What do I Need to Know Before Initiating My Wisconsin Divorce
Logically, you know that filing for divorce is going to alter your relationship with your spouse and your life. However, once the case begins, both may change in expected and unexpected ways. If you are considering filing for divorce, you will want to know: What do I need to know before initiating my Wisconsin divorce?
There is a Waiting Period
For some, deciding to proceed with divorce may be a gradual process that takes months or even years to unfold. For others, the choice to end the marriage may have been made quickly after a specific incident. In either case, once you reach the point of being ready to file for divorce, you may be eager to get through the unpleasantness of your case as soon as possible. It’s important to note that although you may want to be finished quickly, Wisconsin has a mandatory 120-day waiting period for divorce. That means, from the date you file and serve your spouse the soonest you can be divorced is 120 days after that.
You May Need to Have a Temporary Orders Hearing
After you initiate the divorce and your spouse has had an opportunity to respond, there may be disputed issues that need to be addressed while the case is pending. When divorcing couples disagree about matters such as who can use the primary residence, cars, and other property, they will have to go to court to get temporary orders. Likewise, parents who can't agree on child custody, support, and placement may also require a hearing. Your temporary orders will state how these issues will be handled while the case is ongoing. Sometimes the temporary orders hearing can result in findings that are the same or similar to those reached at the end of the case.
Your Spouse May Have a Different Reaction Than Expected
Every marriage is unique, and the reasons for divorce will vary from couple to couple. No matter how many times you have played it out in your mind, there is no way to know for sure how your spouse will react to the news that you filed for divorce. Your ex could respond by filing pleadings that claim you are an unfit parent, or demanding spousal maintenance. They could also become emotional and beg you to reconsider. Entering into the process knowing that your ex may have a stronger reaction than expected may help you emotionally prepare.
Wisconsin is a Community Property State
One thing to know before you file for divorce is that Wisconsin is a community property state. This means that outside of certain exceptions, such as gifted or inherited property, everything you and your ex brought to the marriage and earned or acquired during the marriage belongs to you equally. Wisconsin courts may award one spouse more of the community (shared property) in specific limited circumstances. However, in many cases, couples have 50/50 ownership rights to all of their assets including their bank accounts, real estate, investment portfolios, and respective retirement accounts.
Spousal Support is Not Guaranteed and is Often Temporary
In Wisconsin, courts have the discretion to award spousal support to help ensure that both parties have the means to maintain their standard of living after the divorce. When considering divorce, some people assume that they will automatically be awarded alimony or spousal support indefinitely. However, the award of spousal support is discretionary, and when it is ordered, it is usually for a finite period that is meant to give the less financially well-off spouse time to get on their feet. The court can consider numerous factors when deciding whether or not to award support. Still, it is not obligated to do so.
These are just some of the facts you should know before filing for divorce in Wisconsin. It would be in your best interests to consult with an experienced Wisconsin family law attorney to gain a more comprehensive understanding of what to expect during your case. You and your attorney can review your circumstances and discuss the different factors that may impact your divorce.
Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law is a trained Wisconsin attorney, Collaborative Attorney, and Mediator. She has extensive experience assisting clients before, during, and after Wisconsin divorce cases. She can help you understand your options and find the right resources. Call us today to set up a consultation so we can take a "first look" at your situation.