I want a quick and painless divorce!
Just as September is the month that tailgating ramps into high gear and July is the month that Wisconsinites wonder, “is summer finally here?,” January is the month when many people begin contacting lawyers about filing a new divorce. One of the many questions that get asked is, “How long will this take?”
Legal timing guidelines.
Even if you and your spouse agree on 90% of the issues between you, there are still certain time requirements that are established by Wisconsin law that everyone who files for divorce must follow. In order for a Wisconsin court to grant you a divorce, you (or your spouse) must be a legal resident of the state for at least 6 months prior to filing the Summons and Petition for Divorce (i.e., the “divorce pleadings”). You also need to be a resident of the county in which you file for at least 30 days.
Once you file the divorce pleadings, a 120-day waiting period is required for every Wisconsin divorce. This period begins on the date that your spouse is served (or admits service) with the pleadings. The purpose of the waiting period is three-fold. First, it ensures that people filing for divorce are serious about their intentions. Second, it gives each spouse an opportunity to prepare their financial disclosure statements and exchange financial information with one another, as required by state law. And, third, it allows both sides some time to discuss the relevant issues in their case and attempt to reach an agreement resolving those issues.
Can I help determine the amount of time it takes to get divorced?
The length of time it takes you to get divorced will depend in large part on how quickly you can get the relevant financial information to your lawyer and exchanged with your spouse, as well as the extent to which you and your spouse are able to reach your own agreement (with the help of your lawyers, as necessary) on all issues. Remember, you and your lawyer are a team, and to be a good team requires good cooperation. Be organized, be prepared, and be responsive to your attorney’s requests for information and documents. The quicker your attorney understands the full (financial) picture, the quicker you can begin to work through the issues in your case and hopefully get the matter resolved.
What happens when the agreement is reached between spouses?
Once an agreement is reached, is reduced to writing, and is signed by both spouses, the judge will be able to divorce you. A short court hearing is required for the judge to take brief testimony from each spouse, and grant the judgment of divorce. All of this can be achieved in as little as four months (120 days), assuming good cooperation and communication from all sides. However, if you get to the first hearing date (at 120 days) without an agreement, then the judge will want to know (a) what are the disputed issues in the case, (b) what the parties are doing to resolve the issues, and (c) whether the judge may need to decide the dispute at a trial. If your case requires a trial, then your guess is as good as mine as to the question of “How long will this take.” That’s why it’s almost always better to be organized, be prepared, and do your best to work with your spouse to try to find a solution. It’s always quicker and less painful if you (and your spouse) can figure out a solution, rather than have the judge decide!