Wisconsin law presumes that the marital estate is divided 50/50 at divorce. The first important question to ask then is: What is in the estate? The marital estate consists of all the assets and debts held by the couple, except for assets inherited by or gifted to one spouse, that have been kept separate. All other assets are considered part of the marital estate. Wisconsin is rather unique, even among other community property states, in that the neither the title nor the pre-marital existence of an asset makes it individual property. Therefore, even if a car is titled to only one spouse, it is still marital property, and part of the marital divisible estate. Even if a spouse owned a home, bank account, etc. prior to marriage, that also becomes property of the marriage.
However, a 50/50 division of all assets is not guaranteed. Wisconsin law allows for several factors that can influence the allocation of property. Factors such as the length of the marriage, the spouses’ health, income, and education, support payments, etc. can lead to an unequal division of property. The existence of gifted/inherited assets, and the existence of assets owned by a spouse before the marriage are also considered by the judge. Therefore, a spouse who owned valuable investments before marriage may get some credit for that value, depending in large part on the length of the marriage.
The judge has wide discretion to depart from the presumption of equal division. Therefore, each judge may find different factors important. Simply entering court without a lawyer and relying on the general concept of “half of everything” is not particularly wise. As an experienced divorce attorney, I will gather your history and present an understandable argument within the framework of the law.