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Wisconsin Legal Separation
Legal Separation in Wisconsin

Wisconsin provides for a legal separation, which resolves all the issues related to a troubled marriage except its termination. A legal separation permits a couple to take advantage of the elements of a traditional divorce without violating religious beliefs against divorce. Moreover, health insurance that provides coverage to both spouses can be maintained in force because legally the marriage did not end.

The court issues orders dealing with everything from child custody, support and parenting time (visitation), to dividing assets and debts.

The court may suspend the separation proceedings upon the agreement of both spouses that they want to reconcile. The period cannot last for more than 90 days, and during that time the couple may live together.

Separation Agreement

A separation agreement is a legal binding contract signed by spouses, which is intended to resolve property, debt and child related issues. This can be a very complex and detailed document depending upon the unique situation of the marriage. Many spouses consult an attorney to provide this or they decide to prepare their own.


A legal separation case commences in Wisconsin with the filing of a petition in the circuit court in the county where at least one of the spouses resides. The parties may file a joint petition for legal separation. By filing a joint petition, the sheriff does not serve "separation papers" on a non-filing party.


Wisconsin Statutes 767.301 requires that one of the parties attempting to get a legal separation be a resident of Wisconsin for six months, and of the county where the separation is being filed for at least 30 days prior to filing.


Section 767.315 of the Wisconsin Statutes mandates that grounds for a separation must be alleged. The statute outlines acceptable grounds for requesting a separation. Known as √√∫irretrievable breakdown√√π under the statue, both parties must live apart for 12 months prior to filing and allege the marriage is irreparably broken. If only one party alleges breakdown, or the parties have not lived apart for 12 months, the court can still grant the separation, but it is at the court's discretion.

Initial Procedure

The summons and petition, or joint petition if both spouses are filing together, must be filed with the Clerk of Circuit Court in the county of residence. The petitioner can deliver the copies to respondent if the couple is not filing jointly. The spouse must have copies of all of the documents, including the summons, petition and, if necessary, a proposed parenting plan. Proof of service must be filed with the Clerk of the Circuit Court.

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