing the documents, you and your spouse must wait 120 days before the court conducts a final hearing on the case.

3. Serve Copies of the Divorce Papers to Your Spouse.

If you filed the divorce petition by yourself, you must provide your spouse with copies of the petition, summons, and confidential petition addendum. In addition, you are required to give your spouse a proposed parenting plan if you have minor children.

There exists a time limit for serving the other party, which is no more than 90 days from the date you filed the papers in court. To deliver copies of the documents to your spouse, you have the following options:

  • Hire a professional process server. This person can be an officer at the sheriff’s department. 

  • Ask a family member or a friend. They must be more than 18 years old and have no involvement in the case to qualify as a process server.

  • Have your attorney mail an Admission of Service to your spouse for his or her signature. Alternatively, your spouse may pick up the divorce papers from the law firm and then sign an Admission of Service upon receipt of the documents.

4. Obtain a Temporary Order (If Needed).

If you and your spouse disagree on any issue that is related to your divorce, you may request the Family Court Commissioner to schedule a temporary hearing. This request may be submitted even prior to the filing of the divorce petition. 

There are also forms to fill out for a temporary hearing request. They are called Order to Show Cause and Affidavit for Temporary Order, and the specific forms are different for those with minor children from those without minor children.

The temporary hearing is usually the first court appearance in a divorce case. The purpose of these hearings is to find temporary solutions to contested divorce issues, such as the following:

  • Child custody;

  • Child support;

  • Child placement; 

  • Use of the family residence;

  • Use of personal property, such as cars;

  • Payment of bills;

  • Payment of spousal maintenance.

The commissioner will issue orders to address these issues until the couple reaches a final divorce settlement. The court may also order mediation to help the spouses find an amicable solution to their issues.

5. Attend Parenting Classes.

This step applies to couples with minor children. Wisconsin requires parties in a divorce to complete a parenting program before a divorce is granted. 

Parenting classes comprise at least four hours of training. Parents do not have to be in the same class as long as the course is approved by the State of Wisconsin. In addition, they must finish the training and get a certificate of completion before the court issues a final divorce order.

6. Come to the Final Hearing.

Depending on the county, the court will set the next hearing on its own or wait for the petitioners to arrange the schedule. If this hearing is also the final one, the parties are expected to come with the following documents:

  • Marital settlement;

  • Financial disclosure statements;

  • Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Judgment;

  • Vital statistics form;

  • Other forms that the court may require.

7. Complete Post-Trial Documents.

Once the trial has concluded with the judge granting the divorce, the parties must complete the final paperwork. This includes real estate and car title deed transfers, life insurance policy revisions to change beneficiaries, will amendments, and pension plan division.

How Property Is Divided in a Wisconsin Divorce

Wisconsin is known as a “community property” state. Any property a couple acquires before or during marriage is considered marital property, regardless of whose name is in the title.

If the couple gets a divorce, the value of the marital property will be divided equally, or 50-50, between the spouses. There may be exceptions to this, such as if the marriage is short-term. The divorce court may exclude premarital assets, given the brief duration of the marriage. 

Inheritance and gifts given only to one party may also be treated differently. If you think it will not be fair to share these assets with your former spouse, you may consult with a family law attorney to learn more about your rights following a divorce.

Wisconsin Divorce FAQs

Divorce brings up a number of issues, and one needs to be aware of them to avoid costly mistakes. Here are some of the frequently asked questions about divorce to get you ready for this process.

Legal Resources for Getting a Divorce in Wisconsin

There are programs and services available for Wisconsin residents with legal concerns. These resources are put together by public and private organizations to ensure that everyone has access to legal advice and representation. 

Free Legal Answers – Wisconsin

This is an online service where volunteer lawyers answer questions about civil law matters, such as divorce and child custody. You must pass a few screening questions to use Free Legal Answers. You will receive the lawyer's response to your inquiries via email, and you can respond with additional inquiries.

Legal Action of Wisconsin

Legal Action of Wisconsin focuses on providing free civil legal services to those who cannot afford attorney and court fees because of their financial situation. It also advocates for systemic reforms to ensure equal access to justice for all. The organization helps with family law issues, including divorce, legal separation, and annulment, especially cases that involve domestic violence.

Judicare Legal Aid

Low-income individuals can contact Judicare Legal Aid for legal assistance on family law matters. To be eligible for the service, you must be a resident of one of Wisconsin’s 33 northern counties, a victim of a crime, or a Native American. To learn more about the services that Judicare Legal Aid offers, call 715-842-1681 or email

University of Wisconsin-Extension Co-Parenting Programs

Divorce affects more than 16,000 children in Wisconsin every year. To help families adapt to their new situation following a divorce, UW-Extension offers co-parenting classes. This program aims to teach parents specific skills to help them and their children handle the post-divorce transition with minimal stress or conflict.

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Step into the world of, your go-to hub for credible insights. We don't take accuracy lightly around here. Our squad of expert reviewers, each a maestro in their field, has given the green light to every single article you'll find. From rigorous fact-checking to meticulous evaluations of service providers, we've got it all covered. So feel free to dive in and explore. The information you'll uncover has been stamped with the seal of approval by our top-notch experts.