Sometimes, you reach a point with your spouse where you simply cannot make your marriage work. Maybe your spouse committed an act of infidelity, maybe he or she is abusive, or maybe your views and goals for the future are simply too different for you to remain in a harmonious marriage. When you reach this point, it is time to consider a divorce.
In 2014, 15,243 Wisconsin marriages ended in divorce. Whether you live in Neenah, Appleton, or elsewhere in the Badger State, it is important that you familiarize yourself with Wisconsin’s divorce laws before you move forward with yours.
Wisconsin is one of the states whose laws require divorce courts to distribute couples’ property according to the doctrine of community property. This means that when a couple divorces, their marital property is split between them 50/50.
Marital property refers to any assets that were obtained during the couple’s marriage. Assets held by each individual before the marriage began are considered to be separate property and as such, are not subject to division by the court during a divorce.
Spousal maintenance, also known as alimony, is money paid from one spouse to another after a divorce to minimize his or her financial burden following the divorce. Spousal maintenance can be sought by an individual of either sex, regardless of the reason for his or her divorce. To determine an appropriate spousal maintenance amount for an individual, the court considers various factors such as the length of his or her marriage, how his or her property was divided, and the tax implications that a spousal maintenance arrangement would have on both parties.
In Wisconsin, it is possible for an individual to file for divorce without providing a reason, or a “fault,” for his or her decision. This is known as a no-fault divorce. Once an individual files for divorce, he or she must “serve,” or deliver, documentation of doing so to his or her spouse within 90 days. The spouse then has 20 days to file a counterclaim or to agree to the divorce in writing. If he or she does not do this, the court may enter a default judgment against him or her. This means that the court grants the divorce to the individual who filed to end the marriage.
If you are considering filing for divorce, you might be feeling stressed about the prospect of going to court to have a judge make decisions about how you will divide your property, where your children will live, and whether you or your spouse are entitled to receive spousal maintenance.
If you have a fairly amicable relationship with your spouse, you could be candidates for a less stressful divorce method, such as mediation or collaborative divorce. Talk to your lawyer about the benefits and drawbacks of each method to determine if either might be the right choice for you. Mediation and collaborative divorce are less expensive and more efficient than litigation, but they are not ideal for all couples. Couples who have histories of domestic violence, poor communication skills, and couples where one partner is suspected of hiding assets from the other are rarely suited to these divorce methods. No matter which divorce method you choose, you need to file your divorce paperwork with the Clerk of Circuit Courts to complete the legal process of ending your marriage.
With mediation, a divorcing couple meets with a neutral third party known as a mediator to reach a fair divorce settlement. The mediator does not make decisions for the couple. Instead, he or she guides the couple’s conversations and provides insight to help them reach their own conclusions. Couples who choose mediation have greater flexibility in the divorce process than those who divorce through litigation and in many cases, report greater levels of satisfaction with their settlements and better relationships with each other after their divorces are finalized.
With collaborative divorce, there is no neutral third party. Instead, the couple and their lawyers work out the terms of the couple’s divorce settlement through a series of four-way meetings. Other professionals, such as a real estate appraiser, accountant, or a child custody evaluator may be contracted to provide guidance for certain determinations. This is often a good choice for couples who have no children, few assets, and those who have clear goals for their divorce.
A collaborative divorce is not the same as a “do it yourself” divorce. Although you and your spouse are in control of the divorce process when you choose collaborative divorce, you still work work a lawyer to ensure that your rights are protected and that your interests are expressed. If you complete the divorce process without the aid of a professional, you can potentially cheat yourself or your children out of crucial financial support and legal protections.
Filing for divorce does not mean that you are a bad person or that you failed at your marriage. It simply means that remaining in your marriage is not in your best interest. If you are ready to file for divorce, contact an experienced Appleton family law attorney to discuss your rights and how you can move forward with the process of ending your marriage. Our team of experienced divorce attorneys at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC is here to help you by answering your questions and guiding you through the divorce process, protecting your rights and interests at every step.