As is the case in many other states, residents of Wisconsin have the option to pursue what is called “legal separation” instead of a divorce. The most important difference between a legal separation and a divorce is that, legally speaking, the couple remains married and is thus not free to marry another person.

In many other respects, a divorce and legal separation work in the same manner. The couple still has to wait 120 days and, during that time, will need to take the applicable parenting classes if they have minor children between them. Other technical legal requirements may apply.

Moreover, at the conclusion of a legal separation, the judge will still have to award custody and parenting time, establish child support and spousal support, and divvy up the property of the couple in a fair and equitable manner. As with a divorce, this process can be quite complicated and contentious, particularly when the couple is not on the same page about parenting or has a lot of property between them.

A couple has to explain to the court why they want a legal separation instead of a divorce. They may agree to change their legal separation to a divorce at any time, or one party may unilaterally change the legal separation to a divorce after one year from the day the legal separation gets granted.

There are many reasons why a couple may choose to consider a legal separation as opposed to a divorce. An experienced family law attorney in the greater Milwaukee area can help a person evaluate this option. Moreover, an attorney can also help someone undergoing a legal separation protect his or her rights.