Divorce Attorneys in Madison & MilwaukeeExperienced family law attorneys helping Wisconsin women and men through divorce with expertise, professionalism, and sensitivity.
Since Wisconsin is a “no-fault” state, Wisconsin divorce courts are unconcerned with “whose fault it is” when granting a divorce to a married couple. Instead, the judge is charged with facilitating the important legal and financial outcomes of the divorce, including:
- child custody
- physical placement of any children
- division of property and debts
- maintenance (or alimony)
- child support
A couple can approach the Wisconsin divorce process in a variety of ways, including traditional litigation, collaborative divorce, or divorce mediation. The best approach for you will depend on your context and preferences; we recommend discussing the various options with an attorney.
Understanding the Wisconsin Divorce Process
In Wisconsin, a divorce is started with the filing of the summons and petition for divorce. The sole ground for a divorce is that at least one of the parties believes the marriage is irretrievably broken, with no chance of reconciliation. Once the summons and petition papers are filed with the court and the other party has been served with the papers, then a mandatory 120-day waiting period starts. During the waiting period, the parties attempt to collect financial information, exchange proposals and hopefully come to a mutually agreeable settlement on any or all of the issues the court must determine, including child custody and placement, child support, health insurance payments, tax exemption, spousal support, property division and debt allocation. The vast majority of cases are resolved by agreement and are not litigated in court.
During the pendency of the case, there may be a need for temporary orders. The parties can stipulate to these orders or a family court commissioner may order certain actions be taken prior to the final hearing, such as who should pay what debts, who should live in the homestead, the support and placement of the children and the division of income on a temporary basis.
A Wisconsin Divorce Attorney’s Role
An attorney’s job in a divorce proceeding is to…
- Assist parties in attempting to achieve their stated interests
- Advise clients on process options available under the law, including mediation, collaborative divorce and traditional divorce
- Advise clients on the law and options available for support and division of property, resources, placement schedules, and other creative ways to resolve divorce issues
- Negotiate with the other party and/or counsel
- Prepare clients for the impact of post divorce life
Should I Hire a Wisconsin Divorce Lawyer to Represent Me?
Making the decision about whether to hire an attorney and who that attorney should be can be overwhelming. Because family law matters are so personal, you should make sure the chemistry and approach of the attorney matches your own. But should you get an attorney at all? Here are some of the factors you should consider:
1. Do you own a business?
Valuation of businesses can be tricky and often requires a professional to appraise them. Having a lawyer who can interpret the evaluation is extremely important.
2. Is there a disagreement about child custody and placement of your children?
Litigating about children is very emotional and parents often do not have the necessary objectivity to navigate their case successfully. An attorney brings valuable perspective on these issues with experience in how other parents have successfully negotiated and how courts tend to make custody decisions.
3. Are there premarital assets or debts, or inherited or gifted assets, which were converted into marital assets?
Decisions about what assets are marital and how to distribute those assets are benefited from the experience and expertise of the family law attorney.
4. Are there retirement assets that must be divided?
Often this requires additional orders called Qualified Domestic Relations Orders, which may need to be drafted by an expert. There may also be creative ways to split retirement benefits that provide needed cash immediately, while some retirement accounts cannot be divided (see Division of Retirement Benefits). Working with an attorney who understands the laws about retirement benefits is extremely important.
5. Is there a disparity of income?
The courts must determine incomes and, in some cases, income capacities in creating orders of spousal support and child support. Having the benefit of an attorney experienced in different approaches to divorce and other family matters can protect your family’s financial security.
6. Has your situation changed since the original divorce order?
Determining whether there has been a substantial change of circumstances to warrant a change or how that circumstance is presented often needs an advocate knowledgeable in the law.
Please Contact Our Family Law Attorneys for Assistance
If you are contemplating divorce or need representation in a divorce matter or post divorce matter, contact our attorneys Amy L. Shapiro or Katherine L. Charlton at our Milwaukee office by calling 414-271-8650, Lynn Lodahl at our Madison office by calling 608-257-0040, or via our website form to set up a case evaluation.