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Wisconsin Divorce and Family Law Resources

Read through our Wisconsin divorce and child custody articles to gain a better understanding of the road ahead. Educating yourself about the divorce process in Wisconsin will improve your ability to communicate with your divorce lawyer, which goes a long way toward helping you reach your goals in Wisconsin family court.

Wisconsin Divorce, Alimony, Child Support, and Child Custody Laws

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To begin most types of actions affecting the family, including actions for divorce in Wisconsin, legal separation, annulment, and paternity, at least one of the parties must be a resident of the state of Wisconsin for six months and the county in which the action is filed for thirty days, according to Wisconsin Statute § 767.301.

To grant a divorce, the court must find that the marriage is irretrievably broken with no reasonable prospect of reconciliation. To grant a legal separation, the court must find that the marital relationship is broken (Wisconsin. Statute. § 767.315).

In these actions, the primary issues are (1) child custody and placement, (2) property division, (3) child support, and (4) maintenance, which is spousal support.

Related Article: What to Know When Filing for Divorce

Overview of Divorce in Wisconsin

The length of time each divorce case takes depends in large part on whether the parties agree and resolve some issues without the court making the determination. In all divorce cases, the courts require a 120-day waiting period from the time the case is filed until the final judgment is ordered.

If parties are unable to reach an agreement on custody and placement, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the best interests of the minor children in the action. Any issues that are unresolved will ultimately be tried to the court, and the judge will issue an order and final judgment.

If parties reach a settlement agreement on some or all of the issues, that settlement agreement is presented to the court and incorporated into the final judgment.

So many aspects of actions affecting families depend on the facts and circumstances of each individual case. If you have specific questions, please feel free to contact us.

Wisconsin Custody Laws and Placement in Divorce

Often, the first and primary issue in the case is child custody and placement of the children.

Legal custody is the right and responsibility to make major decisions concerning a child. In cases in which both parents are involved in the children’s lives, the order is typically for joint custody, which gives both parties equal rights and responsibilities to make major decisions in the child’s life.

Custody may also be awarded solely to one party, entirely, or as to one issue or more. For example, all decisions regarding a child’s religion may be awarded solely to one parent, while all other major decisions remain joint decisions.

Physical placement is where the child actually spends time; it is the condition under which a parent has the right to have a child physically placed with that parent. A child is entitled to placement with both parents unless the court finds that placement with a parent would endanger the child’s health, safety, or wellbeing (Wis. Stat. § 767.41(4)).

While a court is required to issue a placement order that will maximize the amount of quality time the child spends with each parent, the court is not required to grant equal time to each parent. Placement arrangements vary greatly depending on the facts of each case.

Property Division, Debts, and Marital Assets in Wisconsin

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The property division in a divorce or separation divides the assets and debts between the parties. Because Wisconsin is a marital property state, the statutory presumption is that all property, both debts and assets, acquired prior to or during the marriage is divided equally (Wis. Stat. 767.61).

The court may then deviate from an equal division after considering many factors, including the property each party brings into the marriage and the length of the marriage.

The only property not subject to division is property that one party acquired (1) by a gift from someone other than the spouse, (2) by reason of the death of another (such as inheritance, life insurance proceeds, or trust distribution) or (3) with funds acquired by either of the first two methods.

In order to keep this non-marital property exempt from the property division, the spouse must establish the following:

  1. The original gifted or inherited status of the property; and
  2. That the character and identity of the property has been preserved.

Related Article: Divorce Tips For Men: What To Do With The House?

Child Support in Wisconsin

The purpose of child support is to provide for the children as if the parties had not separated. The Department of Children and Families has promulgated percentage standards for determining a parent’s child support obligation (DCF 150.03).

Which percentage applies depends on the number of children, the parties’ placement arrangement, and in some cases, each parent’s income. The percentage standard is applied to the parents’ gross income.

For example, if the parties have one child and one parent has primary placement, the other parent would pay seventeen percent of his or her gross income in child support. The court may deviate from these standards after considering many case-specific factors, including the cost of child care, the cost of travel to exercise placement, or the specific needs of the child. Health insurance and medical support may also be considered.

Maintenance, Spousal Support, and Alimony in Wisconsin Divorce

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Whether maintenance is appropriate depends on the facts of each case, and any order for maintenance is based on numerous factors, including the earning capacities of each spouse, the length of the marriage, and the parties’ age and health (Wis. Stat. 767.56).

Maintenance is ordered to further two objectives:

  1. To support the recipient spouse, and
  2. To ensure a fair and equitable financial arrangement between the parties.

In determining the maintenance amount, courts frequently start by equalizing the total income, with the goal of allowing the recipient to maintain the standard of living enjoyed during the marriage.

Related Article: Will I Have To Pay Alimony?

Why Wisconsin Dads Choose Cordell & Cordell Family Lawyers

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In 1990, Joseph E. Cordell and his wife, Yvonne, founded Cordell & Cordell as a general practice law firm, focusing on men and divorces and family law. Our divorce attorneys understand the challenges men face in family legal matters.

Clients who work with Cordell & Cordell appreciate our candor and ability to fight for their rights in family legal matters, including child custody and child support.


“​My attorney did a fantastic job, and twice now, this firm has helped me very much. My attorney a few years ago was also amazing. This firm has taken great care of me and is worth the money. Everything was exceptional.” — Christopher K.

“I thought the whole experience was very good. I wasn’t going to initially hire an attorney. To protect myself, I hired you guys. Cassie made it a comfortable experience. The whole team was great. We got a resolution that I was comfortable with, and it went quickly and smoothly.” — Joseph C.

“[My attorney] was very attentive, and I feel he really cared about the case and not just about the money.” — Isaac H.

Our Wisconsin Family Lawyers Care About Father’s Rights

Cordell & Cordell is comprised of aggressive attorneys who are not afraid to take cases to court. Where necessary, we challenge the system and stand up for men’s rights in domestic and child custody matters. We aren’t shy when it comes to fighting the biased nature often found in family court, with judges, and even society.

Are you facing a child support or divorce-related issue? Or maybe you cannot afford the amount of child support you’ve been ordered to pay? Contact Cordell & Cordell to schedule a consultation at 866-DADS-LAW (323-7529) or fill out our online contact form.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much is Child Support in Wisconsin?

A Wisconsin court will look at a paying parent’s gross income, capacity to earn, and other income available for support. This includes money, property, and services. Other factors will be considered in the formula to calculate child support.

What is the Wisconsin Child Support Percentage?

The State of Wisconsin applies the following percentages to the parent’s income in its child support calculator:

  • 17% of income for 1 child
  • 25% of income for 2 children
  • 29% of income for 3 children
  • 31% of income for 4 children

34% of income for 5 or more children

What are Father’s Rights in Wisconsin Divorce?

Parents theoretically have equal rights. The starting presumption is joint custody goes to both parents. However, if a restraining order exists (against either parent), sole custody may go to the “victim.” Fathers are often disadvantaged because they more commonly have restraining orders filed against them, not all of which are justified.

The starting presumption in Wisconsin for shared placement is not equal, it is regular and meaningful periods of placement with both parents and overnight visits. Courts will consider the best interests of the child, which include:

  • Job schedules of both parents
  • Child ages
  • Other relevant factors

While fathers don’t face a disadvantage here, the greatest interference in getting an equal amount of time with the children is if a parent works 3rd shift or significant amounts of overtime. Societally, this is usually fathers who provide family support but don’t have equal time with their children.

Is Child Support Mandatory in Wisconsin Divorce?

Child support is mandatory in all cases. However, when both parties agree to hold open support, and neither receives public assistance, both parties could agree to set child support at zero. It is a good idea to speak with an experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney about child support guidelines for low-income households.

Are There Any Child Support Loopholes in Wisconsin?

Child support payments generally stop at age 18. However, Wisconsin statutes indicate if the child still attends high school or is working on their GED, a child support order can extend until age 19. Additionally, past-due support and any arrears must be paid even after the child turns 18.

Frank Murphy

Edited By Frank Murphy

Chief Compliance Officer
Frank Murphy

Frank Murphy is the Chief Compliance Officer and an Executive Partner at Cordell & Cordell. His responsibilities include oversight of the Firm’s compliance with Legal and Ethical obligations as well as contributing to the day-to-day operations of the Firm as an Executive Partner.

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Men hire Cordell & Cordell because the firm’s entire focus is on aggressively championing the rights of men and fathers through divorce. Our attorneys understand how the deck is often stacked against guys in family law and are committed to leveling the playing field by providing the legal guidance and resources needed to give them a fair chance at success.