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 (login required).


It doesn’t come up often, but when it does, it’s a problem.

If, through the course of litigation, you come to believe that a self-represented opposing party is incompetent, there is a fairly simple procedure outlined in the Wisconsin statutes to both protect the party’s interest and keep the case moving.

Wis. Stat. section 803.01(3)(a) is mostly used for minors, but it applies to potentially incompetent parties as well. It reads, in part:

If a party to an action
Continue Reading What To Do If You Believe a Pro Se Party May Be Incompetent

Shakespeare may query “What’s in a name?” but for Wisconsin parents, the question requires a little more consideration. Wisconsin’s name change procedures, housed in Wis. Stat. chapter 786.36, make certain provisions when the petition to change a name is for a child under the age of 14.1

Amanda R.R. Mayer
, Marquette 2012, is the legal projects director at
Wisconsin Judicare in Wausau, where she works with victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault and supervises the Family Law Unit,
Continue Reading Big Revision for Child Name Changes

Known generally as “Motions to Enforce,” Wis. Stat. section 767.471 provides a fast track to a hearing to enforce the physical placement order in effect in a family law action. Section 767.471 – formerly Wis. Stat. section 767.242 – was enacted as part of the Appropriations and Executive Budget Bill of 1999.

It is helpful to understand that motions to enforce are extraordinary motions. They carry with them specific procedural rules that are unique in family law, and, when
Continue Reading Are Motions to Enforce Physical Placement the Best Remedy For Your Client?

For some people, pets1 are equally, if not slightly less, important than children,2​ when it comes to divorce.

In Wisconsin, pets are property and treated no different from the TV, car, or lawn mower. Some states have started to consider pets in a separate regard than simply property. There are laws that address custody and shared placement of pets. For example, an Alaska law requires the judge to consider the “well-being” of the pet in addressing the
Continue Reading Fighting For (and Like) Cats and Dogs in Divorce

On March 11, 2022, Governor Evers signed SB 104, now 2021 WI Act 160. It was published on March 12 and became effective March 13, 2022.

2021 WI Act 160 modifies
DCF 150.02(13)(a)(8) to exclude “area variable housing costs” from a service member’s income for purposes of child support. Area variable housing costs refers to Variable Housing Allowances (VHA).

VHA is one component of the Basic Housing Allowance (BAH) and reflects the local area rental market. BAH rates are
Continue Reading Variable Housing Costs Now Removed from Military Gross Income: Calculating Child Support

As of March 11, 2022, Wisconsin parents who receive notice of deployment have new options available regarding custodial responsibilities for their children during deployment. The Uniform Deployed Parents Custody and Visitation Act (UDPCVA) creates Wis. Stat. chapter 324, specifically addressing custody and visitation issues for deployed parents. The Act expands the ability of both parents to delegate the custodial responsibilities for a child when a parent is deployed. Following is an overview of the most notable aspects of the
Continue Reading Newly Adopted Bill Addresses Custodial Questions for Deployed Parents

​Two years on, the COVID-19 pandemic is a daily reality that the millions of single, divorced, and separated parents across the country are struggling to navigate, and things are only getting more complicated. Parents are increasingly fighting over children’s vaccines, masks, remote schooling, and travel due to the differing views on COVID-19 safety.

With society slowly reopening, parents are frantically asking themselves whether their child should be socializing with their peers or staying at home. Are indoor activities safe?
Continue Reading Alternative Ways to Resolve Child Custody Disputes During the Pandemic

If you have a multi-county practice or accept a case in a county where you do not routinely practice, you should immediately become familiar with the local court rules in that county.

Court rules vary from county to county and cover many diverse issues, such as the timelines for filing exhibits and filing briefs, due dates for filing financial disclosure statements and parenting plans, and the duty to confer with opposing counsel prior to having a motion heard.

Continue Reading Pro Tip: Know Your Local Court Rules – Here’s How

Under Wisconsin law, a parent’s duty to support their child continues until the child turns 18, or age 19 if the child is still enrolled in high school or working on a high school equivalency course (GED).1

When multiple children are involved, as each child reaches the age of majority, the paying parent can seek modification to reduce ongoing payments to the remaining minor children, based on the reduced applicable percentage.

However, it was not clear until recently
Continue Reading ‘Be Proactive:’ Wisconsin Appeals Court Sends Message to Child Support Payers

Family law actions are expensive to maintain, both for the client who is seeking a favorable outcome, and for the attorney who may not be timely paid. When one of the parties to a case is uncooperative, highly adversarial, or less than forthright, the costs of the case may escalate – to the detriment of both client and counsel.Four Wisconsin statutes authorize the recovery of attorney’s fees for clients (and sometimes their attorneys) in family law cases. Two apply
Continue Reading Pursuing Attorney's Fees in Family Law Cases

As represented by several recently introduced bills, there are some interesting proposed changes to family law in Wisconsin. These proposed changes would allow for a more efficient handling of certain processes and events among parties who seek or are divorced or separated.
Financial Exchange: 2021 Senate Bill 604
Senate Bill 604 was introduced Oct. 8, 2021. This bill expands Wis. Stat. section 767.54, regarding the requirement of parties to exchange financial information each year when there is an
Continue Reading Update: Proposed Changes to Family Law in Wisconsin

Scrolling through any Instagram or Facebook feed today, it is not uncommon to see pictures of children accompanied by an endearing story, a life lesson, or a big milestone.

Some posts contain the child’s name with a harmless anecdote about a new interest or a recent adventure. Others contain lifestyle or parenting tips.

Come early September, when back-to-school season is in full swing, social media are filled with images of smiling children holding black chalk boards reading something like:
Continue Reading On ‘Sharenting:’ Parental Use of Social Media in Divorce

Like any other civil action, family law matter outcomes are decided on the facts. Those facts are typically collected directly from the client, and through interrogatories and requests for production of documents.

Typically these methods alone are sufficient to collect the discovery you need to engage in settlement negotiations and prepare for trial.

However, there are other methods of collecting facts that may be appropriate and necessary in some matters. To best represent their clients, family law practitioners should
Continue Reading 3 Discovery Tools Underemployed in Family Law

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
Continue Reading Dismissing a Family Law Action

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
Continue Reading Significant Changes Coming to Administrative Code Chapter DCF 150

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
Continue Reading Clan Mediation and Divorce within the Hmong Community