Going through a divorce is difficult, especially if one spouse may not be expecting it. Although Wisconsin family law allows divorce without a spouse's consent, it is wise and respectful to discuss the matter with them before filing. While there is no way to guarantee a cordial and productive discussion, these tips improve your chance of a good outcome. 

How to Request a Divorce

1. Be Prepared

To help the conversation go more smoothly, choose a place that's private and quiet. Consider a room in your home where you are both comfortable, or if you have attended counseling, the professional's conference room. You should also wait until any recent personal challenge you or your spouse has faced improves. For example, if you were recently injured due to an accident, lost a close family member, or became unemployed, it can be beneficial to wait until a new status quo is reached. 

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2. Stay Calm

For a productive discussion, approach the subject calmly and avoid making accusations. This can keep your spouse from becoming defensive. Instead of saying “You make me unhappy,” use sentences that focus only on you, such as “I am not happy.” 

Don't blame your partner for the state of the marriage, but be clear about your emotions. Your spouse might say they need time to think about what you have said. If that's the situation, plan to continue the talk at a specific time.

3. Plan for the Response 

Typical responses to a request for a divorce include shock, anger, sorrow, and fear, which a spouse may express at different times. Anticipate how your spouse might react. They may ask questions, so be prepared to give honest, clear answers. To reduce anxiety about money issues, offer temporary financial support or mention a potential co-parenting plan that you think they might agree to. If talking isn't fruitful, think about resuming when your family law attorney can be present to facilitate the discussion.


The family law attorney team at Arndt Buswell & Thorn SC is skilled in guiding clients through every stage of the divorce process. This full-service firm is dedicated to providing effective legal representation that builds lasting attorney-client relationships. With offices in Sparta and Bangor, WI, they offer convenient, effective, and compassionate service, as they have since 1991. To learn more about how these attorneys can help you resolve your family law disputes, visit their website. For a consultation appointment, call (608) 269-1200 for the Sparta location or (608) 486-2257 for the Bangor office.