Magner, Hueneke, Smith & Borda, LLP
Attorneys At Law
Dedicated to Protecting Your Future
Weekend and Evening Appointments Available

Milwaukee Family Law Blog

Divorce mistakes and how to avoid them

When Wisconsin couples divorce, emotions often run high. What had once been a loving and respectful relationship is now coming to an end and there are likely to be bad feelings on both sides. Unfortunately, many divorces become far more difficult and expensive than they have to be because of choices made by one or both spouses during the process.

In many cases, draw-out disputes could be avoided if both partners took responsibility for their actions during the legal process. It is not unusual for partners to feel slighted, annoyed and even harassed by their soon-to-be ex-spouse. Unfortunately, the adverse effects of such behavior are compounded when the slighted spouse responds negatively. At this point, mudslinging becomes more important than carefully negotiating the terms of the divorce.

Emotions may cloud financial issues in divorce

Wisconsin couples who are facing the end of their marriages must also take a look at their financial matters. Before sitting down with an attorney or another professional, they should look at their own income, debt and assets as well as that of their spouse. They should also look at their joint marital assets.

People may not realize how fully their financial situation might change after a divorce. In addition to paying child support and alimony, they may also have to take on a rent payment or factor in higher utilities. Property division might include splitting up a jointly owned business.

Babies before marriage may carry less stigma in Wisconsin

If a woman had a baby prior to getting married at any point between 1985 and 1995, she was 60 percent more likely to get divorced. However, that same woman would not be any more likely to get a divorce if she had a baby before getting married between 1997 and 2010. This is according to a study conducted by the nonprofit Council on Contemporary Families.

There were two possible reasons cited in an effort to explain that finding. First, there tends to be less of a stigma that comes with having a child before a couple got married. Second, the number of parents who were not married increased from 17 percent to 35 percent between the two time periods. Overall, researchers say that couples who are not married are taking things at their own pace, which may reduce the urge for a shotgun wedding.

Judge orders reunification therapy in bitter custody dispute

While custody disputes in Wisconsin may sometimes become contentious, few become so bitter that they generate nationwide attention. Media outlets around the country reported in July 2015 that a family court judge had placed three children in a juvenile detention facility after they refused to eat lunch with their father, and the Michigan case continued to make headlines when the judge subsequently ordered the children to participate in reunification therapy.

Reunification therapy is controversial because it involves separating the children from their custodial parent and sending them to some form of retreat to undergo similar treatment to that given to individuals who have been brainwashed. Judges in several parts of the country have ordered this kind of therapy when they feel that one of the parents involved in a child custody dispute is having a detrimental impact on their children. The mother of the children in the Michigan case has made several accusations against her former husband including claims that he abused their 11-year-old son.

Why a prenuptial agreement may be a good idea

Wisconsin residents who are contemplating marriage or remarriage may be in a quandary over whether or not to ask for a prenuptial before the wedding. Because a prenuptial lists assets already attained by each individual, it may be a good idea even if you live in a community property state such as Wisconsin.

There are various aspects of a prenuptial agreement that are beneficial. Your individual property is protected and, if one individual stands to receive an inheritance, that may be added to a prenuptial. Defining common and individual assets may prevent problems in the future. Because this is not the first marriage for all couples, those who have been divorced may wish to make an arrangement to provide for children or grandchildren from the previous marriage from the estate, and this may be accomplished through the use of a prenuptial agreement.

How to discuss financial matters prior to a wedding

A prenuptial agreement may streamline the process of dividing property in the event of a divorce. However, Wisconsin couples may wish to have a conversation about their finances and come to certain monetary arrangements even if they don't create a formal agreement. For instance, each party should discuss their financial past, their current financial situation and what their future financial goals are.

This allows the couple to get an accurate picture of their current debts, income and assets prior to getting married. Having a clear picture now makes it easier to determine who will be responsible for paying joint debts and whether either side will need or receive help paying their own debts. A conversation such as this one should also focus on whether either side has reservations about relocating for work or when it may be a good idea to buy a home or make other large purchases.

Research about which spouse ends relationships more often

A recent study conducted by a sociologist at Stanford University confirmed earlier findings that wives in heterosexual marriages in Wisconsin as well as other states were more likely to be the ones to ask for a divorce. However, this research also uncovered a surprising fact. With unmarried heterosexual couples, men and women were each equally as likely to initiate a breakup of their relatioship.

This study found that in 69 percent of cases where the married couple ultimately ended the relationship, the wife was the one who decided to initiate the divorce. Previous to this research, social scientists had assumed women were more likely to end relationships because they are more sensitive to the highs and lows of romantic relationships. According to the findings of this study, which included 2,262 adults, the reasons relationships end seem to be much more complicated.

Jurisdiction over child support modification petitions

Many parents in Wisconsin are ordered to pay child support as part of their legal separation or divorce. If their financial circumstances later change significantly, they may want to file a motion to modify their child support amount. A question may arise about where to file the petition, however, in the event that any or all of them have moved out of the state that issued the child support order.

In order to determine the appropriate state in which to file, people should become familiar with the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, which has been codified by every state and governs the jurisdictional issue. Under the act, if a state continues to be the residence of the payor, the payee or the child, that state will have jurisdiction. However, that means that several different states could have jurisdiction, so the law further defines jurisdiction in that event.

Meeting with an attorney to discuss a divorce

Wisconsin residents who are thinking about pursuing a divorce are sometimes reluctant to take the first step. Making an appointment with an attorney to discuss a divorce may feel like crossing a line, but knowing what to expect can often calm these anxieties. An initial divorce consultation with a family law attorney involves learning about the various legal options available and getting a better understanding of what will happen if the decision to proceed is made.

While spouses will rarely be expected to make final decisions during an initial consultation, they should still make some preparations. Attorneys will be able to give more complete advice when they are familiar with details such as the incomes of both spouses, the amount of money in bank, retirement accounts and the clauses of prenuptial agreements. Attorneys could use this information to explain how Wisconsin's property division laws will be applied and provide advice about possible spousal support.

Chris Brown seeking joint custody of his 1-year-old daughter

Wisconsin music fans may be interesting to learn that, on Aug. 3, it was reported that Chris Brown filed for joint custody of his daughter. This occurred after the mother of his 1-year-old child filed for full custody. If her request is granted, Brown would only be able to visit his daughter while being supervised.

Brown stated that he intended to be involved in the life of his child. In May, the mother of the child requested that the child support payments be increased. Brown then applied for his official paternity rights so that the child support dispute could be handled in court. Since then, the mother moved ahead and applied for full-time custody, arguing that Brown's lifestyle was dangerous for the daughter.