Divorce is a big component of family law. Many other types of family law cases, like child custody and child support, are linked to divorce. Although working through any type of legal case can be challenging, divorce and other types of family law cases can be especially challenging because these are the types of cases that can permanently impact your closest relationships. Ending a marriage is not something to take lightly, but it can be necessary when the marriage is no longer a healthy one.
Not all divorces involve dramatic hearings and high-conflict courtroom drama. Many couples choose to divorce through a form of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) like mediation or a collaborative divorce. Depending on the circumstances at play in your divorce, you and your spouse might be candidates for ADR. Talk to your lawyer about the possibility of completing your divorce outside the courtroom through one of these collaborative methods. Regardless of how you complete your divorce, though, there are many factors and protocols that apply to every divorce.
Every state sets its own laws regulating divorce. In Wisconsin, these laws require:
In Wisconsin, every divorce is a no-fault divorce. Although some states permit individuals filing for divorce to state the reason for their divorce in their divorce petitions, the only reason an individual in Wisconsin can cite for his or her divorce is irreconcilable differences.
Every divorce involves the division of the couple’s marital property. This is true regardless of whether the couple has been married for one year for decades and regardless of the couple’s net worth. In Wisconsin, divorcing couples’ marital estates are divided according to the doctrine of community property. This means that unless there are factors at play that require the court to distribute the couple’s marital assets unevenly, the couple will receive approximately equal shares of their marital estate.
Only marital assets are subject to division in a divorce. These are the assets the couple obtains together during their marriage, like joint retirement accounts and real estate they purchase together. In contrast, separate assets are the assets each partner owned before entering the marriage that he or she did not share with his or her spouse. Separate assets can become marital assets when the assets change in value due to joint efforts during the marriage, like a house owned by one partner increasing in value due to his or her spouse’s help paying its mortgage and making improvements to the home.
If the couple has minor children, a child custody order and a child support order are part of their divorce settlement.
Child support is the money one parent pays to the other after their divorce to help defray the costs of raising a child, like the cost of childcare, the cost of school supplies, and the higher housing costs that come with having a child in the home. Child support orders are created according to Wisconsin’s child support guidelines.
Creating a child custody order is a less straightforward process. To determine an appropriate custody arrangement for a divorcing couple’s children, the court considers a variety of factors about the children’s needs and the parents’ lifestyles to determine the arrangement that best serves their emotional, physical, psychological, academic, and medical needs. These factors include:
A child custody order has two components: physical custody and legal custody. Physical custody is the responsibility of providing a home for a child, whereas legal custody is the right to make important decisions on the child’s behalf like his or her medical care, education, and religious upbringing. The court may grant the parents joint custody in one or both categories or it may grant one parent sole custody in either or both categories. It is also possible for the court to create a mixed arrangement, like joint legal custody but one parent having sole physical custody of their children.
In some divorce cases, spousal maintenance is also part of the couple’s settlement. This is financial support the higher-earning spouse provides the lesser earning spouse after their divorce, often for a limited period of time. Usually, a spousal maintenance order is designed to support the recipient while he or she prepares to enter the workforce and become self-sustaining.
Your divorce lawyer is your advocate. In this role, he or she works to protect your rights and ensure that your interests are promoted throughout the divorce process. This can mean taking a variety of actions on your behalf, like:
If you know your marriage is over, filing for divorce can be the healthiest option for you, your spouse, and your children. Schedule your initial legal consultation with an experienced divorce lawyer today to learn more about the divorce process and your rights as you work through it and in the months that follow. Contact our team at Hammett, Bellin & Oswald, LLC today to set up your consultation with a member of our team.