Contemplating divorce can be overwhelming on multiple levels. Emotionally, you may be navigating painful feelings while processing the fact that your marriage is over. At the same time, you will have to make logistical decisions such as when and where to initiate your case. As with any legal matter, each choice you make is important as it could potentially impact your case outcomes. If you live in the greater Milwaukee area, you may want to know: Is it better to get divorced in Waukesha County or Milwaukee County? Do I have a choice?
Wisconsin Residency Requirements
In Wisconsin, certain requirements must be met for a court to have jurisdiction over a divorce case. First and foremost, the filing party must have lived in the state for a least six months when they file their divorce action with a Wisconsin court. Second, the party must reside in the county where they initiate their case for at least 30 days immediately preceding the filing. Both spouses don’t need to live in the state and county. As long as one spouse meets the Wisconsin residency requirements, that person may file for divorce.
When both parties have lived in Wisconsin and in the same county for the requisite period, their only option will be to file in their local county’s court. So, if you and your spouse have lived in the state for six months and in Waukesha County for the last thirty days, you would have to file for divorce with the circuit court for Waukesha County. The same would be true if you lived in Milwaukee County or any other Wisconsin county. However, if you and your ex have been living in different counties in Wisconsin for the past thirty days, either of you could file for divorce in your county’s circuit court. If one of you has moved out of state, the Wisconsin resident could file for divorce where they reside.
It’s not unusual for parties to live in different counties during a divorce. Sometimes, which Wisconsin circuit court hears a divorce case is decided by who files in their respective county first. One factor that can determine where a case should be filed and heard is whether or not the parties are parents of minor children. When parents divorce, the court will have to make decisions regarding legal custody, physical placement, and child support. A court’s jurisdiction over these issues depends on where the child has been residing. Suppose a couple’s children have primarily been living with a parent in Milwaukee County while visiting their other parent who has been living in Waukesha County. In that instance, the Milwaukee County court is more likely to have jurisdiction over matters pertaining to the kids.
When parents and children live in separate states or countries, the court may have to determine the children’s home state. This is the place where a child has lived with a parent or person acting as a parent for at least six consecutive months immediately before the commencement of a child custody proceeding. If the child is younger than six months old, their home state means the state where the child has lived from birth with their parent or someone acting as their parent. In many cases, the same court that has jurisdiction to decide the divorce will also be able to establish orders related to the couple’s children. However, when kids have been living out of the state or country, decisions regarding their care and support may have to be made in a separate proceeding outside Wisconsin.
Consult with an Experienced Wisconsin Family Law Attorney
If you are considering filing for divorce in either Waukesha County or Milwaukee County, it’s essential that you consult with an experienced family law attorney. Your counsel can review your circumstances and provide you with the information you need to make informed decisions regarding your case.
Wisconsin Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law has extensive experience helping clients assess their situations and consider their options during and after Waukesha County and Milwaukee County divorce cases. She understands the complexities of going through the divorce process and can help you identify the best solutions for your circumstances. Come in, and let us take a “first look” at your situation so you can figure out your next steps. Please call us today to set up a time to meet.