Terese J. Singer

Converting Separation Into Divorce

Milwaukee Attorney Guiding You Through the Process of Dissolving a Marriage

For many Wisconsin couples, the first step in the process of evaluating the possible dissolution of a marriage is a legal separation. This gives individuals the opportunity to consider the possibility of ending a marriage without actually going through the entire divorce process. For some, the separation makes clear that the marriage is a relationship that they want to continue, while others make the decision to move from separation to divorce. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, our Milwaukee divorce lawyer can assist you with the details of this transition.

How Does Separation Differ From Divorce?

In many ways, a legal separation is very similar to a divorce. From a practical perspective, it allows the spouses to separate from each other and attempt to develop their own lives. Depending on how far they choose to take it, a separation allows former spouses to begin to divide up property, consider arrangements for children, find new places to live, and undertake other decisions and changes that many divorcing spouses also address.

Since the processes are relatively similar, some people may wonder what is the purpose of trying a legal separation before a divorce. There are several primary reasons why couples might consider separation as a first option. First, for some couples, their religious or cultural beliefs strongly discourage divorce and make legal separation a more viable option, or at least a worthwhile step to take before pursuing a divorce. For others, there is a legitimate question as to whether a divorce is the right course of action. A legal separation allows couples to consider what a divorce will look like, as well as the ramifications of a divorce, before committing to the actual process. Given the irreversible process of divorce, this path can make sense for people who are less certain about what their future will look like. However, consulting an attorney may be helpful in determining whether it will benefit them.

Finally, some couples have certain circumstances that place restrictions on their ability to divorce. For example, a spouse may have a very serious medical condition for which she needs treatment. If she is receiving medical insurance through her husband, she may not be in a position to give up that insurance through a divorce. A legal separation allows the couple to physically separate without requiring one spouse to give up an important safety net like health insurance.

When a Separation Turns Into a Divorce

In a separation, a couple files a petition with the local county court where they live. The couple will then go through a temporary hearing process in which issues such as property division and child support are addressed. When all of the outstanding issues are resolved, the court can then issue a judgment of legal separation.

If after being granted a judgment of separation, a couple decides that a divorce is the better option, they can go back to the court and ask for a divorce instead. There are two primary ways that a separation can be converted into a divorce.

First, the couple can convert their separation into a divorce by a joint stipulation. This is the simpler way to complete the conversion. It allows for a fairly quick and simple process, without any required waiting time. Alternatively, if only one member of the couple wants to convert a separation into a divorce, that spouse can file a petition for conversion. However, when only one party is seeking a conversion, the paperwork cannot be filed until at least one year after the judgment for legal separation was entered.

Couples seeking a conversion should also know that they cannot remarry for at least six months after the new order of divorce is signed. Additionally, a simple conversion from separation to divorce will not change the fundamental division of property and child custody set forth in the separation order. If either individual seeks to make substantive changes, they must instead file a separate motion to change the judgment.

Contact a Knowledgeable Attorney in the Milwaukee Area

When considering whether to pursue a legal separation or a divorce, it is important to carefully evaluate which process works better for your goals and needs, as well as whether an intermediary step before divorce would be helpful for you. At Reddin & Singer, LLP, Milwaukee lawyer Terese J. Singer can help you in evaluating divorce options, applying for a separation, or converting a separation to a divorce. For more information or to schedule an initial consultation, contact us at 1-414-271-6400 or online. We represent people in Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, West Bend, Mequon, Port Washington, and other areas of Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Racine, Washington, and Waukesha Counties.

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