Divorce is often stressful and painful, especially when young children are involved. It can be costly, both in loss of income and assets and in lawyer fees. If you have decided that divorce is your only option, we may be able to help. Before you hire us, we will talk with you and try to assess what the key issues are in your situation and what the cost to you is likely to be.
We will put our estimate in writing, and you and we will sign an agreement that clearly states what you can expect of us and what we can expect of you.
The petition: signed by one spouse or both If you and your spouse have been able to agree on divorce issues, we can file with the court a petition signed by both of you. Note, however, that we cannot actually counsel or represent both spouses. The lawyer code of ethics binds us to represent our client to the best of our ability. Since your interest in the outcome of a divorce is probably different from your spouse's interest, your spouse must either represent himself/herself or retain her/his own lawyer. If your spouse will not agree to a joint petition, we will file one signed just by you. Your spouse will receive a copy, and will be allowed time to make her/his response to the court.
A temporary order While the case is awaiting trial (and in Wisconsin there is a minimum waiting period of 120 days), it may be necessary to ask a family court commissioner to make a temporary decision on such things as child placement, child support, the use of income and assets or (in some cases) whether one spouse should be barred from contact with the other. We will discuss these things with you and ask for a hearing on a temporary order to be scheduled, if necessary.
Marital settlement agreements: In most divorces, the parties will reach a compromise agreement to present to the court. The agreement will usually cover these topics:
Child custody and placement Usually "custody" will be "joint": after the divorce, both parents will continue to have the right and the responsibility to make decisions on a child's medical care, schooling and religious upbringing.
"Placement" determines how much time a child actually lives with each parent, and will be different in each case. Wisconsin law requires that the child have regularly occurring, meaningful periods of physical placement with each parent. The placement schedule must maximize the amount of time the child spends with each parent, taking into account geographic separation and accommodations for different households. This does not mean that placement is to be 50/50. The actual schedule will depend on several factors, which are listed in section 767.24(5)(am) of the statutes.. Child support After the divorce, both parents will contribute financially to a child's support. Typically one parent pays money to the other parent. The amount of the payment depends on the number of children involved, the incomes of both parents, and how "placement" is allocated between the parents. If a divorcing couple cannot agree on child support, the court will make an order based on the statutory guidelnes, unless it finds that there is good cause to order more or less support than the "guidelines" call for. You can find worksheets here to calculate how much child support you may pay or receive.
Maintenance (alimony) There is no absolute right to maintenance in Wisconsin. If both spouses are in good health and can work to support themselves adequately, maintenance will probably not be ordered. Other factors may call for a maintenance order, however, in a particular case: the length of the marriage, the health of the parties, how the assets have been divided, and the relative incomes of the parties, as well as other things.
Property division Wisconsin law presumes that a divorcing couple's "marital property" will be divided equally. In the typical marriage, everything owned by either spouse or by the couple (except for inherited property and property owned before marriage) is "marital property", including real estate, personal property, bank accounts, investments, and pension rights. Specific items of property may be awarded to one spouse or divided between both spouses to reach a roughly equal division of all property.
Settling your case Wherever possible we will try to work out an agreement with your spouse (or his/her lawyer). Going to trial is expensive and may be emotionally distressing. However, if we can't get an agreement that in your opinion protects your rights, we will talk over with you the costs and benefits of going to trial as opposed to working out a compromise of some sort.
CHILD CUSTODY AND SUPPORT ENFORCEMENT
If you are divorced (or even if you were never married) your former partner may not be living up to an agreement or court order on the custody of a child or the child's support. You can ask the family court to help you, and you do not have to hire a lawyer. However, if you feel that you do need professional help, then contact us. We may be able to help you.
JUVENILE AND SCHOOL PROBLEMS
If your child is having problems with the law or with school authorities, we may be able to help. Children have the right to a lawyer if charged with a crime or with committing a delinquent act, and decisions made by school authorities are appealable. We have considerable experience both in juvenile court and in school situations.
PROPERTY OWNED BY COUPLES
If you have reached the stage in life when you own a fair amount of property or assets and are planning to get married or remarried, you might want to consider a marital property agreement between you and your prospective spouse that will clarify what happens to your property (and your spouse's property) in case of death or divorce, especially if you want to protect an inheritance you want to leave to your children or to your grandchildren from an earlier marriage. There may also be situations (because of gifts or inheritances, for instance) in which people who are already married could be well served by a marital agreement to clarify their property rights.
Marital property, of course, is property owned by married people. People in non-traditional relationships with same-sex or opposite-sex partners may also want to consider the possibility of a written agreement which will establish the rights and responsibilities of each partner -- while the relationship is ongoing, and in the event of death or break-up.
READ THIS IMPORTANT INFORMATION
You should not rely on anything you read this webpage or on any other webpage maintained by Briggs Law Office as being legal advice. If you want legal advice, contact us for a consultation. If after that you agree to hire us, you and we will sign a contract to define what we will do to represent or counsel you and what fee arrangement there will be between you and Briggs Law Office. Until a contract is signed we are not your lawyers. We'd like to hear from you, but we can't represent you until we know that doing so won't create a conflict of interest. Accordingly, don't send us email that includes information that is secret, confidential or privileged until you've spoken to one of our lawyers and you've received authorization to send such information. The internet is not necessarily a secure environment and it's possible your email might be intercepted and read by someone who shouldn't see it.