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Heather Jones

You likely stumbled upon this article because you are looking for Wisconsin divorce tips or are considering filing for divorce in Wisconsin. The first step when dealing with a divorce should always be to at least consult with an experienced Wisconsin family law attorney, especially if you have been married for a long time or if there are minor children involved. Wisconsin uses a document in its divorce process called a marital settlement agreement, sometimes referred to as a divorce agreement in other states. The marital settlement agreement will hold all of the details related to the division of the marital estate, which is all the assets and debts acquired during the marriage. If your marital estate is large, with many assets and debts, there are things you will need to know moving forward with your divorce. Read on to learn more about Wisconsin marital settlement agreements.  


A couple deciding the divorce settlement

Wisconsin is a Community Property State


Many people have heard of community property but don’t understand how the courts treat it. Everything you acquire during the marriage that does not pass you by gift, will, or devise is considered community property. For example, if your mother passed away and left you a cottage up North in her will, that cottage is yours alone and could remain so indefinitely. If you take out a home equity line of credit on the marital home to make improvements to the cottage, it could undoubtedly muddy the waters. That value would have to be backed out of the property before a division of assets. Community property would not be only all assets acquired during the marriage but all debts, even if the other spouse did not know about them! It’s essential to have a clear and accurate picture of all the marital assets and debts before agreeing to a marital settlement agreement.  


Temporary Orders vs. The Marital Settlement Agreement


Understanding the difference between a temporary order and a marital settlement agreement is important. The court will put a temporary order in place to ensure that the costs of the marital estate are adequately covered while the divorce goes through the legal system, however long that takes. A temporary order can address things like a temporary child and spousal support, who pays what bills, who has physical placement with the children, and when. The temporary order is just until you get a martial settlement agreement in place, which covers all of those issues and more.  

A couple meeting with attorney for divorce settlement

Martial Settlement Agreement


The marital settlement agreement, known in other jurisdictions as the divorce settlement agreement, is an agreement between the parties on the record codified by an order from the court. The marital settlement agreement will lay out, in detail, how the marital estate will be divided and what will be done with the minor children, if there are any. The main topics that the marital settlement agreement will cover are:  


Legal Custody And Physical Placement Of Any Minor Children


Any agreements between the parents about healthcare, extra activities, or other issues related to raising the children that need to be included  

Spousal support or waiver of spousal support. If one spouse is getting support, the agreement must be concrete about the details regarding how much support, when the support is paid, and when the support ends.  


The division of marital assets like the house, cars, and retirement accounts, note that if a retirement account is separated, you will need a Qualified Domestic Relations Order dividing it, which is separate from the marital settlement agreement.  


The marital settlement agreement will also determine who is responsible for what marital debt. Be advised that creditors do not pay any attention to the marital settlement agreement, so it is imperative to communicate with your former spouse about anything you get from a creditor regarding a debt that needs to be paid. Be extremely cautious before agreeing to waive support; once it is waived, the court will not allow you to come back later and ask for support.  


The wife can also ask that her previous name be restored to her in the marital settlement agreement or that she continue to use her married name. Many mothers with children from the marriage choose to do this to avoid confusion at school. If the wife chooses to have her former names restored, she will also be responsible for updating her driver’s license and social security card.  

A ring being removed from a finger


Enforcing the Agreement


As stated above, the marital settlement agreement is accompanied by a court order ratifying it. That means that if one spouse fails to do whatever they agreed to in the martial settlement agreement, the other spouse can file a motion for contempt with the court to enforce the agreement. Failure to abide by the agreement could result in severe consequences since the non-compliant spouse essentially violates a court order.  


The martial settlement agreement can be an excellent tool for determining how to divide the marital estate. Since the agreement has serious and long-term ramifications, it is always a good idea to have an experienced family law attorney to advise you on the agreement or any other aspect of your Wisconsin divorce. If you are thinking of getting divorced in Wisconsin or are in the middle of a divorce and need some advice, feel free to contact one of our Beloit location attorneys today at (608) 466-2799 or email at Find our office at 2225 Cranston Road, Ste. 102, Beloit, Wisconsin 53511

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.

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