All Your Legal Separation Questions Answered

wedding ring back in box after legal separationWhen you and your husband or wife is ready to separate, there are two legal options: legal separation and divorce.  Either option can leave you with a host of questions; we’ve tried to answer some of the most common questions about filing for legal separation (and divorce) in Wisconsin.  If you have any more questions or questions specific to your situation, schedule a consultation with a local and experienced attorney. 

What is the difference between a legal separation and a divorce?

A divorce indicates that a marriage is “irretrievably broken,” which indicates that there is no chance of reconciliation. Either party may legally marry after a divorce.

Under a legal separation, the court finds that the marriage is “broken” and there is no final divorce decree.  The legal separation can be set aside any time in the event of reconciliation.

One of the main commonalities of both a legal separation and a divorce is that both initiate discussions of child placement and financial considerations between both parties.

Does my husband/wife get notified of consultations and meetings I have with an attorney?

No. All consultations and meetings are kept confidential, as is all information conveyed with attorneys and staff.

How can I legally separate from my husband or wife in Wisconsin?

Either spouse can file for legal separation.  If both spouses file for legal separation or divorce, papers are not served to the other spouse as it would be if one party filed.  From date of filing, there is a 120 day waiting period until the final judgment (same as a divorce).

How does child custody get worked out?

If you have children, working out a schedule for child placement is part of the proceedings. Know these child custody terms to help you as you work through the process of deciding child placement and child custody matters.

How can we change a filed legal separation case to a divorce?

Because proceedings are similar, the change from a legal separation to a divorce can be made with a written request.

Does living apart qualify as legal separation?

No. Living in separate homes, dividing finances, and paying separate bills is not a legal separation only a physical one.  To be legally separated or divorced, there must be a filing.

Can we use the same attorney to save money? What is the cost of a legal separation or divorce?

The cost for each legal separation is different, depending on the specific circumstances of the parties involved.  Both spouses cannot use the same attorney for the proceedings because of ethics.  Often, you can schedule a free consultation about your legal separation or divorce with an attorney, where you can ask questions and your attorney can get information on the case (here’s how to get the most out of that initial meeting with your attorney).

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.

How do I modify my child support?

Newborn baby hand with parent hand during child support modification caseThough it may seem like it at the time of your divorce or child custody proceedings, child support payments are not set in stone.

When child support can be modified

In Wisconsin, there are several circumstances that can be the basis for modification of child support payments, including:

  • If the amount of child support has not been reviewed in the last 33 months;
  • If medical costs change for the child or the parent paying child support;
  • If the earning status of the payer has changed;
  • If the child “ages out” of child support (after graduation of high school);
  • If one party moves a significant distance away from the other;
  • If the placement schedule has changed.

Examples of some of these circumstances could include if the payer becomes disabled and experiences a change in income, if the physical placement schedule (commonly called child custody, though the two are not exclusive as discussed in our recent post) changes to give a party more time with the child, or one party moves to another state making it difficult for one party to see the child.  With this in mind, remember that physical placement and the amount of child support do not always go hand in hand.  One party should NEVER withhold a child support payment because they are not seeing the child; this decision can have serious legal consequences (as your attorney can inform you).

How child support modification happens

There are three ways to modify your child support payments:

  • Make an agreement about the amount of child support with the other party in your child support and submit the necessary paperwork (more information and forms are here). The court usually approves the amount, as long as it is not significantly below the amount specified by the state.
  • Ask the child support order to be reviewed by the state (the amount could increase or decrease if you request a review). The amount of child support is calculated based on the payer’s income, number of children, and other factors. Child support can be provided in the way of funds, insurance, and other ways deemed by the authorities.
  • Ask the court to change the order (if the two parties cannot agree).

Modifying your child support payments does have legal ramifications (and the risk of payments increasing or decreasing).  If you are concerned about the process or consequences, contact a local, experienced lawyer for information specific to your child support case.

The materials on this website are provided for informational purposes only and do not constitute legal advice. These materials are intended, but not promised or guaranteed to be current, complete, or up-to-date and should in no way be taken as an indication of future results. Transmission of the information is not intended to create, and the receipt does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship between sender and receiver. You should not act or rely on any information contained in this website without first seeking the advice of an attorney.