Getting a divorce in Madison

Attorney can help with counseling, domestic violence–and, of course, the divorce itself


Also see “Divorce in Wisconsin” for a state overview and an intro to filing pro se, that is, without benefit of an attorney. A related article also may be of interest: “Getting a divorce in Milwaukee.”

Madison and Dane County

For you in the Madison area, we need to emphasize three aspects of divorce.

First, you’re always better off finding an attorney who’s familiar with not only state law but also the local courts and judges. Second, you should seriously consider emotional/grief counseling (with which a good attorney can help you with). Third, if domestic abuse/violence is a factor in your family equation, you must deal with it first and foremost, for your own safety, the safety of your children, and even your pets.

Consider professional counseling

Realize this: once you have retained a compatible, trained and experienced divorce attorney, you have a powerful ally who can help with all things legal, plus counseling referrals and every aspect of domestic violence, including safety/escape plans, counseling and emergency shelter.

Addressing domestic violence

Also, residents of Madison and Dane County have agencies and facilities that can help with domestic violence, including these online resources:


Your papers will be filed at the Clerk of Courts office:

Clerk of Circuit Court and Register in Probate

Dane County Courthouse
Room 1000
215 S Hamilton St.
Madison, WI 53703

Click here for a map.

Common FAQ

Following are selected Questions and Answers from the Family Court’s FAQ page:

What’s the difference between legal separation, annulment, and divorce?

  • Legal Separation: A legal proceeding that separates the parties’ property and finances, and makes custody and placement orders regarding children, but continues their marriage. Legal separation is an alternative for people who wish to avoid divorce for religious or other reasons.
  • Annulment: Dissolves a marriage that was invalid from the beginning. A marriage may qualify for annulment only if it satisfies very limited statutory circumstances. See Wis. Stat. §767.313.
  • Divorce: A legal proceeding to dissolve an irretrievably broken marriage.

What if I don’t want a divorce? Is there anything I can do to stop it?

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.

How do I know what county to file for divorce in? Is it where I got married?

To file for a divorce in Dane County, one party must have lived in the State of Wisconsin for six months prior to the time the divorce is filed and in Dane County for at least thirty days before filing for divorce. Generally, you file for divorce in the county in which you are a legal resident.

What if I’m pregnant and going through a divorce?

Your husband is legally presumed to be the father of your child. You must notify the Court Commissioner or Judge of your pregnancy so that a lawyer can be appointed to represent the child’s best interests. That lawyer, the guardian ad litem, must recommend to the judge whether genetic testing should be undertaken to determine whether your husband or another person is the father of your child, before you can be divorced. This often involves waiting until the child is born, when genetic testing can be performed.

Do I need a lawyer in order to file for divorce?

There is no requirement that you must hire an attorney in order to file for divorce. Many people handle their own divorce, though lawyers have the training and experience to best present your case.

Free evaluation

No matter your marital situation, we can help. If you’re ready to begin the search for a compatible, well trained, experienced divorce attorney, you can start with our free case evaluation. If you need more information, please browse our site, using the tabs at the top of the page.