Wisconsin’s laws of legal separation and divorce

Similar to divorce, a legal separation under Wisconsin's codes helps resolve issues associated with a marriage; however, the legal function of a separation does this without a literal divorce or marriage termination. Within the process, a splitting couple can discuss and resolve issues relating to their marriage, including those related to children, property division matters, relief from debt and other similar topics. Yet, all of this is achieved without an official dissolution of marriage.

Why would one opt for legal separation?

If legal separation accomplishes similar agendas as a divorce, you may be wondering why some opt for separation instead of dissolution. There are several benefits to a legal separation, which may suit particular lifestyle choices.

For example, if one wants to continue to reap the benefits of a spouse's health insurance plan, the person must still be married to that other party. This is not always possible, however, after a legal separation as it is dependent on the rules of your insurer. Moreover, a person may hold specific religious beliefs, which do not condone divorce. A separation can ensure that the couple is still married; but creates the desired legal space between spouses. Moreover, if there is a possibility of reconciliation, a legal separation may be a better option for parties.

If both parties jointly stipulate that a separation should transform into divorce, a court will typically permit the couples to move forward with the dissolution process. In Wisconsin, parties do not have to articulate to the court why they desire a separation; however, litigants will be required to testify in court that they believe the marital relationship is broken. Conversely, demonstration that a marriage is irretrievably broken is a grounds for divorce in the state. After a judgment of legal separation is granted, either party may petition the court to convert that judgment to a divorce after a one-year waiting period. The other party does not necessarily have to agree for the court to approve this request.

Commencing a legal separation

In Wisconsin, a legal separation begins with the filing of a petition in the circuit court. This should be done in the county where at least one spouse resides. After this step, there will be a requirement of service upon the other party. Next, a temporary court hearing can be requested to settle any pending family law issues (for example, child support). Once these issues are addressed, there is a final hearing, at which time a judgment of legal separation is entered.

Ultimately, the separation of a couple pursuant to a failing relationship can be an adequate resolution for some. However, an official divorce proceeding might be a better option for others. If you would like to learn more about your legal options for a particular family law issue, take the time to speak with a qualified family law attorney.