Compassionate Family Law And Divorce Counsel
These materials are for informational purposes only, to help you recognize your legal rights and responsibilities. They are not a substitute for speaking with an attorney regarding your specific circumstances.
A divorce is a legal, financial and emotional process to end a marriage. It involves parents, their children, their income, assets and debts. A final judgment of divorce sets out the resolution of all legal and financial issues between the parties, including their property division, maintenance (spousal support), legal custody and physical placement of their children, child support and related issues. Issues are resolved either by agreement of the parties or by the court, after a hearing. A number of procedural models are available to a couple going through a divorce, to help them resolve the issues in their divorce action, and the models vary in the amount of attorney and court involvement, conflict and cost to the couple.
What To Expect In The Divorce Process
A divorce action is begun with the filing of a summons and petition, or if the parties file together, a joint petition is used, and a summons is not needed. The person who files for divorce is called the petitioner, and the other party is called the respondent. If both parties file together, they are called joint petitioners. A divorce will be granted if one of the parties believes the marriage is irretrievably broken. Generally, a divorce will not be granted until at least 120 days have passed from the date the respondent has been served with the summons and petition, or from the date a joint petition is filed with the court.
To file for divorce in Wisconsin, at least one of the parties has to live in this state for at least six months and in the county for at least 30 days before the petition may be filed.
In many divorce actions, particularly if the parties have children, they will secure a temporary order to set their temporary financial arrangements and temporary custody and placement terms for their children. A temporary order can be entered by agreement of the parties or, if they are unable to agree, after a hearing in front of a Circuit Court Commissioner. If there are disputes between parents regarding the custody and placement of their children, they may hire a private mediator, or they will be referred to the County Family Court Counseling Service for mediation and/or a custody study. In addition, the judge may appoint an attorney, called a guardian ad litem, to represent the best interests of their children. In general, the parents will be expected to share the fees charged by the guardian ad litem.
If parties are able to reach an agreement on all issues between them, the agreement must be reduced to writing, and the judge will then schedule a final hearing. When there is an agreement resolving all issues, the final hearing takes only 15 to 20 minutes, after which the judge grants the divorce and approves the parties’ agreement. Parties are single the date of their final hearing, but they may not remarry for six months after that date.
If parties are unable to reach an agreement on all issues, they must inform the court what issues they have unresolved, after which the judge will set the matter for a contested hearing. At the hearing, both parties and their attorneys present evidence and make an argument to the judge regarding the unresolved issues, after which the judge makes the final decision.
How Courts Divide Property Between Spouses
As part of a divorce action, parties must divide their property and debts. In general, gifted or inherited property is excluded from division in a divorce, if it has been kept separate from the marital assets. Wisconsin statutes require a court to presume that all other property owned by the parties is part of their marital estate and is to be divided equally. However, there are numerous factors in the statutes that a court must consider in determining a property division, and based on those factors, parties or the court may decide on an unequal property division. In dividing their estate, parties must determine the value of their assets, the current balances on their debts, and they must then allocate those assets and debts between them, or determine that certain assets will be sold. If the parties are unable to make these decisions, the judge will do so.
The property division is generally considered final as of the date of the parties’ final hearing, and it is difficult to change the property division after that date. If the property division determination is made by the judge, after a contested hearing, then it may require further motions and hearings with that judge, or a successful appeal, to change it. If the property division is based on the parties’ agreement, Wisconsin statutes allow a court to later change the terms of that agreement under very limited circumstances. Therefore, to change the terms of the property division based on the parties’ agreement would require a further agreement by the parties or a motion and hearing with the judge.
How Our Divorce Lawyers Can Protect You
If you question whether or not your property should be divided equally, or if gifted or inherited assets should be excluded from your marital property, you may wish to consult with an attorney at our firm. Our attorneys can also help you determine how your assets should be valued, and what factors you should consider in dividing your property and debts. Reviewing your case with one of our lawyers can help you determine whether or not maintenance for you or your former spouse should be part of your final judgment of divorce, and if so, how much and for how long. If you have already completed your divorce action, but you are unhappy with the terms of your final settlement or judgment, you may wish to consult with our attorneys to see whether or not you have a basis to appeal or change your judgment.
If you have a child or children to raise, you may want the assistance of our experienced lawyers to write your final agreement as to your children’s future custody, placement with your former spouse and you, and support. A well-drafted custody, placement and support agreement can help you avoid future conflict or litigation with your former spouse.
We Can Work Toward A Constructive Divorce
Divorce does not have to be a destructive parting. An attorney who is knowledgeable and sensitive to the reality of divorce can assist you in dividing your property and planning for your own and your children’s future in a way that is positive and beneficial for all.
At Friedrich & Fletcher, S.C., all of our attorneys represent clients in divorce actions, including the traditional litigation model. Lisa Friedrich offers mediation and collaborative family law services. Call 608-258-4660 or email us to discuss divorce today.