No one looks forward to divorce. It evokes many emotions. Yet important decisions must be made that will affect both spouses and their children for the rest of their lives. Our family law services include divorce, legal separation, paternity and adoptions.
Divorce and Legal Separation
Divorce and legal separation are essentially identical proceedings with the exception that the residence requirement is shorter for a legal separation. Further, following a decree of legal separation neither party can remarry. The ground for divorce and legal separation is irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.
Annulment is a different procedure and is based on the theory that the marriage was not a valid marriage at the time it was contracted (for example, one party was legally married to another or one party was not mentally competent to enter into a marriage contract).
Paternity refers to a legal action to establish a man as the father of a child. Establishing paternity can be an important first step in addressing issues of custody and physical placement and child support. Once paternity has been established, the same factors are taken into consideration in determining custody, physical placement and child support in a paternity action as are considered in an action for divorce or legal separation.
Adoption is a legal proceeding that transfers all rights and responsibilities of a natural parent to an adoptive parent. The adoption process is usually proceeded by a termination of parental rights of the natural parent. The termination may be consented to by the natural parent or the court may order that the natural parent’s rights be terminated, i.e., an involuntary termination. The procedures for terminating parental rights and adoption of a child are intended to protect the best interests of the child and the rights of parents or guardians. Our firm is experienced in adoptions by relatives including step-parents, domestic adoptions and adoption of foreign children.
Custody and Physical Placement
In determining matters of custody and physical placement, i.e. the time a child is placed with each parent, the court will consider the best interests of the children. The wishes and desires of each parent and the children are considered, but only as one of the factors in determining what is best for the children. Unfortunately, the issues of custody and physical placement cause more controversy than any other issue in a family action
Maintenance payments are a financial adjustment between the parties. It refers to a monthly or other periodic payment by one party to the other. Whether or not the court awards maintenance payments depends on many factors including, but not limited to age and health of the parties, the respective incomes of the parties and length of the marriage. Wisconsin law provides that the starting point with regard to a determination of maintenance for long-term marriages is 50% of the gross earnings of the parties. However, there is no set formula for determining if maintenance is appropriate or, if appropriate, the amount which should be awarded.
In an action for divorce or legal separation, the parties’ assets need to be valued and divided in a manner that is fair and considers the needs of both parties. The net worth of the parties (assets minus liabilities) is presumed to be equally divided between the parties by the court. However, other factors may alter an equal division. There are general guidelines provided by the courts that will permit your attorney to advise you of a probable result in your case.