When a married couple decides to end their relationship, they often choose divorce by default. Yet, there is an alternative to consider: legal separation. Like other states, Wisconsin has its own laws for legal separation. A divorce lawyer can discuss your specific circumstances to help decide if this option is best for you, but here is what you should know in the meantime.

4 Legal Separation Questions for Wisconsin Residents 

How is a legal separation different from a divorce?

In a legal separation, one spouse files a separation request with the court. The spouses remain legally married but are allowed to live separate lives. Under Wisconsin law, marriages that have the possibility for reconciliation qualify for legal separation.  

Are there benefits to legal separation?

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Couples may legally separate to meet financial needs or comply with religious rules. For example, one spouse could benefit from staying on the other’s health insurance. Or, both parties may need to continue receiving monetary benefits, such as tax breaks, until they are financially independent. Finally, a couple might use a separation as a trial period before formally divorcing.

Does separation affect custody?

Legal separation and divorce follow similar court proceedings in Wisconsin. Thus, legally separated couples may still have child custody and support agreements in place. The same factors that could affect custody in the case of a divorce can affect it in a legal separation, including who acts as the primary caregiver for the child and the parents’ work schedules. If legally separating couples are struggling to come up with a fair custody plan, it can be helpful to meet with a divorce lawyer to review options.

Will legal separation protect my assets?

Debts are divided in a legal separation similarly to how they would be in a divorce. It is possible to continue filing joint taxes, however. Because Wisconsin is a community property state, all assets are divided equally unless it can be proven they were kept separate from the marital assets. This means legal separation does not offer any added protection against your assets when compared to a divorce.


Whether you decide on a divorce or legal separation, LaRowe Gerlach Taggart LLP can help you navigate the legal aspects of ending your marriage. This team has served southern Wisconsin for more than 35 years and is well-versed in managing the complexities of family law. Learn more about their divorce lawyers online or schedule a consultation by calling (608) 524-8231.