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

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…
Wisconsin 2019 Senate Bill 158 (SB158) and its companion State Assembly Bill 166 was passed by the assembly on Jan. 21, 2020, and is on its way to Gov. Tony Evers to be signed into law. SB158 creates a new presumption of paternity in Wisconsin using genetic testing to conclusively determine paternity through an administrative procedure. It is expected to be signed into law on Feb. 5, 2020. Prior to passage of this bill, the paternity of a non-marital child could be determined through litigation and Court adjudication, or by the child’s biological mother and a male signing a voluntary…
Childhood trauma has a vast impact on family law cases. Family lawyers with a thorough understanding of the interaction between childhood trauma and family law can better serve clients by more quickly and efficiently identifying the causes of questionable parenting choices, which are often at the center of custody and placement disputes. A trauma-informed approach allows family lawyers to identify the needs of parents suffering from the effects of his or her own childhood trauma. The approach requires careful observation of parent’s behavior, communication regarding parental needs, active listening, and providing a safe legal and emotional environment for parents to…
On Oct. 22, 2019 the Wisconsin Supreme Court will hold a public hearing on a petition to change the continuing legal education credits (CLE) for guardians ad litem (GALs). The proposal requires GALs to complete 3.0 CLE hours annually on the dynamics and impacts of family violence. At least one of those hours must be devoted specifically to domestic violence related education. The petition should initiate conversation about domestic violence and the impact on family law.1 Recent studies show recognizable health risks to children, as young as preschool age, being exposed to intimate partner violence (IPV). Such exposure is…
Unlike in years past, clients now have many choices for how to handle a family law matter. Should they use the traditional adversarial method, engage in collaborative or cooperative process, or choose mediation to resolve their issues? This article gives a brief overview and the pros and cons of each choice when selecting an approach to resolving family law cases. Who Chooses? Usually, parties will select the type of approach to use to the family case at the beginning. While it is possible to switch during the case from one type to another, it is not possible to change from…