Divorce Options


Legal separation is a term that is frequently used but not often understood.  A legal separation in Wisconsin is similar to a divorce in that it is an end judgment.  It is not a necessary step on the way to a divorce.  A Judgment of Legal Separation addresses the same issues addressed in a Judgment of Divorce.  These include custody and placement, child support, property division, and maintenance which is sometimes called spousal support or maintenance; however, the legal standard for a divorce is different than the legal standard for a legal separation. The legal standard for a divorce under Wisconsin law is irretrievable break down of the marriage, meaning there is no reasonable prospect for reconciliation.  In a legal separation, the standard is breakdown of the marital relationship. 

An action for legal separation may be converted to an action for divorce by agreement of both parties.  If one party requests a legal separation and the other requests a divorce, the court will hear testimony and make a determination on whether the marital relationship is broken or is irretrievably broken.  If a court grants a legal separation, the parties may reconcile at any time if the judgment of legal separation has not been converted to a judgment of divorce.  Alternatively, by agreement of the parties or upon the motion of one party no earlier than one year after the legal separation, the court may convert a legal separation to a divorce.

A legal separation is often confused with the period of time during a pending divorce where the court has issued a temporary order and there is a legal document addressing temporary rights and obligations that is designed to be in effect until the divorce is final. 


Annulments granted by the courts in a civil action a rare.  A court must make specific findings in order to annul a marriage.  The grounds for an annulment include  a party lacks capacity  to consent to the marriage, a party lacks the physical ability to consummate the marriage, a minor marries without parental consent, or a marriage is prohibited by the laws of the State of Wisconsin.


There is a minimum 120 waiting period in Wisconsin before a divorce can be finalized.  For this reason, it is important that parties have an understanding of how to handle placement, support, use of property and financial obligations while the divorce is pending.  This is accomplished with a Temporary Order.  The temporary order is often the result of negotiations between the parties and their attorneys.  If an agreement is not reached, a temporary order will be issued at a hearing before the family court commissioner.

A final divorce hearing results in a final judgment that addresses all of the issues in a divorce action including custody and placement , child support, maintenance or spousal support, and property division.    The terms of a divorce judgment may include an agreement reached between the parties, a settlement that is the product of extensive negotiations involving the parties and their attorneys, or a court’s decision that comes about after litigation.


Attorneys Elizabeth Ryan-Panzer and Alan Hoff are experienced attorneys who can assist you throughout the divorce process, from providing support and guidance as the process commences until the final judgment is entered and all related documents are complete.   They are comfortable in assisting clients with a fully stipulated divorce where there is ready agreement on all issues to negotiating with the other side during a complex divorce to aggressively representing their client’s at trial when no agreement has been reached.

Whether you seek the legal assistance of a divorce lawyer to litigate the issues or counsel to review and offer advice on an agreement, Attorney Alan Hoff, Attorney Elizabeth Ryan-Panzer and Attorney Heather Claringbole can help you. 

Free initial consultation

The attorneys at Hoff & Panzer's law offices offer a free initial consultation. Please call (920-749-2002) today to schedule a meeting with one of the attorneys, or to speak with an available attorney on the phone.

Hoff & Panzer Law Office

We Serve the Appleton - Neenah - Menasha - Oshkosh - Fond du Lac - Green Bay - Green Lake - Wautoma - Manitowoc - De Pere areas.

600 East Northland Ave. Suite 1
Appleton, WI 54911

(920) 749-2002


The information on this website is not, nor intended to be, legal advice. You should consult with an attorney in regards to legal advice for your individual situation.

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