The Benefit of Hiring a Family Law Attorney

In times of economic downturn, it can appear that hiring an attorney for your divorce or paternity matter is too expensive of an investment. In the Wisconsin, anybody can file a divorce, paternity, or other family law related matter without an attorney. It is an especially attractive idea when the other parent or party in the action appears to agree with all the issues that may arise in family law related matters. However, things can quickly change in family law cases (which includes divorce, initial paternities, requests to change placement, custody or child support, or requests to change maintenance or alimony, etc.). Hiring an attorney can be an extremely helpful investment in the following circumstances:

  • Attorneys who commonly practice in the family law area are familiar with what Court Commissioners and Judges expect to hear in these cases. For example, if you are requesting a change in placement, the Court will need to understand when the last order regarding placement occurred, and the type of change that may have occurred to show why a change may be in a child’s best interest.
  • Attorneys know what paperwork needs to be filed to effectively use your Court time and ensure that your case is heard. For example, some counties require specific documentation to be filed to get a court date in a divorce proceeding.
  • Attorneys know why certain agreements may be very helpful to avoid returning to court, or may have unintended, negative consequences. For example, if parties agree to divide a 401k in a divorce, certain, specific paperwork is needed to divide the 401k without incurring penalties or incurring avoidable tax consequences to either party.
  • In cases involving domestic violence, having an attorney can ensure appropriate communication, or even avoid the need for a victim to communicate with an abusive partner. Family law attorneys can help navigate restraining orders between parties as well.
  • Attorneys can help educate parties as to what goals can reasonably be accomplished in a Court action and help inform parties as to more resources that may be available to families outside of having a trial in front of a judge. For example, parents may benefit from a therapist’s assistance to help parent better communicate and work together for the benefit of the children. The input from a therapist may be more helpful to these parents than what a Judge may order.
  • Attorneys can be helpful in providing possible solutions that will likely be approved by a Court Commissioner or judge. For example, an attorney knows what factors to look for in determining what a child support order should be and may be able to obtain more information regarding the other parent’s income if that parent is uncooperative. The attorney will also understand how information regarding income and placement time is used to determine an appropriate child support order.
  • Some decisions made during an initial action cannot be changed or are difficult to change, so if you do not have an attorney you might make a mistake that cannot be undone!

These are just a few examples of how hiring an attorney can be very helpful and even necessary in navigating a family law matter. As is often the case in legal matters involving the family, these issues can be very emotional for parties. Attorneys who practice family law understand that these cases can feel overwhelming and even scary because these issues are so important to the parties involved. It is an attorney’s job to offer expertise in the legal process and offer rational advice to their clients. Making well informed decisions can help you avoid coming back to Court in the future and can help parties confidently move forward with their lives. If you feel you could benefit from the advice of an attorney in your family law matter, please call us at (414) 258-1644 to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.

What is the Difference Between a Petition for Divorce and Joint Petition for Divorce?

In a Wisconsin divorce action, there are two potential options when filing for divorce, one of which being more common than the other.

  1. Petition for divorce: This, being the most common action, is when one party (the petitioner) files an action against the other (the respondent).  The Petitioner is the only one who signs the paperwork.   Once the petitioner has filed for the papers, he/she must serve those papers on the respondent.
  2. Joint Petition for Divorce: In the event both you and your spouse agree that a divorce is the best option you may both file for a joint petition.  By filing a joint petition, both spouse sign the paperwork alleviating the need for service of process.

It cannot be stressed enough the importance of good counsel throughout this process. Make sure to seek qualified and experienced family law practitioners to ensure all your legal needs are met and that no stone has been left unturned. Too often during this process details are lost in the fine print of legal documents, creating a potential for more suffering and even financial loss.

To schedule a free initial office consultation to discuss your options for divorce, please contact us at 414-258-1644 or visit our website for further information.

Can I File a Divorce Myself in Wisconsin?

I am sure a lot of divorce lawyers would be unhappy with me if they read this but the answer is YES!  Now, that doesn’t mean you don’t need a lawyer to represent you in your divorce.  But filing the paperwork is easy and will save you some money off the top.  See our next post for information about whether you need to hire a divorce attorney.

Many counties in Wisconsin have self-help centers or volunteer lawyers or paralegals who come In for limited hours to assist people.  Notably, Waukesha and Milwaukee County have wonderful self-help centers with all of the forms and instructions that you need.

The Wisconsin Court Access system also has an Online Family Law Forms Assistant which will direct you to the correct forms after you answer certain questions (do you have children, etc.).  This will walk you through the process and give you different options such as printing out blank forms or having the forms completed for you after answering certain questions.  There are also tutorials for certain counties which explain exactly what you need to do.

These forms are fill in the blank and check the box. There is nothing complicated about them.  As long you file the correct forms, which basically differentiate between children or no children, and answer the questions correctly, there are not too many mistakes you can make on these forms.  Even if you do, an attorney can always amend them later for you.

There is some time involved.  You need to make several copies and take them to the courthouse which can be intimidating or inconvenient, especially in Milwaukee.  Unless you are filing jointly with your spouse, you also need to arrange for services of the papers on your spouse.  Given that, most people simply would rather have an attorney take care of this for them.  That is perfectly fine and we are happy to do that.

However, if you can navigate through the forms and have some time to take care of this yourself, you certainly can save yourself some attorney fees by doing so.  After filing, simply call or visit us and we can pick up your case from there.

The Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence created a very helpful flowchart which tells you all of the steps you must take to file for divorce.  Click here for this helpful tool.

Whether you choose to file the papers yourself or have us prepare them for you, please contact us for your free initial office consultation at 414-258-1644 or visit our website for more information.

Does It Matter Who Files For Divorce in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin is a no fault state.  This means that the only ground for divorce is irretrievable breakdown and all fault issues are largely irrelevant as to the divorce itself.  Therefore, it does not matter who files or initiates the divorce action in Wisconsin.

Further, there is really no advantage as to who files a divorce action.  There are consequences, however.  For example, the person who files the action, known as the Petitioner, has to pay the court filing fee which is close to $200.00.  Furthermore, the Petitioner is typically responsible for the preparation of the majority of the paperwork throughout the action which could possibly result in additional attorneys fees.

However, sometimes there is no choice but to file.  If a spouse is disposing of assets, refusing to pay bills, being verbally or physically abusive or engaging in other harmful activities, it is time to consult an attorney to discuss filing for divorce.

To schedule a free initial office consultation to discuss filing for divorce, please contact us at 414-258-1644 or visit us at Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC  for further information.


About Divorce in Wisconsin



To begin a divorce, you must file with the Court a Summons and Petition for Divorce (generally referred to as the divorce pleadings). Your spouse must then be served with this Summons and Petition for Divorce within 90 days after filing. You can file a motion with the Court asking that this 90-day deadline be extended; however, it would be up to the Judge assigned to your case to decide whether or not to extend this deadline. There are two ways you can serve the Summons and Petition for Divorce on your spouse: (1) your spouse can sign an Admission of Service at our office or his/her attorney’s office, or (2) our process server or a sheriff’s deputy can personally serve the pleadings upon your spouse.


After you are served with divorce pleadings, call Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC to schedule a complimentary consultation. Once you retain our legal services, we will review the pleadings with you and prepare a Response and Counterclaim on your behalf for filing with the Court. You must file a written Response and Counterclaim within 20 days from the date you are served with the Summons and Petition for Divorce. This must be sent to the Court with a copy sent to your spouse or his/her attorney. If you do not file a written Response, the Court could enter a default judgment against you in the future.

If you also want the divorce, you should also file a Counterclaim for Divorce. This means that if your spouse changes his/her mind in the future and asks that the divorce be dismissed, the Court could deny that request and grant you a judgment of divorce instead based on your counterclaim.


Wisconsin is a “no fault” divorce state. The only basis for a divorce in Wisconsin is that the Court finds that your marriage is irretrievably broken and that there is no likely possibility of reconciliation. Because it takes two willing people to have a marriage, the Court will most likely grant a judgment of divorce even if only one party wants the divorce as long as one party testifies that he or she feels that the marriage is irretrievably broken and that the marriage cannot be repaired.


There is a mandatory 120-day waiting period in Wisconsin during which your divorce cannot be finalized. Most divorce cases take between six months to one year to finalize. The time period can vary based on the County in which your divorce is filed and the issues involved in your case. The specific facts of your case will determine the timetable for the completion of your case. However, our goal is to complete your divorce as quickly as possible. We understand that you need to move on with your life and that you do not need a long and protracted court action.


In most cases, Temporary Orders are needed to determine where each party will live, when each party will see the children, and how each party will be financially supported and pay bills. These Temporary Orders are Court Orders and can be determined by the Court’s decision or upon an agreement (called a Stipulation) between the parties. These Temporary Orders remain in effect during the time it takes to complete your divorce case.

Temporary Orders could cover the issues of temporary custody, placement, support, maintenance, temporary use of personal property and/or bank accounts, temporary use of the marital residence, and temporary allocation of debts. While these orders are temporary and should have no bearing on the final outcome of your divorce, in reality, many courts continue temporary orders as permanent orders if they are appropriate in your case, especially orders regarding custody and placement of your children.


To request Temporary Orders, you must file an Order to Show Cause for Temporary Orders and an Affidavit for Temporary Orders. These documents compel your spouse’s appearance at a first or temporary hearing which is almost always scheduled before a court commissioner rather than a judge. This temporary hearing is usually scheduled within three to six weeks of the date you request a hearing depending on the County in which your case in pending.

Prior to the hearing, you and your spouse can negotiate terms of a Temporary Stipulation. These stipulated orders are done without the need for you to appear in Court and, when filed with the Court, carry the same legal protection as if you personally appeared in Court.


If you do not agree with the court commissioner’s Orders at this first or temporary hearing or any other hearing before a court commissioner, you may request a Hearing De Novo before the judge assigned to your case. A Hearing De Novo is a hearing where the judge hears the matter as if it had not been heard before and is not supposed to give any deference to the court commissioner’s decision. A Hearing De Novo must be scheduled promptly after the hearing before the court commissioner’s (7 – 15 days in most counties).


Because Wisconsin is a “no-fault” divorce state, one party’s infidelity is irrelevant in most cases. The court cannot consider this fact in dividing property, awarding maintenance, setting support or other financial matters. It can impact on custody and placement issues, however, if the significant other has a negative or harmful impact on the minor children.


Please see our other FAQ’s for additional information on these issues. Your attorney at Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC will work with you throughout your case to provide educated and experienced guidance to assist you in making good legal decisions for yourself in your divorce action.


Your attorney at Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC will suggest options to the successful resolution of the issues in your divorce without the need for a court trial. For example, settlement negotiations at a parties-and-counsel meeting, mediation and arbitration are all alternative measures that are common in divorce cases to help resolve conflicts.

Although most cases are resolved without the need for a trial, at Nelson, Krueger & Millenbach, LLC, our experience litigating cases provides our clients the best possible legal representation. We will make every effort to minimize the emotional and financial cost of a trial, yet we are prepared to litigate your case in court if a settlement cannot be reached.