Author: Attorney D. David Barry
Going through a divorce can often be one of the most difficult times in our life. There are a lot of unknowns including family, legal, and personal circumstances. This blog post is designed to help provide context into some common legal dynamics that often arise through the divorce proceeding.
When you do decide to terminate your marriage (divorce), Wisconsin is a no-fault state. This means you do not have to have grounds (a reason) for getting divorced. However, you must say in court under oath on the day of your divorce that the marriage is “irretrievably broken”.
As for the division of property, Wisconsin is a “Marital Property State”. A Marital property state mean that all property acquired during the marriage is owned equally by the parties (you and your spouse). That said, the court may consider deviating from a 50/50 division depending on certain facts, like what was brought to the marriage or the contributions to the marriage. Inherited or gifted property to a spouse from a third party is usually excluded from a 50/50 split. However, there are circumstances where inherited or gifted property is split equally depending on the usage or treatment of that property through the marriage.
One of the most sensitive topics during a divorce is that of the children. Let’s start with the topic of Child Support and maintenance, often referred to as alimony. Child support is the amount of money or payment that one spouse must pay the other to contribute to the care and shelter of the child. Wisconsin has a set of guidelines that are designed to determine who pays what for child support. Key factors that go into calculating child support include: the parties income, the amount of time spent with each parent, the number of children, and in most cases the financial resources of each parent. Maintenance, as referred to in the court system, is support from one spouse to the other with a goal to maintain the same lifestyle each spouse had during their marriage. Examples of maintenance include one spouse supporting the other as they pursue education and training to become financially self-supporting.
Another very important issue, if not the most important, is the decision around child custody. Custody is often awarded as either joint legal custody or sole legal custody. Joint legal custody means that each parent maintains shared legal custody of their children and can continue in making key decisions around medical, personal, religious upbringings. Sole legal custody means that all of the decision making power over the children is held by only one of the parents. In addition to the question of custody, the court will also rule on “periods of physical placement”. This court ruling determines who the child lives with, and what amount of time they will spend with each parent. This decision is usually comprised through the review of roughly 16 statutory factors.
At the end of the day, going through a divorce is often hard for all parties involved. It’s important to make sure you get legal guidance and representation (a lawyer) early and often. Make sure you write down all your questions before you meet with your attorney. There’s no such thing as a dumb question. It’s your lawyer’s responsibility to help you get a fair and favorable outcome during this emotional time.