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Navigating the Divorce Process in Wisconsin: A Comprehensive Timeline


Navigating the Divorce Process in Wisconsin: A Comprehensive Timeline

by Spencer Wingert, Associate Attorney



Divorce can be a challenging and emotionally taxing experience. Understanding the timeline for a divorce in Wisconsin can help you prepare for what lies ahead and make the process as smooth as possible. While every divorce case is unique, this blog post will provide you with a general overview of the key stages and approximate timeframes involved in obtaining a divorce in the state of Wisconsin. Please keep in mind that the time frame estimates are just that, and that no attorney can guarantee the court’s timeliness, or that of opposing counsel.

Requirements Before Filing

Before filing for divorce in Wisconsin, you or your spouse must meet the state’s residency requirements. At least one of you must have lived in Wisconsin for at least six months before initiating the divorce proceedings. Additionally, you must reside in the county where you plan to file for at least 30 days.

1. Filing the Petition (1-2 Days)

The divorce process in Wisconsin typically begins with one spouse filing a Petition for Divorce in the county where either spouse resides. The process starts when the petitioner (the spouse initiating the divorce) submits the necessary paperwork to the court. This step is completed when the paperwork has been submitted.

2. Serving the Divorce Papers (1-2 Weeks)

After filing the petition, the petitioner must serve the divorce papers to the other spouse. This can be done through certified mail, a process server, or even by the other spouse voluntarily accepting the documents. The response time can vary, but it generally takes 1-2 weeks for this step to be completed. If service cannot be completed by traditional means, your attorney can assist you in accomplishing service by other court approved ways.

3. Response and Counterclaim (Varies)

Once served, the respondent (the other spouse) has a set amount of time, typically 20 days, to respond to the petition. If the respondent wishes to contest the divorce or make counterclaims, this can extend the timeline of the entire divorce considerably, potentially adding several months to the process.

4. Temporary Orders (1-3 Months per Hearing)

In cases involving child custody, support, or spousal maintenance, or disputes regarding property and bank accounts, the court may issue temporary orders while the divorce is pending. These orders are intended to establish a framework for financial support, visitation, and other matters during the divorce process. Resolving temporary orders can take 1-3 months, depending on court scheduling and the complexity of the issues involved. There may be multiple temporary order hearings depending on the case. These orders ensure that both parties’ rights and responsibilities are protected while the divorce is pending.

5. Discovery (2-6 Months)

Discovery is the process during which both parties exchange information relevant to the divorce, such as financial documents, property records, and witness statements. The duration of this stage varies depending on the complexity of the case and the willingness of both parties to cooperate. Both parties are required to file documentation, such as Financial Disclosures, but if other information is sought by either party, this can be accomplished either through cooperation or through discovery tools.

6. Mediation or Settlement Negotiations (Varies)

Many divorce cases in Wisconsin are resolved through mediation or settlement negotiations. The duration of these negotiations varies widely depending on the parties’ willingness to compromise and the complexity of the issues. It can range from a few weeks to several months. If there is a child custody or placement dispute, one session of mediation is mandated by law with few exceptions.

7. Trial (6-12 Months)

If a divorce case cannot be settled through negotiation or mediation, it may proceed to trial. Trial scheduling can be a lengthy affair, with various deadlines extending the length of the case beyond 6 months to a year. The trial itself is typically a 1-2 day event, with the court scheduling time based on the complexity of the case. During the trial, both sides present evidence and arguments to a judge who will make the final decisions on contested issues. Trials can be emotionally draining and costly, so it is generally advisable to explore alternative dispute resolution methods first.

8. Finalizing the Divorce (Varies)

After a trial, or if the parties reached a Marital Settlement Agreement, the parties’ marriage is officially dissolved the date of the hearing. Afterwards final documents will be submitted with the terms of the divorce.

Step 9: Post-Divorce Matters (Varies)

Even after the divorce is finalized, there may be post-divorce matters to address, such as modifying child custody or support orders or enforcing court orders. It’s crucial to keep communication lines open and work together for the well-being of any children involved. If agreements cannot be reached, legal counsel is recommended to navigate the court process.



Navigating the divorce process in Wisconsin can be a time-consuming and emotionally draining journey. The timeline provided here is a general overview, and the actual duration of your divorce may vary. Please note that the statutory minimum time that must pass before a final divorce hearing will be scheduled is 120 days from the successful service to the opposing party. It’s essential to work with an experienced family law attorney who can guide you through the process, help you make informed decisions, and advocate for your rights. Additionally, seeking emotional support and counseling during this challenging time can be invaluable. Remember that while the divorce process can be difficult, it is a step toward a new chapter in your life, and with the right guidance, you can navigate it successfully.

Contact Russell Law Offices for a consultation regarding your divorce process!


Spencer Wingert

Associate Attorney

Jefferson, Fort Atkinson

About Spencer Wingert is a dedicated Family Law attorney located in our Jefferson County offices. Spencer takes pride in providing a crucial service to his clients in their time of need. It is important to him to provide high-quality service to people in their most vulnerable time of need and provide a positive experience. Spencer […]

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