Wisconsin's Divorce Process: What to Expect

The divorce process in Wisconsin depends on many specific circumstances and may differ from case to case. However, there are some common divorce steps that every couple should get acquainted with, no matter if they decide to start an offline or online divorce process.

To help you understand the procedure for divorce that you will need to go through, we have prepared an extensive answer to the question, ” What is the process of divorce in the state for different situations?”. We will analyze the WI divorce process from beginning to end, focus on aspects to consider before filing, and discuss the joint divorce process in WI, its features, and its main advantages.

How to Begin a Divorce Process in Wisconsin?

The WI divorce process consists of a specific list of divorce steps to follow and requires certain preparation.

Here are some points that you should pay attention to before you start a divorce process:

  1. Use the Wisconsin Statute to familiarize yourself with the permissible grounds and guidelines for dissolving a marriage before beginning an offline or online divorce process. Spouses can get a divorce if both of them agree that the marriage has irretrievably broken down or if only one party believes so but a couple lived apart for 12 months before submitting a Petition to the clerk’s office. If this separate residency requirement is not met, the court will pay attention to the other factors to find out if the marriage breakup indeed took place and may suggest family counseling before granting a divorce.
  2. Verify that you meet the residency requirements for starting the divorce process. Either spouse must reside in the state for 6 months and live in the county where they file for no less than 30 days.
  3. Analyze the divorce issues you must resolve with the other spouse to determine the type of divorce process in Wisconsin you may file for. The list of necessary documents and the procedure for divorce will depend on the case type – contested or not.
  4. Complete a set of forms required for the process of divorce. In a contested case, you must prepare a Petition and Summons; in an uncontested one, you will need a Joint Petition and a Confidential Petition Addendum. Depending on the other case circumstances, you will need to collect and fill out other documents.
  5. Gather salary certificates and tax returns. They are needed to disclose financial information, which usually occurs at one of the court hearings.

What is the process of divorce after you complete all the necessary preparatory stages? It depends on the case, so let’s focus on each divorce type in more detail.

Step-by-Step Divorce Process in Wisconsin

Spouses who cannot agree on the marriage termination issues and do not wish to cooperate to resolve them will have to follow the ordinary WI divorce process. They will need to go through the traditional divorce steps in contested cases that begin with the completion of paperwork and end with the issuance of a divorce decision by the court.

The following are the common stages of the procedure for divorce:

  1. Preparing the Petition and other forms.

To start the divorce process in Wisconsin, you need to determine what documents are required for the case and complete them. In addition to the originals, make sure to prepare several copies.

  1. Filing a set of paperwork with the court.

How to begin a divorce process in Wisconsin? You must submit the prepared forms on paper to the county clerk’s office or e-file them, if this option is available in your county, to start the online divorce process. Regardless of the filing method you choose, you must pay a court fee or file a Petition for Waiver of Fees and Costs to prove your insolvency.

  1. Serving the other spouse.

After you file the necessary papers with the court, the next step in the process of divorce is to serve the defendant with the documents within 90 days. It can be done by a private process server, a sheriff, or another person who is over 18 and is not a party to the case. If the respondent is willing to cooperate and agrees to waive the serving procedure,  you can avoid it by filing an Admission of Service with the court after the defendant signs it.

  1. Appointing a temporary hearing.

If, during the divorce process in WI, you encounter disagreements regarding child custody or division of joint property, you need to prepare an Affidavit to Show Cause and Request or Hearing for Temporary Order and schedule a hearing. To obtain the necessary temporary orders, collect financial information and other documents that may be required for your case.

  1. Completing a waiting period.

After your spouse is served, you must wait at least 120 days to attend the preliminary hearing. During this time, you can complete the parenting program if you have minor children and prepare for the trial.

  1. Scheduling a pre-trial conference.

The first court hearing is necessary in the process of divorce so that the judges can better familiarize themselves with the case. During it, spouses can discuss their disputes, decide on mediation, focus on property distribution, etc.

  1. Attending the final hearing and finalizing the divorce process in Wisconsin.

If agreements were reached, the judge will review them at the final trial or make their own decisions over the divorce terms and issue a decree of marriage dissolution.

What is the process of divorce if it is joint? We will discuss it in the next section.

Mutual Divorce Process in Wisconsin

If you have agreed on all divorce terms with the other spouse, you can file for a simplified process of divorce. The mutual divorce process in Wisconsin is less time-consuming and requires fewer divorce steps than traditional marriage dissolution.

The summary divorce process in WI usually takes place in the following order:

  1. Preparation for divorce. You will need to complete a Joint Petition and some other paperwork that may be required, depending on your circumstances.
  2. Filing with the court. As during ordinary dissolution, you can submit papers to the clerk’s office or start an online divorce process through the e-filing system.
  3. Completion of the 120-day waiting period. Since you file jointly, you will not need to serve the defendant during the divorce process in Wisconsin. You may need to obtain temporary orders and attend a parenting program.
  4. Appointment of a trial and finalization of the procedure for divorce. Uncontested cases usually end after the first hearing if the judge finds the settlement made by the spouses fair. Most likely, a couple will not be required to attend several trials to get a divorce decree.

If you are concerned about the question, “What is the process of divorce that will help you avoid numerous court hearings?”, the answer is filing a Joint Petition with the court. You can prepare for it yourself or with the help of our online service. Using it, you can get the paperwork required in the divorce process in Wisconsin quickly and at a favorable price without having to search for and complete all the documents yourself.


The divorce process in Wisconsin differs depending on the case type. If it is contested, you need to prepare papers, submit them to the court, serve the defendant, and then schedule several court hearings; if it is uncontested, you can file jointly and finalize a divorce at the first trial after the waiting period ends.

To begin a divorce process in WI, you must determine which forms are necessary for your case, fill them out, and submit them to the court.