How to File for Divorce in Wisconsin

How to file divorce in Wisconsin

A Guide to Filing for Divorce in Wisconsin

Let’s face it. Divorce is intimidating and overwhelming on several levels.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process for filing for divorce in Wisconsin and address some of the most common questions.

Let’s jump in…

Gather important financial information

important information

There are many complicated issues in divorce that you will need to be prepared for. Getting organized early on and having the documents you need at your fingertips will make the entire process a little bit less daunting.

It will also save you time and money, while helping to expedite the divorce process.

For a better understanding of what documents you’ll need, we’ve put together this Divorce Information Checklist. It’s a great resource as you begin the task of pulling together your financial documentation.

Decide how you will proceed with your divorce

Which Divorce Procedure to Use

Once you or your spouse has made the decision to get a divorce, you need to decide how to get divorced. You have several options, driven in part by your relationship with your spouse and how well you can work together to reach a resolution.

Here are the most common types of divorce:

  • Litigation
  • Mediation
  • Collaborative divorce
  • Do-it-yourself

So which option is right for you? To answer that, you really need to weight the pros and cons and think about your goals for the process.

We put together a great guide on The Types of Divorce that dives deep into each of these options (and more). Be sure to check it out if you’re trying to decide which path is best for you.

Fill out the required court forms

Forms to Prepare

You will need to fill out several forms and submit them the courts to start your divorce. If you are working with an attorney, they will guide you through this process.

Although it will cost you more when you use an attorney, you will save time and stress in working with a professional who understands the system and who will ensure that your paperwork is filled out correctly.

If you decide to file without using an attorney, you will need to complete all the necessary forms on your own.

If you are the one initiating the divorce process, you will be known as the petitioner. If your spouse is the one who files the initial papers, then you will be known as the respondent.

At a minimum, you will need to file a petition, a summons and a confidential addendum. If children are involved, there will be several additional documents required as well.

If you are working with an attorney, they will make sure all the forms are correct and will help you file them at the appropriate county clerk’s office, otherwise you will need to file them at the courthouse in the county where you or your spouse live.

Filing fees vary by county in Wisconsin but expect to pay between $175-$200 when you file your divorce documents.

To find out the exact amount for your county, you will need to contact the courthouse and ask for the amount. Fees for photocopies, notary fees, mailing, process server fees or attorney costs are not included.

Serving your spouse with divorce papers in Wisconsin

Once your forms are complete and have been filed, they will also need to be served on your spouse as well.

If your spouse has not hired a lawyer, a designated representative can serve them directly at their home address. If they have retained a lawyer, serve the lawyer at the lawyer’s office instead.

You can complete service in several ways.

  • You can obtain a signed “Admission of Service” form from the respondent. This is proof of service.
  • You can ask your sheriff’s department or a private process server to serve the papers by handing them to the respondent. The person who does this will give you an Affidavit of Service, which you’ll file with the court and retain for your records.
  • You can have a friend or relative hand the documents to the respondent and complete an Affidavit of Service. The friend or relative has to be older than 18, a resident of Wisconsin, and not a party to the divorce.

Different rules may apply if you are trying to serve someone who is very hard to locate, in the military, out-of-state, or in jail.

Frequently Asked Questions About Filing for Divorce in Wisconsin

How much does it cost to file for a divorce in Wisconsin?

How much does it cost

Filing fees vary by county in Wisconsin but expect to pay between $175 to $200 when you file your divorce documents. In cases where you cannot afford to pay fees, you may request a waiver.

To find out the exact amount for your county, you will need to contact the courthouse and ask for the amount.

Read: A Guide to Divorce Financial Planning

Fees for photocopies, notary fees, mailing, process server fees or attorney costs are not included and you may need to pay for each of these.

Can divorce fees be waived in Wisconsin?

In cases where you cannot afford to pay fees, you may request a waiver at the county courthouse.

Can I file for a divorce online in Wisconsin?

divorce online

You sure can. In fact, filing for divorce online in Wisconsin can be a great way to save time and money.

Online divorce isn’t right for everyone. It only works if you have an uncontested divorce (you and your spouse are able to reach agreements without going to court).

If you have a dispute over child custody or particularly complicated finances, you should consult with a lawyer. There’s too much on the line to be pennywise and pound foolish.

But if you have an amicable divorce, you might be able to do it yourself. I won’t sugarcoat it. There’s a lot of paperwork and the divorce process can be complicated.

Fortunately, there are tools that can help. 3 Step Divorce is an affordable online divorce service that makes it easy to complete your divorce papers and gives you step-by-step instructions for filing your forms with the court. All you have to do is answer the questions online, which should take less than an hour.

Here’s why 3 Step Divorce stands out as the best online divorce service:

  • A+ rating with the BBB
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  • Extensive library of free tools and resources
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online divorce wisconsin

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You aren’t able to file your forms electronically in Wisconsin. You’ll need to go to your local county courthouse to file the divorce papers.

How long does it take to get a divorce in Wisconsin?

How long does it take

There is a mandatory 120-day waiting period in Wisconsin before a divorce can be finalized.

The actual time frame may vary depending on the county where you file and what issues are involved in your case.

Most divorces typically take six months to a year to be finalized.

In divorces where there are disagreements over things such as a division of assets, custody or support issues and a judge must intervene, finalizing a divorce can take considerably longer.

What are the residency requirements to file for a divorce in Wisconsin?

To qualify for a divorce in Wisconsin, at least one spouse must be a resident of the state for a minimum of six months, and a resident of the county where the divorce will take place for at least three months before filing.

Can I file for divorce in Wisconsin without using a lawyer?

file for divorce without a lawyer

As long as the divorce is uncontested and you can agree with your spouse on all parts of the settlement agreement you could be able to complete the entire process without using a lawyer.

You can file for divorce in Wisconsin by going to the courthouse in the county where you or your spouse live and file a summons, petition and confidential addendum. If you have children, you will need to file additional forms as well.

You can obtain the forms online, from the Wisconsin Court System.

You will need to pay a filing fee and then the clerk of the court will assign a case number to you.

Can I get a divorce in Wisconsin if I am pregnant?


Yes. There is nothing in Wisconsin law that prevents a pregnant woman from beginning or continuing divorce proceedings.

Depending on the complexity of your divorce, it is possible that the judge won’t grant a final divorce order until the child is born. This is especially true if there are unresolved issues pertaining to custody, support or paternity.

You must tell the court about your pregnancy. A guardian ad litem, or legal guardian, will need to be appointed to represent the child’s interests.

How is my divorce affected if I am a member of the military in Wisconsin?


Your or your spouse must be either live in Wisconsin or be stationed in the state to meet residence requirements under the laws governing military personnel who are seeking a divorce.

The grounds for a military divorce are the same as they are for a civilian divorce in Wisconsin. You can either file for a no-fault or a fault-based divorce.

Once paperwork has been filed to begin a divorce, copies must be served on a spouse to give him or her a chance to respond. When that spouse is in the military, they have certain protections afforded to them by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act.

This allows them to postpone the divorce while they are overseas or otherwise not able to adequately respond to the petition due to military service commitments. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act eases many legal and financial burdens of military personnel and their families who face the added challenges of active duty.

A service member may choose to waive delaying the divorce by signing off on paperwork which will then allow the divorce to proceed uncontested.

Looking for more great tips about filing for divorce? Check out a few of our favorite guides:

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