What Are the State of Wisconsin Laws on Dividing Assets After a Divorce?

By Jim Thomas

Valuating and dividing up your assets can further complicate the already contentious matter of divorce. Wisconsin law generally stipulates a 50-50 division of all assets to give each party approximately the same net worth after the divorce. However, exceptions to the general rule exist that give the court the power to divide assets differently based on a number of other factors.

Marital Assets

Marital property includes real estate, bank accounts, stocks and bonds, mortgages and notes, life insurance, personal property such as jewelry, and retirement benefits. Debts accumulated by you and your spouse during the marriage are deducted from the assets to determine the value of your marital property. If you brought property into the marriage, it may or may not be considered marital property depending on the particular facts of your case.

General Rule

Wisconsin statute 767.255 governs property division after a divorce. If the parties reach an agreement on the division of their property, the court typically honors that agreement. If not, the court divides property under the presumption it is to be divided equally between the parties.

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The statute governing property division provides an exception to the 50-50 rule when one spouse received property as a gift or through inheritance and when one spouse brought substantially more assets than the other into a short-term marriage. If you brought assets you received as a gift or inheritance into the marriage, the court usually awards you those assets without counting them as marital property, especially if those assets were kept separate and distinct from other marital assets acquired during the marriage. In the event of a short-term marriage, the court considers the length of the marriage as a factor. If one spouse is exceptionally wealthy when he marries and the couple divorces after several months, for example, the court has the power to alter the standard 50-50 split.

Other Factors

Wisconsin statute 767.255 gives judges plenty of leeway to deviate from the general 50-50 rule. The court can consider the best interest of the children, contributions to the marriage by each spouse, including homemaking and child rearing, age, physical health and emotional health of the parties, earning capacity of each spouse, amount of job training needed for a spouse who has been out of the labor market to reenter the workforce, and other economic factors that may favor one party over the other.

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