Family Law & Divorce

We know that family law is one of the most deeply personal areas of the law, and we never lose sight of how critically important our cases are to our clients' lives. It is vitally important that we are able to advocate our clients' rights to child custody, visitation, child support, spousal maintenance, and property and therefore we pride ourselves on remaining on the forefront of advancements in family law. We often take advantage of opportunities for continued education, so that we may provide you with the knowledge and expertise that you deserve when hiring an attorney.


Your understanding of what happens during the divorce process can lead to smoother negotiations, faster settlements, and far fewer sleepless nights. The information below is provided to further your understanding of the divorce process. Of course, you should always feel free to ask our staff or attorney any questions you may have regarding the process.


Common Questions New Clients Ask Regarding Divorce

What grounds are needed to request a divorce?


Wisconsin is a "no fault" divorce state. That means that it is not necessary to prove that one or both parties did something wrong, such as adultery, abuse, abandonment, etc. Although some may argue that this makes divorces "too easy" to obtain, it also means that divorce doesn't have to turn into a war.


What if I don't want a divorce?


In Wisconsin, a divorce can be granted whether or not both parties agree to the divorce. If one spouse tells the court that the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court will grant the divorce.


How long will it take me to get divorced?


Wisconsin has a 120 day waiting period for divorces, so from the date you file the divorce action, it is possible to be divorced after 120 days if everything is agreeable between the parties. This does not mean, however, that every divorce is over and done in 120 days. The average time frame for a simple, straightforward divorce is probably 6-8 months. More complicated divorces, such as custody disputes, will take much longer.


How much will it cost me to get divorced?


The cost of the divorce is somewhat controlled by you. If you want your attorney to negotiate with your spouse for everything from who gets custody of the children to who gets the kitchen dishtowels, your divorce could be quite expensive. However, if you and your spouse are able to agree and negotiate the minor issues on your own, your divorce will cost much less. Our office will always keep you apprised of the ongoing costs in your case and will get your approval before incurring outside costs such as appraisals, experts, etc. We will also regularly suggest ways in which you can keep costs down, yet receive a fair resolution of your case.


The Divorce Process


The divorce usually begins with the service of four legal documents:

  1. The summons, the filing of which legally starts the case.

  2. The petition for divorce, which sets forth the legal and factual history of the marriage and the relief requested. (Such as custody, support and/or property division)

  3. The affidavit for temporary order, which is the basis for obtaining a court order setting forth the terms and conditions during the pendency of the case while awaiting trial. The order may include temporary provisions for the following relief: maintenance for either party; support for the minor children; removal of a spouse from the home; determination of who shall have temporary custody of the minor children and determination of who shall make mortgage payments and meet other obligations while the action is pending.

  4. The "order to show cause" for the temporary order, which contains the date of the hearing before the Family Court Commissioner and the request for terms during the pendency of the action based upon the affidavit for the temporary order. The hearing is usually held within one month after the first papers are signed. At the temporary hearing it will be necessary for you to furnish a wage statement from your employer for a period of 12 weeks prior to the hearing setting forth your actual gross and net earnings. You may also be required to produce copies of your income tax returns for the last two years. This hearing is a very important step in the process because it sets the pattern for the final outcome. We take this hearing very seriously and will work with you to prepare for it.


Response and Counterclaim


The responding party in the divorce may reply to the divorce petition with a document called the Response. This document will state the respondent’s position as to each of the claims made in the petition. The respondent may also take this opportunity to initiate a claim in opposition to the petition, such as a claim for custody. This document is called a Counterclaim.

If there is no response to the petition, the case is legally considered a default action. For all practical purposes, however, in the absence of an agreement between the parties and attorneys, it continues to be a contested case.

If an agreement is negotiated as to all disputed matters, a default trial date can usually be obtained within approximately thirty (30) days; however, no case can be tried (with rare exceptions) until:


  • A minimum of four months after the commencement of the action; and

  • A financial disclosure statement has been filed with the court; (A financial disclosure statement must be exchanged between the parties within 90 days after the commencement of the action.)

  • If there are children of this marriage, the parents are required by La Crosse County to attend a program called Families First and complete a parenting plan. If the children are over a certain age they must attend a program called Sandcastles which is designed to help children feel more at ease with the major changes a divorce may bring.

If there is no agreement negotiated between the attorneys and the parties, then the matter is considered a contested case. A pretrial hearing will be scheduled by the court to narrow the issues, at which time the court will probably schedule the case for trial. Such an unsettled divorce action generally does not get scheduled for a pretrial hearing for at least six months or more after the initial papers are served.


Click here for helpful links to websites about the divorce process.


Any information presented on this website is not legal advice nor does its viewing constitute the formation of an attorney-client relationship.