Wisconsin Separation Agreement Law

Divorce – Separation Agreements – Wisconsin

Note: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive discussion of the law of separation agreements in Wisconsin, but does include basic and other provisions.

General Summary: There are (2) provisions governing agreements between married parties regarding the division of property and provisions for support. The first are known in Wisconsin as Marital Property Agreements. Any Marital Property Agreement entered into prior to marriage or during the marriage is governed by the provisions of the Ch. 766, Wisconsin’s Uniform Marital Property Act (UMPA). A stipulation and property division agreement by parties to an action for divorce, separation or annullment, may provide for the agreement of the parties as to a division of property, for maintenance payments, for the support of children, for periodic family support payments or for legal custody and physical placement, in case a divorce or legal separation is granted or a marriage annulled. This type of agreement is governed by the provisions of CHAPTER 767 “ACTIONS AFFECTING THE FAMILY”. The requirements for both are substantially the same – Procedural and Substantive Fairness. Marital agreements are generally binding on the Court as long as they are not inequitable to either party.

Statutes: In Wisconsin, Marital Property Agreements are governed by Ch. 766, Wisconsin’s Uniform Marital Property Act (UMPA) and Property Settlement Agreements are governed by Chapter 767 Actions Affecting the Family.

The Family.
CHAPTER 766
PROPERTY RIGHTS OF MARRIED PERSONS; MARITAL PROPERTY

[Individual Property]: Property acquired by a spouse during marriage and after the determination date is individual property if acquired by any of the following means:

(d) By a decree, marital property agreement or reclassification under sub. (10) designating it as the individual property of the spouse. Section 766.31(7). [emphasis added] Marital property agreements. :

(1) A marital property agreement shall be a document signed by both spouses. Only the spouses may be parties to a marital property agreement. A marital property agreement is enforceable without consideration.

(2) A marital property agreement may not adversely affect the right of a child to support.

(3) Except as provided in ss. 766.15, 766.55 (4m), 766.57 (3) and 859.18 (6), and in sub. (2), in a marital property agreement spouses may agree with respect to any of the following:

(a) Rights in and obligations with respect to any of either or both spouses’ property whenever and wherever acquired or located.
(b) Management and control of any of either or both spouses’ property.
(c) Disposition of any of either or both spouses’ property upon dissolution or death or upon the occurrence or nonoccurrence of any other event.
(d) Modification or elimination of spousal support, except as provided in sub. (9).
(e) Making a will, trust or other arrangement to carry out the marital property agreement.
(f) Providing that upon the death of either spouse any of either or both spouses’ property, including after-acquired property, passes without probate to a designated person, trust or other entity by nontestamentary disposition. Any such provision in a marital property agreement is revoked upon dissolution of the marriage as provided in s. 767.266 (1). If a marital property agreement provides for the nontestamentary disposition of property, without probate, at the death of the 2nd spouse, at any time after the death of the first spouse the surviving spouse may amend the marital property agreement with regard to property to be disposed of at his or her death unless the marital property agreement expressly provides otherwise and except to the extent property is held in a trust expressly established under the marital property agreement.
(g) Choice of law governing construction of the marital property agreement.
(h) Any other matter affecting either or both spouses’ property not in violation of public policy or a statute imposing a criminal penalty. Chapter 854 applies to transfers at death under a marital property agreement.

(4) A marital property agreement may be amended or revoked only by a later marital property agreement.

(5) Persons intending to marry each other may enter into a marital property agreement as if married, but the marital property agreement becomes effective only upon their marriage.

(6) A marital property agreement executed before or during marriage is not enforceable if the spouse against whom enforcement is sought proves any of the following:

(a) The marital property agreement was unconscionable when made.
(b) That spouse did not execute the marital property agreement voluntarily.
(c) Before execution of the marital property agreement, that spouse:

1. Did not receive fair and reasonable disclosure, under the circumstances, of the other spouse’s property or financial obligations; and

2. Did not have notice of the other spouse’s property or financial obligations.

(7)

(a) Unless the marital property agreement expressly provides otherwise, a marital property agreement that classifies a deferred employment benefit plan or an individual retirement account as marital property does not affect the operation of s. 766.62 (5).

(b) Unless the marital property agreement expressly provides otherwise, marital property agreement that classifies as marital property the noninsured spouse’s interest in a policy that designates the other spouse as the owner and insured does not affect the operation of s. 766.61 (7). In this paragraph, “owner” has the meaning given in s. 766.61 (1) (a) and “policy” has the meaning given in s. 766.61 (1) (c).

(8) The issue of whether a marital property agreement is unconscionable is for the court to decide as a matter of law. In the event that legal counsel is retained in connection with a marital property agreement the fact that both parties are represented by one counsel or that one party is represented by counsel and the other party is not represented by counsel does not by itself make a marital property agreement unconscionable or otherwise affect its enforceability.

(9)

(a) Modification or elimination of spousal support during the marriage may not result in a spouse having less than necessary and adequate support, taking into consideration all sources of support.

(b) If a marital property agreement modifies or eliminates spousal support so as to make one spouse eligible for public assistance at the time of dissolution of the marriage or termination of the marriage by death, the court may require the other spouse or the other spouse’s estate to provide support necessary to avoid that eligibility, notwithstanding the marital property agreement.

(10) If the spouses agree in writing to arbitrate any controversies arising under this chapter or a marital property agreement, the arbitration agreement is enforceable under ch. 788.

(11) Married persons or persons intending to marry each other may record a marital property agreement in the county register of deeds office under s. 59.43 (1) (r). Section 766.58. [empasis added]

CHAPTER 767
ACTIONS AFFECTING THE FAMILY

Stipulation and property division:

(1) The parties in an action for an annulment, divorce or legal separation may, subject to the approval of the court, stipulate for a division of property, for maintenance payments, for the support of children, for periodic family support payments under s. 767.261 or for legal custody and physical placement, in case a divorce or legal separation is granted or a marriage annulled.

(2)

(a)A court may not approve a stipulation for child support or family support unless the stipulation provides for payment of child support, determined in a manner consistent with s. 767.25 or 767.51.

(b)A court may not approve a stipulation for a division of property that assigns substantially all of the property to one of the parties in the action if the other party in the action is in the process of applying for medical assistance under subch. IV of ch. 49 or if the court determines that it can be reasonably anticipated that the other party in the action will apply for medical assistance under subch. IV of ch. 49 within 30 months of the stipulation. Section 767.10.

Property division:

(1) Upon every judgment of annulment, divorce or legal separation, or in rendering a judgment in an action under s. 767.02 (1) (h), the court shall divide the property of the parties and divest and transfer the title of any such property accordingly. A certified copy of the portion of the judgment that affects title to real estate shall be recorded in the office of the register of deeds of the county in which the lands so affected are situated. The court may protect and promote the best interests of the children by setting aside a portion of the property of the parties in a separate fund or trust for the support, maintenance, education and general welfare of any minor children of the parties.

(2)(a) Except as provided in par. (b), any property shown to have been acquired by either party prior to or during the course of the marriage in any of the following ways shall remain the property of that party and is not subject to a property division under this section:

1. As a gift from a person other than the other party.

2. By reason of the death of another, including, but not limited to, life insurance proceeds; payments made under a deferred employment benefit plan, as defined in s. 766.01 (4) (a), or an individual retirement account; and property acquired by right of survivorship, by a trust distribution, by bequest or inheritance or by a payable on death or a transfer on death arrangement under ch. 705.

3. With funds acquired in a manner provided in sub. 1. or 2.

(2)(b) Paragraph (a) does not apply if the court finds that refusal to divide the property will create a hardship on the other party or on the children of the marriage. If the court makes such a finding, the court may divest the party of the property in a fair and equitable manner.

(3) The court shall presume that all property not described in sub. (2) (a) is to be divided equally between the parties, but may alter this distribution without regard to marital misconduct after considering all of the following:

(L) Any written agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning any arrangement for property distribution; such agreements shall be binding upon the court except that no such agreement shall be binding where the terms of the agreement are inequitable as to either party. The court shall presume any such agreement to be equitable as to both parties. Section 767.255.

Case Law:

The law is well settled that a marital property agreement is equitable if it satisfies all of the following requirements:

Procedural Fairness:

1. Each spouse made fair and reasonable disclosure to the other of his or her financial status;

2. Each spouse has entered into the agreement voluntarily and freely; and

Substantive Fairness:

3. The substantive provisions of the marital property agreement dividing the property upon divorce are fair to each party.

If an marital property agreement fails to meet any one of these requirements it must be invalidated. Gardner v. Gardner, 190 Wis.2d 216 (Ct.App. 1994)527 N.W.2d 701.


Inside Wisconsin Separation Agreement Law