Family Law Blog | Family Law Section

This blog discusses topics important to attorneys who work with families involved in separations, divorce, and post-divorce issues. Topics include changes in the statutes, important appellate and Supreme Court decisions, practice tips and pointers, procedural issues, evidentiary issues, and trials. Published by the State Bar of Wisconsin's Family Law Section.

This section is made up of attorneys, guardians ad litem, family court commissioners, and judges with a special interest in family law. The section monitors and proposes legislation, monitors case law, sponsors CLE seminars, has an email list, organizes the annual Family Law Workshop, and publishes the Wisconsin Journal of Family Law.

Members of the State Bar of Wisconsin may join the section by visiting https://www.wisbar.org/formembers/groups/pages/join-a-group.aspx (login required).

Website: https://www.wisbar.org/forMembers/Groups/Sections/FamilyLawSection/pages/home.aspx

While it does not happen with any great frequency, parties may from time to time change their mind about proceeding with a pending divorce or legal separation case. David B. Karp, Marquette 1982, is a partner with Karp & Iancu, S.C., Milwaukee, where he concentrates his practice in family law. How a family law action may be dismissed varies on whether the other party has filed any responsive pleadings or motions in the case. The statute dealing with the dismissal of a family law action falls under Wis. Stat. section 767.264 and reads: 767.264 Dismissal; vacation; substitution or withdrawal of…
On May 11, 2021, Senate Bill 105 was passed by the Wisconsin Legislature. SB 105 was signed by Gov. Evers on May 21 and published May 22, and is now designated Act 35. This new Act 35 directly amends and retitles DCF 150 to restructure it so that the shared placement formula appears as the primary method of calculating support. Act 35 significantly restructures DCF 150. However, there are no substantive changes to the rule. In short, the ways to calculate support remain the same for practitioners and the courts. Federal law requires each state to implement child support guidelines,…
In a legal divorce or paternity action, court-ordered mediation assists the parties to resolve issues related to custody and placement. Court-ordered mediation is usually done without the parties’ attorneys. Court-order mediation works because there is a third-party mediator who knows the legal process and helps parties negotiate the agreement in accordance with that process. Mediation is not new to the Hmong community. In fact, it is expected that there is mediation before a divorce, although the process is more expansive than the custody and placement mediation frequently ordered in family law cases. What is Clan Mediation? Mediation in the Hmong…
This information was originally published as an Information Memorandum by the Wisconsin Legislative Council and is being re-published here with permission. Wisconsin statutes permit a court to order visitation with a child by a third party, such as a grandparent, in specific circumstances. These circumstances include visitation during the course of a divorce proceeding, visitation if one or both of the child’s parents is deceased, and visitation if the child’s parents never marry each other. Who may petition for visitation and the type of relationship that person must have with the child varies under each statute. In addition, the Wisconsin…
When I graduated from law school, I was privileged to immediately start working at a small firm. I was ecstatic to put my law school skills to use. However, as the year went by, I noticed one thing that law school did not prepare me for – how to be an actual lawyer. Law school provided me the research, writing, and analytical tools to help me succeed in practice, but law school did not teach me how to be an attorney. Even though I was fortunate enough to have a job at the firm, I did not receive the mentorship I…
It is not unusual for parents to come to family court and demand their “right” to equal placement, or more likely “50-50” placement. Or in many cases refer to “my placement” or “her placement,” etc. It comes as a surprise to the litigants that there is no right to equal periods of placement. In fact, the law specifically suggests otherwise. However, the statute does direct courts to order “regular” and “meaningful” periods of placement with each parent that considers the requisite facts, the geographic distances, the unique needs of the children, and the circumstances of each home. What this looks…
De novo hearings allow a brand-new hearing on issues decided by court commissioners. Practitioners are not limited by the pleadings or evidence presented before the commissioner. De Novo hearings are a useful tool for practitioners to gain the best possible result for clients, especially if a client comes to you after attempting to handle their case pro se. What is a De Novo Hearing? De novo is Latin, meaning “from the new.” Black’s Law Dictionary defines a de novo hearing as a “new hearing of a matter, conducted as if the original hearing had not taken place.”1 A court…
The word “triage” is often used in a medical setting. Triage means to assess and then assign a degree of urgency to wounds or illness, to decide the order of treatment when there are a large number of patients, presumably more than can be helped at one time. Whether apt or not, some court systems have begun triaging cases as they are filed, including family cases. Given the large number of pro se litigants and the expectation for courts to do more with less, Wisconsin circuit courts could benefit from considering different ways of managing the flow of family cases…
As family law practitioners, we frequently find ourselves handling cases involving domestic abuse. While issues of domestic abuse typically find relevance in determining custody and placement, Wisconsin’s address confidentiality program, Safe at Home,1 serves to protect victims’ privacy and safety. About the Confidential Address Program: Safe at Home Created by legislation in 2016 and administered by the Wisconsin Department of Justice, Safe at Home provides a “free mail-forwarding service that provides victims of actual or threatened abuse, stalking, trafficking, and/or those who fear for their physical safety with a legal substitute address to be used for public and private…
​Imagine this scenario: Years ago you married someone, and the marriage ended rather quickly for all practical purposes. You were young, you didn’t have a lot of money, and your spouse left your home and was no longer part of your life. Although you were still legally married, that didn’t matter much in your day-to-day living circumstances. In addition, divorces are expensive and time-consuming. The forms are confusing, and you filed once but couldn’t afford an attorney, and the judge dismissed the case when you missed a court date because of work. Now years later, you have more access to…
Under Wis. Stat. section 767.59 (1m), the court has limited authority to give credit due to past support arrears prior to the time a motion is filed, and has no authority under the existing statute to clear maintenance arrears prior to the date that notice of the action is given to the opposing side, except to correct previous errors in calculations. What other remedies may be available? At Issue: Section 767.59 Section 767.59(1m) – Payment Revision Prospective – reads as follows: In an action under sub. (1c) to revise a judgment or order with respect to child support, maintenance payments,…
On Feb. 5, 2020, Gov. Tony Evers signed SB-158 into law as 2019 Wisconsin Act 95. While Act 95 makes various changes to Wis. Stat. chapter 767, it most notably creates another avenue for establishing paternity in Wisconsin, known as administrative paternity. Supporters of administrative paternity advocated for this law for nearly 10 years, as this alternative process may be less disruptive to mothers and fathers, save the court time, and in many instances, establish paternity faster. Prior to this change, Wisconsin law provided three methods to establish paternity: marital presumption, acknowledgment, and paternity court action. Administrative Paternity: Process…
Serving a Summons and Petition on the opposing party in a divorce action is often a routine and standard part of the process. But what happens when the other party evades service or cannot be located altogether? Background: Statutory Requirements Wis. Stat. section 767.215(3) adopts civil procedure as set forth in Wis. Stat. chapter 801 regarding service of the Summons and Petition on a respondent when an action is initiated by only one party. According to Wis. Stat. section 801.02(1), the Summons and Petition must be personally served upon the respondent within 90 days from the date of filing. Lauren
With information changing at a fast pace, it is important for family law attorneys to stay on top of common questions and issues with passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act). This article answers questions and provides information for practitioners to guide their clients who are hoping to receive their Economic Impact Payments (EIP) and wondering what expect for next year’s tax return. It also addresses the new tax requirements for withdrawals, distributions, and loans against clients’ retirement accounts. How are Economic Impact Payments Tied to Tax Filings? Under the CARES Act, an EIP is…
Family law has always been challenging, but now we get to practice it either from home, from work with a reduced staff, or under other challenging conditions. This article touches on ways to handle your office, and on communications with clients and with the court during these times. These are just a few suggestions and not meant to be comprehensive. You may wish to look at the State Bar’s website, Wisbar.org, for helpful seminars, online town hall meetings, and other useful information to weather this storm. com Margaret beckerhickey Margaret W. Hickey, U.W. 1986, is a shareholder in Becker,
Have you seen a marital settlement agreement with the following provision, or something similar: “Parents agree to each pay one-half of their son’s reasonable college expenses.” Unfortunately, I have seen several agreements with similar wording, typically when a new client calls 10 years after the divorce to resolve the inevitable dispute over this obligation. This article will first review some basic law on parental obligations for adult children, then offer some potential language to use if parents wish to jointly assume this obligation. Basic Law on Parental Obligations Parents’ obligation to financially support their children ends at age 18, or…