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What Are the Alternatives to Divorce?

Schwei & Wendt, S.C.
Sept. 12, 2019

You and your spouse have tried everything to save your marriage. Maybe you paid for relationship counseling, went on a couples’ retreat or took a marriage seminar. Whatever it is that you’re doing, it isn’t working. Is it time to start talking about the “D” word: divorce?

Divorce can be an intimidating process, involving paperwork and court hearings. You may feel intimidated or not want to get a divorce for familial or religious reasons. If you’d like to avoid divorce, there are some options for you and your spouse.

Physical (trial) Separation

A trial separation does not require any legal action. Both of you would spend some time apart, perhaps renting separate apartments. You and your spouse may want to try a trial separation to see if ending the marriage is really what you both want.

Legal Separation

A legal separation is very similar to a divorce in the state of Wisconsin. If you are legally separated, you and your spouse would be able to lead separate lives with one exception: you would not be allowed to remarry.

Either you, your spouse or both of you would have to file a petition with a judge in order to request a legal separation, just like you would have to in a divorce. You both will have to declare that the marriage isn’t working. A legal separation would allow you and your spouse room to decide if you want to reconcile the marriage down the road.


Wisconsin treats an annulled marriage as if it never happened. However, there are only a few scenarios when an annulment would apply:

  • One party was not capable of consent at the time of the marriage, either because they were under the influence OR because of the use of force or fraudulent behavior

  • One party learns that the other party is incapable of consummating the marriage

  • One party was either 16 or 17 at the time of the marriage and had parental permission OR one party was under 16 at the time of the marriage

  • The marriage was not legally acceptable (reasons could include bigamy, incest, etc.)

There are some deadlines involved with annulment, so make sure you check with your county court system. Because the forms on the Wisconsin courts website are set up for divorces and separations, you may need the help of an attorney to file for an annulment.