Divorce in Wisconsin

Badger State has only one reason for divorce: marriage ‘irretrievably broken’


The state of Wisconsin has strong language about marriage and divorce; from part 765 of its statues:

It is the intent of chs. 765 to 768 to promote the stability and best interests of marriage and the family. It is the intent of the legislature to recognize the valuable contributions of both spouses during the marriage and at termination of the marriage by dissolution or death. Marriage is the institution that is the foundation of the family and of society. Its stability is basic to morality and civilization, and of vital interest to society and the state. . . . The impairment or dissolution of the marriage relation generally results in injury to the public wholly apart from the effect upon the parties immediately concerned.

Completely no-fault

That being said, according to the state bar, “The only basis for divorce in Wisconsin is that the marriage is ‘irretrievably broken.’  This means the husband and wife can find no way to work out their differences. A judge usually will find a marriage irretrievably broken even if only one spouse wants a divorce.” In other words, the Badgers run what is known as a “complete no-fault state.”

Something else Wisconsin is apparently serious about is pro se divorce. Yes, like every other state in the union, Wisconsin allows you to represent yourself without benefit of an attorney. However, according to the Wisconsin Court System Self-Help Family Web Site, in response to the following questions:

Can I represent myself? Should I? What are my responsibilities? How should I prepare for court? How can court staff help me?

. . .the site provides this link, which reveals:

Most people come to court because something is affecting their lives, maybe in stressful and emotional ways. Learning the law and court processes can also be difficult and stressful. In fact, sometimes when people act as their own lawyer in complicated cases, they later need to hire a lawyer to “fix” mistakes. Hiring a lawyer after-the-fact could cost more than using a lawyer from the start.

However, many people, for a number of reasons, think about representing themselves in court. There are some questions you should consider before you begin your case without using a lawyer.

Consider questions carefully

That passage is followed by a list of 10 specific, tough questions, each with detailed remarks. In short, experts recommend that at the very least, the petitioner (the one who files for divorce) should have an attorney even for an uncontested proceeding in which both parties agree. Doing so will ensure the agreement is legal and the decree enforceable. Of course, in a contested divorce involving children, significant assets, or both, each party should be represented.

Note: Also see “Getting a divorce in Milwaukee” for information on domestic violence and more online resources.

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