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Milwaukee Family Law Blog

Gay marriage rights upheld nationwide by U.S. Supreme Court

Although a lower court ruling in 2014 recognized same-sex marriages in Wisconsin, the right to marry for same-sex couples declared by the U.S. Supreme Court in its June 2015 decision gives the marriages of Wisconsin same-sex couples legal weight even if they move to another state. This interstate issue was part of the case before the Supreme Court. In Obergefell vs. Hodges, one state had refused to recognize a man as a surviving spouse because he had married his partner in a different state.

Additionally, the Supreme Court considered the question of whether the equal protection and due process guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment applied to same-sex marriages. In a 5-4 decision, the justices chose to extend these rights to gay couples. Writing for the majority , Justice Anthony Kennedy acknowledged that marriage had historically been defined as a union of opposite sex partners but conceded that the institution had evolved and changed over the years.

Study shows fathers contribute in ways other than child support

Wisconsin fathers who are noncustodial parents may be interested in a new study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in June that says the phenomenon of "deadbeat dads" who do not pay child support is overstated. In fact, according to the 2011 census, roughly the same percentage of mothers and fathers who are ordered to pay child support do so in full.

The study found that what one of the authors called "marginally employed" men still found ways to contribute to their children's lives even if their record of paying child support suggested otherwise. The study found that among 367 lower-income fathers, almost half offered some sort of in-kind support such as school supplies or food. While only about 25 percent of the men paid court-recognized child support, roughly another 28 percent gave money directly to the mother.

Child Support: Perception versus law

Wisconsin parents who are contemplating the end of their marriage often find that child support becomes a contentious issue if an agreement cannot otherwise be reached. A recently-published study has revealed that many people feel that the way in which child support is ordered by the courts is not entirely fair.

The study, conducted by two Arizona State University professors, involved presenting to a group of prospective jurors in Arizona as well as to residents of England some hypothetical child support scenarios and asking how they would rule if they were judges entrusted with setting the amount to be paid. The study found that residents of both countries felt that the amount established for child support should be impacted by the custodial parent's income. Presently, many states only take the income of the non-custodial parent's into account when determining the amount to be paid.

Common divorce mistakes that should be avoided

For Wisconsin couples who are going through a divorce, protecting their finances may not always be a top priority. However, when emotions are running high, it is easy to make costly mistakes that have severe financial costs for one or both parties for years to come. One of the most common mistakes people make during a divorce is being unaware of their financial situation. From basic household operations to larger assets such as 401(k) plans and IRAs, it is essential to have a good understanding of which assets are available for division.

A forensic accountant can provide an independent examination of the couple's financial marital assets, making it possible to negotiate effectively. An accountant can also look at tax history and can potentially uncover assets being hidden by one spouse. Another major mistake is to not seek the guidance of an attorney. Because of rules dealing with conflicts of interest, each spouse is advised to have separate legal representation.

Jon Gosselin attempting to change custody order

Wisconsin reality television fans may have been following the story involving Jon Gosselin and his quest to get custody of his 11-year-old daughter. Reports indicate that the girl told her father that her mother was being cruel toward her and that she was being forced to continue to appear on television although she didn't want to. Jon and his ex-wife Kate Gosselin were said to be on bad terms prior to their divorce and do not have a relationship currently.

However, whether or not a judge will modify an existing custody order depends on whether or not there has been a change in circumstances. It will be up to Jon Gosselin as the non-custodial parent to prove that such a change has taken place. It is unlikely that he will get custody of the child, as changing the custody order could have an impact on the other children.

International child custody cases complex for government, parents

Wisconsin residents may have noticed several international child custody cases in the news lately, including one high-profile case involving a New Hampshire woman facing charges for illegally taking her 8-year-old daughter to Central America more than 10 years ago. These cases underscore the complex issues facing parents and governments when dealing with international custody fights.

According to the U.S. State Department, at least 8,000 American children were kidnapped and taken to another country by a parent between 2008 and 2013. Currently, the United States and 92 other countries have signed a treaty which was designed to protect children from international parental kidnapping and to facilitate their safe return to their native country. However, only 50 percent of American children who are abducted to a signatory country are ever returned to the U.S.

Protecting assets without a prenuptial agreement

When Minnesota couples divorce, their property will either be deemed as marital property or as that which is separately owned. All marital property is subject to division between the spouses, while separate property is not divisible.

The best way in which people can protect their separate assets is by using a prenuptial agreement. If getting an agreement is not possible, there are ways in which people may still protect those assets, however. When people marry, many have bank accounts with money already in them. If they add their spouse's name to the account, those funds may lose their exclusion as separate property.

Social media contributing factor to divorce

Social media serves many purposes, including communication, staying informed or just following the activities of friends and relatives. However, for some Wisconsin couples, social media may be hazardous to their marriage.

In a study in Great Britain, one in seven people reported considering divorce because of their spouses' activity on social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Skype. A fourth of the respondents reported that they fought with their spouses at least once per week over the use of social media, and almost a fifth reported such fights on a daily basis.

Pet custody issues in a divorce

For many Wisconsin couples, pets are part of the family. When a divorce happens, the couple may see the pets as family members that should be subject to custody agreements. However, the law sees pets as property rather than as members of the family, like children. Therefore, different rules apply to pet ownership after divorce than are used to determine child custody.

The determination of the post-divorce ownership of a couple's pets is normally seen by courts as part of the property division process. In most cases, a court will only award pets to one spouse or another. Having the pets travel weekly from one home to another, as children often do under custody agreements, is not usually an option. Instead, the court will have to decide, in the absence of an agreement, which partner retains ownership of the pet.

Judges sometimes permit legal notice through social media sites

In some states, individuals have used Facebook as a means of serving a spouse with divorce papers. Wisconsin residents may be surprised to learn that judges have ruled that, under certain circumstances, service through a social media site complies with the law.

A state judge recently concluded that a woman could serve her spouse with notice of divorce via Facebook. The circumstances were unusual in that the woman had tried to locate him over a long period of time through a variety of contact methods. She even hired a private detective. When her spouse refused to reveal his location, she petitioned the court to allow her to serve him through Facebook, a site he frequented. After finding that the woman had tried all traditional means of giving notice, the court ruled that she could serve him in this manner.