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Divorce, Legal Separation, or Annulment?

couple sitting far apart on couch, man looking into distance and woman in thought

Divorce, Legal Separation, or Annulment?

If your marriage is going through a difficult time, you may be wondering what options are available to get some space. Maybe you are looking for a permanent resolution, a temporary break, or a blank slate. Let’s discuss the options that are available for you and your partner.


Couples choose to take the route of divorce when they feel there is no way to mend the marriage. Wisconsin is a ‘no-fault state’ meaning that to get a divorce, one spouse must state that they believe your marriage is irretrievably broken. There is no need to prove wrongdoing by either spouse.

Divorce is a permanent end to the marriage. However, there is a 120 waiting period before the divorce is finalized. During this time, the couple will be considered legally separated. This waiting period is used to sort out certain logistics of the marriage ending.

During this time, the court will make arrangements for:

Contested vs. Uncontested Divorce

If the couple agrees on all issues stated above, that would be an uncontested divorce. If the spouses disagree about one or multiple of the arrangements, that would make it a contested divorce.

Typically, uncontested divorces are finalized much faster.

Contested divorces are more complicated. In some cases, the couples may go through mediation to try and reach an agreement. If no progress is made and they still disagree about the terms of the divorce, a judge will have the final say on the issues.

Once a divorce is finalized, each person is allowed to remarry.

Legal Separation

If you are unsure about whether or not you and your partner can reconcile, this is an ideal option. A legal separation grants the spouses time apart from one another, but does not permanently end the marriage. During a legal separation, the couple can reconcile at any time.

A legal separation has some of the same aspects of a divorce. In order to get a legal separation, only one spouse is required to say that the marriage is broken. This is similar to divorce in that there does not have to be wrongdoing in the marriage. However, for a legal separation, you do not need to say that the marriage is irreconcilably broken. This leaves the door open for reconciliation in the future.

Like divorce, there is a 120 waiting period. This period is also used to set up the arrangements for the separation in terms of custody, financial support, and living arrangements.

What If I Want A Divorce But My Partner Only Wants A Separation?

If you and your spouse disagree about which route to take, a judge will make the final decision. The judge may decide that you and your spouse have the potential to reconcile and delay your case so you can attend counseling.

It is important to note that while a legal separation is not as permanent as a divorce, it is still legally binding. All agreements made for a legal separation must be followed.


An annulment essentially erases a legal marriage. It is as if the union never happened. Annulments are not as common as divorces or separations, and there are only limited cases that qualify for annulments.

Grounds for an annulment include:

  • Mental Incapacity
  • Intoxication at the time of marriage
  • One spouse was forced into the marriage
  • Fraud, i.e. lying about something that would have stopped the marriage had the other partner known
  • Bigamy, meaning one spouse had another spouse at the time of the marriage
  • Impotence
  • Incest

Once annulment papers are filed, there will be a hearing where the judge can hear the reasoning for the annulment. If the judge agrees that the relationship qualifies for an annulment, it will be finalized.

What If The Couple Has Kids?

Even though the annulment essentially erases the marriage, the kids still have the right to be supported. Each parent will be required to provide financial support for the children.

How A Family Lawyer Can Help

Choosing to end your marriage, either permanently or temporarily, is a big decision. A family lawyer can help you understand your options. Once you decide what you would like to do next, a lawyer will be able to support you along the way.

It is important to protect yourself and your interests. A family lawyer can help you negotiate terms with your spouse to reach an agreement.

At Site:BusinessName}, we can provide you with guidance, support, and legal expertise. Contact us to set up a consultation with one of our Wisconsin divorce lawyers.