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Milwaukee Family Law Blog

Understanding family law rights

Some parents choose to pursue a court order for clarity regarding their respective rights regarding child custody and visitation. However, problems may arise after a court order has been established. It is important that parents understand their rights and remedies when problems arise.

If there is a court order in place that pertains to child custody and the custodial parent has refused to allow the non-custodial parent to see the children, the first place of recourse is the court order. The order may state specific information pertaining to the times when the parents are supposed to have the children. If the court order lacks such specification, parents may want to petition the court to modify the order. Alternatively, they can file a petition to enforce physical placement or a motion for contempt. If the custodial parent is found guilty of contempt, the court can impose fines and jail time and grant additional visitation time to the non-custodial parent.

How do custody issues get resolved?

The best method for resolving the matter of child custody in Wisconsin is for the parents to reach their own agreement. This is not always possible, so parents may retain court or private assistance in deciding child custody matters.

When parents cannot come to an agreement on their own, the law requires that they meet with a mediator at least one time. The parents may contact the family court clerk or commissioner about meeting with a mediator or retain a private mediator. Speaking with co-parent counselors and child specialists are other means by which the parents can seek help in resolving custody and visitation issues. Through the collaborative law process, the parents could hire their own lawyers and commit to settling the matters outside of court.

Dividing property in a Wisconsin divorce

In divorce proceedings, deciding how to split up marital property can be a possible area of dispute. Wisconsin is a community property state which means any property the divorcing couple acquired in the course of their marriage must be divided equally. Under state law, each spouse may keep any property they received as a gift or upon the death of another person. This is true even if they received it during the marriage. However, if the court finds the other spouse or children could suffer, this property may be divided along with a couple's other assets.

With regard to a former couple's community property, courts generally divide this property equally. However, the court may give a larger share to one spouse after considering how long a couple was married and what property each spouse had before the marriage. Courts will also take into account the contributions each spouse made during the course of the marriage, even for unpaid work such as caring for the home and family.

What is the process of getting a divorce?

Wisconsin divorces follow the same general steps as they proceed through the judicial system. Before filing, people must have resided in Wisconsin for at least six months in order for jurisdiction to be established. If the residency requirements are met, people then decide whether they will be filing jointly or if one person will be filing alone.

If a couple is filing jointly, both parties sign a joint petition and file it with the court. If one spouse is filing the petition alone, he or she will file the petition forms along with the summons, the court will provide a summons return date, and he or she will then have to have the documents served on the other spouse and file an affidavit of service with the court. If temporary orders for such things as temporary child custody or access to cars or homes will be needed, the petitioner will also file documents requesting a temporary orders hearing and the court will provide a date.

How can a grandparent gain custody of a child?

Under Wisconsin law, a grandparent may petition the court for visitation or custody rights to a grandchild so long as certain provisions are met. The primary consideration of the court is always the best interests of the child, and the court may also seek the child's direct opinion on matters of visitation. The child's opinion will have a strong bearing on the court's decision. If a child has previously had a positive relationship with the grandparent, and that relationship has been disrupted or threatened in some way, then the grandparent can take legal action to maintain it.

Other factors regarding grandparent rights also have a strong bearing on the court's decision. The grandparent must be able to show that they he or she is directly related to the grandchild through either parent. This may involve a paternity test if the grandparent is on the father's side. There are some circumstances that may bar a grandparent from having visitation rights. For example, the child cannot have been adopted by a different family. This could occur if the parental rights of the original biological parents were terminated.

How much child support will I have to pay in Wisconsin?

In Wisconsin, there are three main factors that are taken into account when determining how much child support a parent must pay. These factors include the parent's income, how much time a child spends with each parent and whether or not a parent is supporting other children. In the event that a parent has an exceptionally high income or a lower than average income, a court may modify a child support order.

For most cases, there are guidelines that judges will use to determine how much support a parent must pay. Under these guidelines, a parent with one child will pay 17 percent of his or her income to support that child, and this can range up to 34 percent for five or more children. This means that a parent who makes $1,500 a month would pay $255 to support one child. Someone with an income of $4,000 per month would pay $1,360 to support five children.

Grandparents' rights to visitation in Wisconsin

The best interests of the children are always the governing principle behind court decisions regarding child visitation, custody and support. Grandparents have the option to seek court-ordered visitation rights. If the grandparent and child have a relationship that is similar in nature to a parent-child relationship, the grandparent might be granted visitation. In addition, a grandparent may be granted visitation if it is determined to be in the best interest of the child and one of the child's parents has died. If a stepparent adopts a child, this will have no effect on a grandparent's rights.

According to child custody statutes, the best interest of a child is determined through the consideration of several factors including the relationship and interaction between the child and grandparent, the child's wishes, the grandparent's wishes, the physical and mental health of involved parties and many other factors. If the court determines that one or more parties has a significant issue with drug or alcohol abuse, or there is evidence of domestic or child abuse, this could affect the decision whether to grant visitation to a grandparent.

Forensic accountants and divorce teams

People in Wisconsin who are considering a divorce or have already begun the process might wish to consult with a specific type of accountant called a forensic accountant. These professionals can be of assistance in the analysis of diverse and unusual financial portfolios, including those in which assets are concealed or misreported.

This has obvious applications in cases where there is reason to believe that one partner is hiding assets or being less than honest about economic facts relating to the marital property. However, the services of a forensic accountant may be of assistance even in cases where the two parties are amicable and work together to arrive at a divorce settlement agreement.

Modification of original custody agreement possible

Child custody arrangements in Wisconsin are structured to provide what is best for the child. The custody agreement may be changed when circumstances demand it, and there are standards that provide guidance to the court and parents on this. Knowing the provisions and working to address specific concerns may be helpful.

While physical placement and legal custody provisions in the order may be changed during the first two years by statute, this period is seen as a time of adaptation and adjustment to new living arrangements for both the children and the parents. If circumstances demand it and if a parent shows that the child will be adversely affected by continuance of the original order, the court may revise the child custody order. Physical placement of the child decides the amount of time the child spends with each parent. Although change to the custody order may significantly alter the amount of time the child spends with each parent, it may be done if circumstances have changed or the change is good for the child's well-being. Economic change or changes in marital status are not included in the court's consideration.

Wisconsin police find father who owed $250,000 in child support

A 48-year-old man who was reportedly $250,000 behind in child support payments was taken into custody at a country club in Los Angeles. The man had reportedly not paid his $563 in monthly child support since 1996. Although he was taken into custody by a combination of Los Angeles police officers and U.S. Marshals, the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office had him under surveillance.

The man faces 10 counts of felony failure to support a child and could spend up to 15 years in prison if convicted. He could also face the prospect of fines and restitution in addition to the jail time. The man is expected back in Milwaukee to face the charges in September 2014. Police say that his Internet presence and success as a businessman gave him a public profile, which made it easier for them to catch up to him.

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