Deciding whether to file for a divorce can be an emotional and difficult decision for people to make, especially when there are young children involved. Many people are likely left without direction or knowing how to start the processes. There are a few basic guidelines for a divorce that are imposed by the legislature, dictating where a petition for divorce should be filed, the grounds for obtaining a divorce and how quickly the divorce may be granted.

In order for the court to have the authority to exercise jurisdiction in a divorce proceeding at least one of the parties needs to be a Wisconsin resident for at least six month and a resident of the county in which the petition for divorce is filed for at least 30 days. Both parties may jointly file a petition for a divorce. In that case, the parties are called joint petitioners. Alternatively, if one party files a petition for divorce, the other party must be served with the petition. In that case, the person who files for divorce is called the petitioner and the person who is served with the petition is called the respondent.

After the joint petition is filed or after the respondent is served with the petition, the soonest the parties can have their divorce finalized is 120 days. However, the court may shorten that timeline in order to protect the health and safety of either of the parties or child. In Wisconsin it is unlawful for one of the parties to marry again after six months after the court grants a divorce judgment. In order for the court to grant a final divorce it has to make a finding that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that there is no potential that the parties can reconcile. Parties do not have to prove that the other party did anything wrong in order to obtain a divorce judgment.