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Divorce Options: Divorce, Legal Separation Or Annulment

The attorneys at Claringbole Law, LLC d/b/a Claringbole Quigley, will make sure you have a full understanding of your legal options when facing  the end of a marriage. A general overview of these options is provided below, but a discussion with an attorney is needed to cover all the aspects of your individual marriage and the children, property, tax implications, assets and considerations involved.

Types Of Divorce: Stipulated Divorce Vs. Contested Divorce

A stipulated divorce is a divorce where all issues are resolved without a court having to make decisions. Sometimes, clients come to Claringbole Law, LLC d/b/a Claringbole Quigley, with the outlines of a final agreement and are looking for an attorney to help them with the paperwork to finalize the specifics of their agreement. In these cases, we advise our clients on the specifics of their agreement making sure they understand the terms and the consequences of their agreement. We also make sure that they understand whether their agreement is fair and reasonable and consistent with what they might achieve in a contested divorce.  A divorce is by definition an adversarial process, but it does not need to be. When it is appropriate, we willingly work with opposing parties and their attorneys when they have counsel to put together an agreement through a cooperative process.

Frequently, clients start this process without a full agreement and are anticipating a contested divorce.  In these cases, our attorneys work with our clients to gather information to protect their interests and prepare to present this information to the court at trial is necessary. If child custody and physical placement are contested, we help to prepare our clients for mediation provided by the family court program. If there is a custody and placement dispute, a guardian ad litem will need to be appointed. A guardian ad litem is an attorney who is appointed by the court to represent the best interests of the children. Through the process of skilled negotiation or through mediation with a third party mediator, our attorneys help achieve an agreement on the issues that need to be addressed. Often what begins as a contested divorce is resolved by way of a final stipulation or a marital settlement agreement.

Understanding Legal Separation

Contrary to popular belief, the period of time between the filing of a petition for divorce and the first hearing or the final divorce decree entered by the Court is not a legal separation. A legal separation is a distinctly separate action. See our page on legal separation.

Divorce Vs. Legal Separation: How Are Divorce And A Legal Separation The Same?

In an action for divorce or legal separation, the same issues are addressed by the court including property division, child custody and physical placement, child support and spousal support.

Both actions lead to final judgments. So, while it is thought by many people that a legal separation is the period of time during which the spouses await a final divorce, that is not the case.

The standard for a divorce in Wisconsin is irretrievable break down of the marriage. The standard for a legal separation is breakdown of the marital relationship.


A judgment of annulment is rare in Wisconsin and should not be confused with a religious annulment that is sought through a church. There are very limited and very specific grounds for an annulment. An annulment can be granted if a court finds that a party could not consent to the marriage at the time of the wedding or if a spouse married as a minor without the consent of a parent. Annulments can also be granted if the marriage cannot be consummated and if the other spouse did not know this at the time of the wedding or if the marriage is for some reason prohibited by Wisconsin law. These grounds are very specific and must be proved in court.