Divorce Process

Divorce in the State of Wisconsin

Step One: The Pleadings
A divorce in Wisconsin begins when one party serves another party with the divorce papers (commonly referred to as "pleadings"). The specific documents in question are referred to as a"Summons" and a"Petition". The person requesting the divorce is referred to as the "Petitioner". The party upon whom the divorce documents have been served is referred to as the "Respondent". The summons advises all interested parties of the existence of a lawsuit requesting a divorce and outlines a time frame for a response. The petition advises the Court and the other party what the petitioner is asking for.

Step Two: You Have Received Documents...Now What?
After you receive divorce pleadings, contact Drosen, Wandt and Rustad for a free consultation to discuss what to do next. You have options. How you respond is best determined by your particular situation and as such it is best to evaluate your options before proceeding. For example, if you're an agreement with the divorce, it may be best for you to file a pleading referred to as a Counterclaim.

Step Three: But I Don't Want a Divorce! No, No, No!
It's not a common (at least at the outset) for a party to a divorce not to want one. In my opinion, it's actually the norm. But with that in mind, Wisconsin is a "no-fault divorce" state. This essentially means that neither party will be required to testify as to why he or she wants or is deserving of a divorce. The only necessary finding by the Court is that the marriage is irretrievably broken. The Court will not order the parties to go to counseling or take other seemingly reasonable steps to rectify any disagreements which have led to the filing for divorce. They will also not require someone to stay married if they don't want to be.

Step Four: Where Do I Go from Here?
Evaluate your situation to determine what should be done during the pendency of the divorce. Do you need the consistency and certainty of a Temporary Order to determine who will pay what bills, and when each party will have placement of children? If you do, the filing of an Order to Show Cause may be appropriate to your situation. Through the assistance of counsel, you can determine what your options are and best course for reaching your goals.

During this period of time you can evaluate the ramifications that potential issues like mental illness, infidelity, drug abuse, alcohol abuse and complex work schedules will have on your divorce and post- divorce life.

Step Five: How Long Will This Go On?
In the State of Wisconsin, by statute (barring exigent circumstances) the minimum period of time that a divorce will continue prior to conclusion is 120 days. In many instances parties will reach the necessary agreements to conclude their divorce prior to the 120th day and in that event the divorce will be concluded as close to the 120th day as possible. This unfortunately represents the best case scenario. In many instances the two parties find themselves in an emotional quagmire where they feel diametrically opposed as someone who was once their best friend now feels like their mortal enemy. As a result of this emotional opposition, parties often experience difficulty agreeing on much of anything and this inability to agree ultimately extends the length of the divorce. At the end of the day it is historically the parties to the action who dictate not only how long the divorce takes but also how expensive it is to conclude.

Step Six: Am I Destined to Have an Expensive Divorce Trial?
No. Thankfully while divorce proceedings are often very emotional they provide ample opportunity for people to calm down and focus on what's important. Once the parties can return to the new normal, they may then have the ability to reach the necessary terms and conditions to enter into a legal document referred to as a "Marital Settlement Agreement." Once a Marital Settlement Agreement has been executed, it is appropriate for the parties to contact the Court to schedule a Stipulated Divorce Hearing. If a Marital Settlement Agreement can be entered into there is no necessity for a contested divorce hearing and as such no expensive divorce trial.


Schmidlkofer, Toth, Loeb & Drosen, LLC
949 Glenview Ave.
Wauwatosa, WI, 53213
Phone: 414-259-9300
Fax: 414-259-9303
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We represent people throughout southeast Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, Waukesha, Brookfield, New Berlin, Pewaukee, Delafield, Menomonee Falls, Germantown, West Allis and Wauwatosa; and in Milwaukee County, Waukesha County, Washington County and Ozaukee County.