Family Law and Divorce

Make the Best out of a Bad Situation

Divorce and other family law actions can be the most challenging types of cases for an attorney to handle because of the complex emotions involved and the extremely serious consequences to the client’s children, finances, and future if the case is not handled correctly. A good family law attorney will have both the technical skill and experience to successfully represent their client and will also exhibit the compassion and understanding to make the process as painless as it possibly can be. Contact Lippow Law Offices, LLC to retain an attorney who will aggressively pursue your interests, but will also treat you respectfully.

Lippow Law Offices, LLC represents clients throughout southeastern Wisconsin regarding a variety of Family Law issues, including:

Joint Petitions for Divorce

A Joint Petition is used when a husband and wife have both agreed to file for divorce, and when they have no major disagreements about property division, custody, child support, or other issues. However, to avoid a conflict of interest, an attorney can only represent one of the two parties to the divorce. A Joint Petition can be used whether or not the spouses have children.

Contested Petitions for Divorce

This process is used when just one of the spouses chooses to file for divorce. The spouse filing the paperwork is the Petitioner, and the other spouse is the Respondent. These divorces often entail disputes about one or more issues such as child custody or support, or property division. If the parties are unable to work out their differences, either through direct negotiation or mediation, the case could proceed to a full trial.

Collaborative Divorce

Post-Judgment Custody and Child Support Modifications

Oftentimes, well after a judgment of divorce is entered, circumstances change for one of the parties, and they wish to modify the terms of the original divorce decree. This could involve changing the amount child support or maintenance payments, or changing the physical placement or custody order. Wisconsin statutes set out specific grounds for when and how divorce judgments can be modified after the fact, and Lippow Law Offices, LLC can help you obtain the desired changes.

Post-Judgment Enforcement of Orders

Unfortunately, there are occasions when one of the parties fails to comply with one of the orders in the divorce judgment. Child support payments are not made. One parent interferes with the visitation or physical placement rights of the other parent. A parent moves out of town without obtaining the required permission. Contact Lippow Law Offices, LLC in order to enforce your rights as a parent.

Grandparent Visitation

In certain circumstances, grandparents, great-grandparents, and step-parents have the right to seek an order granting visitation of a child. Lippow Law Offices, LLC, can help you obtain visitation rights of your grandchildren.

Frequently Asked Questions

Divorce

Q: What are the grounds for Divorce?

Answer: Wisconsin is a “No-fault Divorce” state. It is not necessary to allege that your spouse mistreated you, was adulterous, or had any other specific failings. The only grounds for divorce in Wisconsin is Irretrievable Breakdown of The Marriage. This can be alleged in one of two ways:

  1. If both parties by petition or otherwise have stated under oath that the marriage is irretrievably broken; or
  2. The parties have lived apart continuously for 12 months or more immediately prior to commencement of the action, and one party has stated that the marriage is irretrievably broken.
  3. A judge rules there has been an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage, with no possible chance at reconciliation.

Q: What Are the Steps of Obtaining a Divorce?

Click on the following link for a guide to the steps of obtaining a divorce in Wisconsin.

Steps to obtaining a divorce in Wisconsin

Q: How can I get an Annulment?

Answer:  In Wisconsin, there are very few permissible reasons for an Annulment. In the vast majority of cases, you will have to file for Divorce. An annulment can only be granted if the marriage was legally invalid, for one of the following specific reasons:

  1. One spouse was underage at the time of the marriage. In Wisconsin, the legal age of marriage is 18.  However, 16 and 17 year olds can marry with the consent of a parent or guardian, and children under the age of 16 can get married with the consent of a Judge;
  2. One spouse was mentally impaired or intoxicated to the degree that they did not understand the marriage;
  3. One spouse was forced or threatened to get married;
  4. A spouse committed fraud about a fact essential to the marriage;
  5. A spouse was impotent, i.e. could not have sexual intercourse, and the other spouse did not know at the time.
  6. There was bigamy; one spouse had a living husband or wife at the time of marriage;
  7. The marriage consisted of incest;
  8. One of the spouses was recently divorced within 6 months prior to the marriage.

To get an annulment in Wisconsin, you must file a Petition for Annulment in the counter where either you or your spouse resides. There will then be a hearing where a Judge will determine whether to grant the annulment.

Custody & Physical Placement

Q: What is the difference between Custody and Physical Placement?

Answer: The terms “Custody” and “Physical Placement” are often confused. However, these terms have very different meanings.

CUSTODY is the right of a person to make major decisions concerning a child.  “Major decisions” include consent to marry, enter military service, obtain a drivers license, authorization for non-emergency health care, and choice of school or religion.

Wisconsin law presumes that Joint Custody is in the child’s best interests.  A Court will only award Sole Custody if it makes one of the following specific findings:

  1. One party is not capable of performing parental duties or responsibilities;
  2. One or more conditions exist that would substantially interfere with the exercise of joint custody; or
  3. The parties will not be able to cooperate in the future decision making required under joint custody.

PHYSICAL PLACEMENT is the right of a party to have a child physically placed with that party, and the right and responsibility to make routine daily decisions regarding the child’s care during that placement.

Q: Do Grandparents have the right to visitation of their grandchildren?

Answer:  In certain circumstances, grandparents have the right to court-ordered visitation of their grandchildren.

Under Wisconsin law, a grandparent, great-grandparent, step-parent, or person who has maintained a relationship similar to a parent-child relationship with a child may petition a court for visitation with the child during, or following, a divorce or paternity action.  The court may grant reasonable visitation rights if the court determines that the visitation “is in the best interests of the child.”  A grandparent of a child whose parents have not married may also petition a court for visitation rights. Also, if one or both of a child’s parents are deceased, any grandparent or step-parent of the child may petition a court for visitation privileges.

In addition to potentially having visitation rights, in certain circumstances grandparents have responsibility to provide child support for their grandchildren. In Wisconsin, you have the obligation to provide financial support to the child of a dependent who is under the age of 18. The child, or parent of the child, can apply to a circuit court for an order to compel the grandparent to provide child support.

For more information on rights and responsibilities of grandparents, click here.

Child Support

Q: How much will I have to pay in Child Support?

Answer: The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families sets out a percentage standard that must be used by judges when ordering child support.  Judges can only deviate from this standard if it finds by the greater weight of the evidence that using the percentage standard is unfair to the child or to any party. There are specific guidelines in place to determine fairness.

If you have less than 25% placement of your children over the course of a year, your child support will be the following percentage of your gross income (before taxes or other deductions).

  • 1 child:  17% of gross income
  • 2 children: 25% of gross income
  • 3 children: 29% of gross income
  • 4 children: 31% of gross income
  • 5 or more children: 34% of gross income

If you have more than 25% placement with your children throughout the year, then your child support obligation will be based on the percentage of placement that each parent has. The actual formula to calculate child support if there is shared placement can be found HERE.

Q: How can I enforce Child Support?

Answer: When necessary, a parent can seek assistance for enforcement of a child support order from the County child support enforcement agency.  In Milwaukee County, for instance, the Department of Child Support Services handles such enforcement. To apply for child support services in Milwaukee County, you can go to THIS SITE.

The county child support enforcement agency has a broad range of powers to enforce and collect child support payments, including income withholding, interception of tax refunds and unemployment insurance payments, and liens on assets or property.

Post-Judgment Motions

Q: What are the grounds for modifying a custody or physical placement order?

Answer: If a request for a change in Custody or Placement is made within two years after the final judgment, the moving party must show by “substantial evidence” that the modification is necessary because the current conditions are physically or emotionally harmful to the child. After two years, the court must find both of the following:  (1) the modification is in the child’s best interest, and (2) there has been a substantial change in circumstances since the most recent order. A change in either party’s financial circumstances or marital status is not enough to constitute a substantial change in circumstances to change custody.

For modifications of Legal Custody, there are two rebuttable presumptions: (1) continuing the current custody arrangement is in the child’s best interest; (2) continuing the current placement with the parent who currently has the longest period of time is in the child’s best interest.

Courts can also modify physical placement orders if it finds that a party has repeatedly and unreasonably failed to exercise the placement rights that were awarded to them.

Q: What are the grounds for modifying a child support order?

Answer:  A modification of child support must be based on the percentage standard unless the court determines that use of the standard is unfair to the child or any of the parties. There must also be a “substantial change in circumstances” to warrant a modification of child support.  The following instances create a rebuttable presumption of a substantial change in circumstances:

  1. Commencement of AFDC/W-2;
  2. The passage of 33 months or longer since the last child support order;
  3. Failure of the payer to timely furnish a financial disclosure statement.

The following circumstances may create a substantial change in circumstances:

  1. A change in the payer’s income;
  2. A change in the needs of a child;
  3. A change in the payer’s earning capacity;
  4. Any other factor the court determines is relevant.