Navigating the Divorce Puzzle, and Putting the Pieces Back Together
“Life is what happens in between our plans.”
This old saying certainly applies to divorce. No one (we hope) who gets married plans to divorce. Yet, half of all marriages in the U.S. dissolve.
Statistics aside, divorce is a complicated, often painful legal (and emotional) process. The divorce law attorneys at Krawczyk, Duginski & Rohr provide understanding, compassionate legal representation for clients before, during and after a divorce, while acting as strong advocates for their rights. This advocacy extends to filing and defending restraining orders, which unfortunately are sometimes part of the divorce process.
Marriage isn’t always the issue, though. A tremendous growth in non-traditional families has left many unmarried parents on uncertain legal ground. Many have questions about their rights regarding their children, especially if a relationship with the other parent ends. The family law attorneys at Krawczyk, Duginski & Rohr work to secure a legally-protected role for unmarried parents in their children’s lives.
Several common issues permeate cases in family court. The information on this page, especially the linked information from the Wisconsin State Bar, can provide helpful insight into typical questions about divorce or paternity disputes.
When you’re ready to add experienced, knowledgeable family law representation to your side, contact Gary J. Krawczyk, Michael W. Rohr or Lindsey Kujawa to begin moving on to your next phase of life.
Divorce in Wisconsin is based on a marriage being “irretrievably broken,” meaning the two parties cannot work out their differences. Only one spouse need seek the divorce. A petition for divorce, filed with the court, begins the process. These legal documents are served upon the other spouse, who often must respond within a specified time window. At least 120 days must pass between the serving of these papers and the final divorce hearing. Most divorces take longer.
Choosing a Divorce Process
A divorce doesn’t have to go through a traditional litigation process. Alternatives exist. Some offer significant potential cost and time savings. Consider your circumstances carefully while making a choice.
• Mediation uses a neutral third party to guide the spouses toward agreement on issues involved in the divorce, and prepare related documents. Attorneys may or may not be involved
• Collaborative practice uses lawyers to settle issues out of court. A structured process for gathering information, and communicating, is utilized. All financial and other relevant information must be disclosed by the parties. Negotiations are conducted between the attorneys.
• Lawyer negotiation/litigation is how most divorces proceed. All filings, court appearances and negotiations are handled by attorneys. Communication between spouses is through the attorneys.
• Pro se (self representation) is a spouse representing themselves throughout the divorce legal process. They do all negotiating, prepare and file documents, and make court appearances. Many forms and self-help services are available for pro se proceedings - however, they cannot provide legal advice and often leave out important details.
Wisconsin law holds that all property, wealth and possessions acquired during a marriage are owned by both spouses equally. Some exceptions do apply. Once a marriage moves forward, though, most holdings become marital property unless records clarify sole ownership by one spouse or the other.
Custody and Placement
Creating accommodations to suit the best interests of children is a critical part of many divorces. Legal custody is the right to make major decisions about children, and can be granted to one parent (sole) or both (joint). Placement is a schedule of times that children will spend with each parent. During these times, the parent can make routine daily decisions about the children’s care.
Guardians Ad Litem
It’s no mystery that divorces can be contentious. When parents are unable to agree on issues involving children, such as custody and placement, the court can appoint an independent attorney to represent the children. This attorney, called a guardian ad litem, investigates the circumstances of the case and advocates for what they perceive as the children’s best interests. The court decides who pays for the guardian ad litem’s services, which can include interviews, hiring experts, reviewing records and preparing documents.
Original court-ordered levels of spousal support (also called “maintenance”) and child support are not forever. Both can be changed. Many factors come into play that reflect post-divorce life. Changes of income for either spouse can be critical. Child support is sometimes adjusted to reflect the number of overnight stays with each parent. If you experience significant life changes after divorce, or in the relationship with your child or former spouse, seeking an adjustment in support could be worth considering.
When children are born to unmarried parents in Wisconsin, state law grants full custody and placement to the mother – no questions asked. A father has no legal rights regarding his child unless activated with a court order. Even a Voluntary Paternity Acknowledgment (VPA), typically signed shortly before or after a child is born, grants no legal rights. Planning ahead, and reaching an amicable agreement about how a co-parenting relationship will work, is highly advisable. If a father expects his health insurance to pay for the child’s birth, a VPA or other documentation of paternity is often required by insurers.
The family law attorneys at Krawczyk, Duginski & Rohr will ensure that you are treated fairly and respectfully during this challenging time. Contact us for an initial consultation. Together, we’ll protect your rights, and what’s most important to you in life.