Sometimes a divorce is inevitable, and sometimes it takes you completely by surprise. No matter the situation, our divorce lawyer, Heather L. Nelson, will guide you through the complex and, often confusing, legal process. At Heather L. Nelson Law, S.C., we understand that a divorce is one of the most stressful and traumatic events in your life. Divorce doesn’t affect only you and your spouse, but also your children. Our knowledge and experience in handling contested and uncontested divorce matters prevent the frustration that is often associated with legal proceedings.

Divorce lawyer Heather L. Nelson has built a reputation as a knowledgeable, honest, and trusted counsel to her clients in Racine and Kenosha who are going through a divorce. She understands that during this very difficult time in your life, you need the assistance and advice of someone who is experienced with the legal system.

When considering whether a divorce is best for you and your family, it may be helpful to understand how divorce works.

What is a contested divorce?

A contested divorce is when the parties in a divorce action cannot agree. It may mean that you cannot agree on any or all of the following: legal custody, placement of your children, child support, the amount of maintenance (formerly known as alimony) to pay, or how to divide your marital estate. If you are experiencing any of these situations, it is imperative to seek the advice and guidance of a Racine or Kenosha divorce attorney.

What is an uncontested divorce?

An uncontested divorce is when the parties agree on all aspects of the divorce, including but not limited to legal custody, physical placement of your minor children, child support, maintenance (formerly known as alimony), and property division. Uncontested divorces are usually the quickest and least expensive methods of divorce. Even though you may think that your divorce is easy, and you can handle it without representation from a skilled divorce and family law attorney, you should not. Your final divorce documents are a contract between you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse. Many details are often overlooked because you are not seasoned in the issues that can arise in the future. A divorce and family law attorney knows how to tailor your final agreement to fit your needs, present and future.

What does a “no-fault” divorce mean?

Wisconsin is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that a party does not have to prove that the other spouse did something wrong. Instead, a party must simply allege that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.” A marriage is “irretrievably broken” if you believe your marriage cannot be repaired.

Does it matter who files for divorce?

Each party may have personal reasons for wanting to file for divorce first or waiting for the other party to file, but in most cases, it doesn’t matter who files first. However, in some cases, it can be important.

If you are the first to file, you are the Petitioner, which can be an advantage. First, you prepare the initial paperwork, talk first in court, and prepare the first offer. Second, as the Petitioner, you have more time to prepare for court, specifically your temporary order hearing. A temporary order hearing is one of the most important hearings you will have because at that hearing, the court will decide legal custody, physical placement, child support, maintenance (formerly known as alimony), temporary use and control of the marital residence, who will drive what vehicle, and bill payment.

A disadvantage to filing first is that the Petitioner must pay the filing fees and process service fees. In Racine and Kenosha county, the cost to file a divorce action ranges between $184 and $220. The cost is determined based on the relief requested, whether there are minor children, and if you wish to opt-in to e-filing.

In general, there is no legal advantage to filing first. Whether or not to file first should be determined on a case-by-case basis. If you or your spouse are considering filing for divorce in Racine or Kenosha county, call your experienced divorce and family law attorney at Heather L. Nelson Law, S.C.

How do I know what county to file my divorce?

To file any divorce action in the State of Wisconsin, you or your spouse must have been a resident of Wisconsin for at least six (6) months. The county you file in is determined by where you or your spouse have resided for at least thirty (30) days. If you have not met the residency requirements for this state or the county, you must wait until you meet the requirements or file where the court has jurisdiction.

How do I file for divorce?

Once the decision to file for divorce has been made, the person filing for divorce, must prepare the Summons for Divorce, Petition for Divorce, Confidential Petition Addendum, Order to Show Cause for Temporary Orders, and Affidavit in Support of Temporary Orders. These documents must be filed with the Racine or Kenosha county family court office, and you must pay the filing fee, which ranges between $184 and $220. The Clerk will take the paperwork, process it, and assign a temporary order date.

Once you receive the paperwork back from the Clerk, you must serve your spouse the file-stamped Summons for Divorce, Petition for Divorce, Confidential Petition Addendum, Order to Show Cause for Temporary Orders, and Affidavit in Support of Temporary Orders, along with any other documentation received from the Court.

My spouse filed for divorce, what do I do?

If your spouse has already filed for divorce, you will be served with the Summons for Divorce, Petition for Divorce, Confidential Petition Addendum, Order to Show Cause for Temporary Orders, and Affidavit in Support of Temporary Orders.

Service is complete when an adult resident of Wisconsin, who is not a party to your divorce action, personally serves you or when you sign an Admission of Service.

If you have been served with divorce paperwork, you will need to file a Response and Counterclaim within (20) days of being served. It is imperative that you contact an experienced divorce lawyer in Racine and Kenosha county to assist you with the preparation of this document.

How long will my divorce take?

At minimum, 120 days must lapse from the time of service before you can obtain a divorce. If you and your spouse cannot agree on legal custody, physical placement, child support, maintenance (formerly known as alimony), or property division, you can expect your divorce will take much longer. On average, most divorces take six months to a year before they are finalized.

What is a temporary order hearing?

The Court schedules a temporary order hearing approximately 30-45 days from the time of filing an action for divorce. At the temporary order hearing, the following issues will be decided: legal custody, physical placement of your children, child support, maintenance (formerly known as alimony), temporary custody and control of the marital residence, who is going to drive what vehicle, and bill/debt payment.

If you and your spouse have an agreement on all issues and you both have completed a Financial Disclosure Statement, you can enter into a Stipulation or agreement prior to the Court date. As long as the Stipulation is approved by the Court, you and your spouse can remove the temporary order hearing.

However, if you and your spouse cannot agree on all issues, you will have to attend the temporary order hearing. At the temporary order hearing, you and your spouse will make your arguments regarding the disputed issues so the court can enter temporary orders.

The temporary order hearing is extremely important because it deals with so many issues that may impact the outcome of your divorce action. Before attending this hearing, is it crucial that you talk with an experienced divorce attorney in Racine and Kenosha county regarding your case. A knowledgeable divorce lawyer knows how to present and argue your case to the Commissioner, so you have a better chance of success.

What happens at my final divorce hearing?

If you and your spouse have finalized all issues in your divorce action; such as legal custody, physical placement, child support, maintenance (formerly known as alimony), and property division; you can schedule your divorce action for a final hearing date.

At your final hearing, the Court will review your proposed Marital Settlement Agreement, which outlines the terms of your agreement. If your Marital Settlement Agreement is approved, the Court will take testimony from each party regarding your biographical information, the jurisdictional requirements, and your understanding of the final agreement. Once the testimony has been taken, the Court will pronounce you divorced effective on that day.

Whether you are trying to end your marriage amicably or you and your spouse cannot agree on anything, divorce lawyer, Heather L. Nelson, has the knowledge and experience you need. She has successfully represented hundreds of clients in divorce and family law actions and knows how to effectively and efficiently resolve all aspects of your divorce. This includes but is not limited to legal custody of the children, physical placement, child support, maintenance (formerly known alimony), and property division. Heather is there for you every step of the way, so you can rest easy knowing that she is actively fighting for your best interest.