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If your spouse disappeared, you could still get a divorce in Wisconsin; however, you may need to take some extra steps to satisfy the service requirements of the court. If the court is satisfied that you have made diligent efforts to serve your spouse or give notice to your spouse, they may let the divorce proceed.    

To satisfy the service requirement when your spouse is missing, you will need to:  

  • Inform the court how you attempted to locate your spouse. If you attempted to contact friends, relatives, or other people who may know your spouse's location.  
  • If you cannot locate them, you may satisfy the service requirement by publication. This means you publish notice of the divorce petition in a local newspaper where you believe your spouse is living. You will need to file a copy of the newspaper publication along with how long it ran with the court.    

Spousal Abandonment Laws In Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, spousal abandonment is when one spouse severs ties with the family and gives up on responsibilities to the family.    

How Long Before A Court Will Consider Abandonment?

You will need to show to the court the spouse has severed ties and failed to provide support for at least six months. The court will also confirm that you have not prevented your spouse from making contact or providing support during this time.  

What Effects Does Abandonment Have On Divorce?

Spousal abandonment will usually not influence the division of property or finances; however, it will play a role if children are involved. If you can show abandonment of children, it will play a role in how the court determines child custody and placement.      

Grounds For Divorce In Wisconsin

Wisconsin is a no-fault divorce state. Neither spouse must prove that the other spouse has done anything wrong. The determining factor is whether the marriage is irretrievably broken. The legal grounds for divorce and separation can be found here: Wisconsin Legislature: 767.315  

  • Both parties may state under oath that the marriage is irretrievably broken  
  • Both parties have lived apart continuously for 12 months or more immediately prior to the commencement of the divorce  
  • If the parties have not voluntarily lived apart for 12 months and only one party states under oath the marriage is irretrievably broken, the court will consider all relevant factors and circumstances that gave rise to the filing of the petition.  

Woman taking off wedding ring after spouse goes missing.

Although there is seldom a charge, Adultery is still a Felony crime in Wisconsin. It is punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and up to three years in prison or both.    

The Divorce Process In Wisconsin

  • File a petition for divorce.  
  • Serve your spouse (Process server, Sheriff, friend, or family member who is over 18 and not part of the divorce)  
  • Optional temporary hearing to determine child custody, support, alimony, and financial issues while the divorce is pending.  
  • Pre-Trial conference to discuss the case and determine outstanding issues  
  • Trial: if there are outstanding issues, a trial will be held, and the judge will enter final orders granting the divorce.    

Division Of Property In A Wisconsin Divorce  

In Wisconsin, the courts use the equitable division standard. This means that courts strive to divide the property fairly. This is a different standard than dividing the property; equally, the court will assess many factors when determining how property is divided. It is essential to have an experienced attorney at your side during this process. Some of the factors the court considers:  

  • Earning capacity of each spouse  
  • Tax consequences to each spouse  
  • Retirement accounts  
  • The length of the marriage  
  • Written agreements made by the parties regarding property division  
  • The health of each spouse  
  • The age of each spouse  
  • Non-marital assets of each party are not subject to division  
  • Debts are also considered and are presumed to be shared if incurred during the marriage  

Spousal Support (Alimony) In Wisconsin

If one spouse was financially dependent on the other during the marriage, spousal support is a method by which payments are made from one spouse to the other for a period to lessen the negative impacts of the divorce. Many of the same factors in determining property division come into play in setting spousal support. Some of the factors the court considers:  

  • Earning capacity of each spouse  
  • Tax consequences to each spouse  
  • Custodial responsibilities for children  
  • Costs associated with obtaining education or employment  
  • Contributions of one spouse to the increased earning power of the other spouse  
  • The length of the marriage, typically the length of the marriage, will affect the amount of spousal support. There may be spousal support for shorter marriages, but after ten years, it is much more likely to be ordered by the court.  
  • The health of each spouse  
  • The age of each spouse  

You can find more information on spousal support in our article, How Is Alimony Calculated in Wisconsin?

Child support in Wisconsin

Either parent can be ordered to pay child support in Wisconsin. The court will consider the percentage of parenting time each parent is responsible for. If one parent has more than 50% parenting time, they will likely receive child support because the courts typically assume that the parent is paying for a larger share of the children's expenses. There are some standards the court will use as a starting point:  

  • One child is 17 percent of your income  
  • Two children is 25 percent of your income  
  • Three children is 29 percent of your income  
  • Four children is 31 percent of your income  
  • 5 or more children is 34 percent of your income  

Some Of The Other Factors The Court Considers When Setting Child Support

  • Age of the children  
  • Physical/emotional needs of the children  
  • Medical costs  
  • Educational costs  
  • Spousal support payments  
  • Changes that occur if one spouse remarries  

You can find more information on Wisconsin child support in our article,  Recent Changes to Wisconsin Child Support Laws

Child Custody In Wisconsin

Courts try to achieve what is in the child's best interest and strive to maintain positive relationships between parents and children. The court is not allowed to consider the gender of each parent when making its rulings. There are two types of custody in Wisconsin.    

Physical Custody And Legal Custody

  • Physical custody is typically set as joint physical custody unless evidence is presented to the court to alter that arrangement.    
  • Legal custody revolves around parents' rights to decide how the child is raised and cared for.    

Some Of The Factors That Go Into Determining Child Custody In Wisconsin Are

  • The physical, emotional, and mental condition of the spouses  
  • The standard of living during the marriage  
  • Education of both spouses  
  • Retirement benefits  
  • Income of both spouses  
  • Lost income production that resulted from marital responsibilities  
  • Tax consequences  
  • If a spouse has issues working due to caring for a minor child  


Read this If you are interested in more information on Wisconsin divorce.

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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