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Understand a Misdemeanor Charge in Wisconsin

MISDEMEANOR IN WISCONSIN

In Wisconsin, a misdemeanor is a crime that can be punished by a year or less in jail – unlike a felony, a crime that can be punished by a year or more in prison. Most Wisconsin misdemeanors are Class A, B, or C misdemeanors.

Class C Misdemeanors are the least serious crimes.  A person convicted of a Class C misdemeanor, without more, can be sentenced to up to 30 days in a county jail, a fine up $500, or some combination of the two.

Class B Misdemeanors are more serious.  A person convicted of a Class B Misdemeanor, without more, can be sentenced to up to 90 days in a county jail, a fine up to $1,000, or some combination of the two.

Class A misdemeanors are the most serious misdemeanors.  A person convicted of a Class A Misdemeanor can be sentenced to up to 9 months in a county jail, a fine up to $10,000, or some combination of the two.

 

A judge must consider anyone convicted of a misdemeanor in Wisconsin for probation instead of or in addition to time in jail.  Many people convicted of misdemeanors never actually have to go to jail at all – but probation comes with many restrictions on the person’s behavior while it lasts.

 

An experienced misdemeanor defense attorney can help defend you at a trial – for instance, if you did not commit the misdemeanor the prosecutor accused you of committing.   Sometimes a misdemeanor defense attorney can even get your prosecution deferred so you don’t get convicted of anything at all.  A criminal defense attorney can also help you work out a deal with the prosecutor if you are willing to plead guilty.  Last, if a judge or jury convicts you of a misdemeanor, a criminal defense attorney can represent you at sentencing for a misdemeanor, including by explaining to the judge why you should get a shorter sentence, permission to serve your sentence in another county, probation instead of jail, or a fine instead of probation.

 

Criminal defense attorneys at Petit & Dommershausen defend people accused of misdemeanors every day.  Our criminal defense attorneys practice in Outagamie, Winnebago, Fond du Lac, Calumet, Shawano, Waupaca, and Waushara Counties, and sometimes other counties too. Contact us today.

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WHAT HAPPENS TO DEBTS AFTER A LOVED ONE DIES?

Debts After Passing Away

When a loved one dies, either the personal representative or an heir is likely going to have to figure out the finances, including any financial obligations. All of their assets (i.e., bank accounts, businesses, cars, real estate, etc.) are all lumped together into what is called an estate. If the estate is over $50,000, it will go through a court proceeding called probate. Certain assets may not be included in the estate-life insurance proceeds and retirement accounts.

Through the probate process, the value of the estate will be determined in greater detail and debts will need to be dealt with before anything is given to heirs.

  1. Secured debts

Certain debts, like mortgages and car loans, do not vanish. They are secured by something of value (i.e., the house or the car). If that mortgage is not paid, the lender can foreclose on the home and sell it to repay the debt. If car loans are not paid, the car can be repossessed and also sold to repay the debt. These types of creditors are first in line to get part of the estate which secures that debt.

  1. Unsecured debt

Credit card companies and other creditors like them are the next people in line. These non-secure debts are not necessarily entirely wiped out. These companies can file a claim against the estate. The person who is handling the estate will be required to send notice to creditors so that they can file a claim. If they do not file a claim, they get nothing; however, if they do, the Court will usually use that money to pay the debt.

  1. Student loans.

If a student loan is a federal loan, that will be wiped out. However, that is not true of most private student loans. Also, if there is a co-signer, that co-signer could end up being on the hook for that loan and the debt of a borrower may trigger a default, which means that the co-signer would have to pay off the loan immediately. If there isn’t a co-signer, the student loan company can file a claim against the estate.

Anything that is left over would likely go to the estate and eventually the heirs.

As Wisconsin is a community property state, your spouse may be responsible for any debts you incurred during the marriage. This is particularly true if it is a joint debt or you co-signed on any of the loans. Planning ahead is very important so that a burden isn’t left for someone else.

Please contact Petit & Dommershausen’s estate planning department so that we can help make sure that your assets pass to your heirs as smoothly as possible.

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WHY YOU SHOULD CONSIDER MEDIATING YOUR DIVORCE

Divorce Mediation

Divorce can be emotionally, financially, and physically stressful. Divorce mediation is a way to reduce stress. While protracted litigation is necessary in some cases, for many people, mediation is an effective alternative that allows you to reach an agreement in the least stressful way. In a divorce mediation, a neutral mediator assists a divorcing couple in arriving at a mutually acceptable agreement. While emphasizing cooperative problem solving, it is non-adversarial and gives you more control over the issues that matter most to you, such as child custody, placement and division of assets. Many people find that mediation helps the parties maintain cooperation both during and after the divorce. The following are some of the benefits to mediation:

  1. You control the results. You and your spouse decide the terms of your agreement – not the Court, not divorce attorneys, and not a Guardian ad Litem. Important decisions about your children, your finances, and your future are not in the hands of anyone but you.
  1. Non-adversarial. Mediation focuses on creative and cooperative problem solving and tries to address everyone’s needs. We try to resolve any outstanding issues by communicating and discussing instead of arguing. This allows you to work as a team to have a stronger possibility of reaching a mutually satisfying agreement.
  1. There is greater confidentiality involved. All communications and documents associated with the mediation process are confidential, as are all discussions had with the mediators. This is not true of litigation as anything that is discussed is fair game in the courtroom.
  1. Your children are more protected from conflict. This allows your children not to be exposed to tension, additional stress and other signs of the continuing conflict between their parents. This also allows them not to be interviewed by a Guardian ad Litem and/or the custody study evaluators. Divorce mediators help you focus on your children’s needs as you try to reach a custody and placement agreement.
  1. Get divorced faster. Instead of having to wait for hearing dates, depositions and the discovery process, many parties are able to resolve their case more efficiently and thus get divorced faster. This way, you are able to move on to the next chapter of your life more quickly.
  1. Post-divorce communication is better. During the mediation process, the parties are required to talk as they work towards a consensus on important issues. This ability to talk through issues and cooperate will have a positive long-term impact on your future co-parenting skills, which obviously benefits your children.

If you think that you and your spouse could possibly, with the help of a third-party mediator, work through your issues, mediation could be the right strategy for you. The experienced and compassionate attorneys at Petit & Dommershausen can help you address the ending of your marriage in a supportive, non-confrontational environment. Please call Attorney Tajara Dommershausen 920-739-9900, today to learn more about the divorce mediation process.  You can learn more at pdlawoffice.com

 

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Trying to Move with Joint Custody of a Child?

Parents Should Know

In Wisconsin, if parents share custody and physical placement, you have to provide the other parent with at least 60 days’ written notice if you want to move out of state with the child, move at least 150 miles away from the other parent within the state, or take the child out of state for at least 90 days.

Once the initial notice is provided, the other parent can choose whether or not to object.  If an objection is made, the matter will likely be referred to mediation to try and resolve the dispute.  While the dispute is ongoing, the child cannot be moved unless the court grants permission through a temporary order.  If the dispute still cannot be resolved, the parent opposing the move can file a petition, motion, or order to show cause to modify custody or physical placement of the child, and the court will hold a hearing to determine whether the change is in the best interests of the child.

If the parent seeking to move with the child already has primary physical placement, the court will additionally look at whether or not the proposed move will result in a substantial change in circumstances since the last court order involving placement.  If the parents share substantially equal physical placement, the court will look at whether circumstances make it impractical to continue the current arrangement.

In order to make these determinations, courts are directed to look at specific criteria: whether the purpose of the proposal is reasonable, the child’s relationship with the parent that is objecting to the move and how it would be affected, and the availability of alternate arrangements to continue the child’s relationship with the objecting parent.  The court will also have the option to consider how the child would adjust to the move in terms of the child’s new home, school, religion, and community.

 

If you have further questions related to child custody issues and are seeking legal representation, please contact our firm for a consultation.

 

Attorney Brian Kane practices criminal defense and family law at the Oshkosh office of Petit & Dommershausen, S.C., located at 2001 Bowen Street, Oshkosh, WI 54901.  He can be reached at (920) 231-0699 or briankane@pdlawoffice.com.

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TOP NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS FOR DIVORCED OR DIVORCING PARENTS

1. I resolve to remind my child that they are loved.

2. I resolve to reassure my child often that divorce is not their fault.

3. I resolve to not let my child blame themselves for the divorce. Children often blame themselves and think if they were better kids, this wouldn’t be happening. There is no need to lie to your child in an effort to make them feel less responsible. However, one of the main reasons kids blame themselves is because they weren’t told the truth. That being said, do not go into gory details and explain in an age appropriate manner why you are divorcing. You should also be honest with your children that you will not be getting back together. They often think that if they behave better, are more fun, etc., their parents will get back together again internalizing the reason why the divorce is occurring.

4. I resolve to let my child to express their feelings no matter what. They may be sad, depressed, angry, or happy, but do not know how to express it. Encourage your child to express their feelings about the divorce. Let them be honest as to how they feel even if it hurts your feelings. Do not show your children that your feelings are hurt no matter what they say. This will be difficult. Try not to minimize your child’s pain and sadness. You cannot make it immediately better nor should you try. Offer your support and comfort by letting your child know you care about their feelings and that their feelings matter to you.

5. I resolve to respect my children. Respect the fact that no matter what the cause of your divorce, your child wants a relationship with both parents. Do your best to foster that relationship and encourage it. Your child is half of each of you and blaming or bashing your ex in front of your children will make them feel bad. Try not to engage in nasty argumentative behavior when your children are present. This makes your children sad, guilty, and defensive. Keep visible conflict away from your children. Do not make your children take sides.

6. I resolve to be consistent. When a major life change is happening, children need routine and consistency. Keeping in that routine provides comfort. Minimize any disruptions to the daily routine or changes to your relationships. They still need routine, consistency and structure, especially during times of stress.

7. I resolve to accept help from others. Both you and your child are going through difficult times. Friends and relatives can make role models and sounding boards for both you and your children. Talk to the child’s teachers so that the teacher can help if they notice signs of stress. If you or others close to you see signs of serious stress or emotional issues in your child, encourage your child to talk to the guidance counselor at school, teachers, friends, or arrange for counseling.

8. I resolve to not make my child the go between. Don’t have your child relay messages back and forth. These should be communicated directly to your spouse by text, e-mail, phone or through a legal professional or mediator. Don’t grill your child for information about the other parent. This puts children on edge and makes them uncomfortable. While you are welcome to ask the child if they had a good time and what fun stuff they did with the other parent, that should be the extent of your questioning. On the other hand, if the child wants to tell you about something they did with the other parent, listen and try to respond positively. Putting the child in the middle of conflict causes emotional issues, resentment, and anxiety.

9. I resolve to remember that no matter how old my children are they are still our children. Even if your children are older when you divorce, you should not drag them into the middle of the conflict. Do not confide details or enlist them as negotiators.

10. I resolve to try to take the high road. I will try to take a step back and be the bigger person. I realize that falling into the old patterns of negativity are toxic and benefit no one. I will work towards positive results and will not withhold visitation unless a child is being neglected or in danger. The children who thrive after a divorce are those who are able to have strong relationships with both parents. If you cannot be civil to each other, see if you can do a child exchange at a neutral place (school, library, etc.) or have a third party do the exchange. Try not to prolong the goodbye nor show your child if you are upset. Depicting time with the other parent as a positive thing will help your child transition easier. The same is true when they return to you. You don’t want to be disinterested, but you don’t want to grill them. You should make every effort to act the same way you would if they were at grandparents or a friend’s home overnight. Allow your child to love the other parent and their extended family.

11. I resolve to stop overthinking. It is easy to obsess on what went wrong and why.

12. I resolve to try to leave it behind and use the wisdom I have learned to move forward.

13. I resolve to be present and patient in my life and to truly appreciate those around me. Focusing on the past can be depressing and focusing on the future can cause fear and anxiety.

14. I resolve not to be too hard on myself. I will remember that this is a difficult transition and I will be kind to myself while trying not to wallow.

If you need help with your custody or placement issues, contact a family law attorney at Petit & Dommershausen, located in the Appleton area and Oshkosh.
You can reach our Fox Valley attorneys at 920-739-9900 or our Oshkosh attorneys at 920-231-0699.
Petit & Dommershausen wishes everyone a wonderful New Year.

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Co-Parenting Tips for a Happy Holiday

Holidays can be a difficult time for divorced or separated families especially when people crave the perfect family event. It can be emotionally gut wrenching having to split holiday time with your ex and knowing that the person passing the gravy to your kids is not you, but your ex’s new love.  Protect your kids from the stress of their changing family situation this holiday season. Kids are easily influenced and often remember holidays for a lifetime.

Remember the holidays should be all about your kids, NOT YOU!

These experiences, combined with the cultural expectation to have a Hallmark holiday, can send divorced parents into emotional overload. So how do you keep your charged feelings from spilling over onto your kids? Especially at exchanges which can seem like an emotional rollercoaster? Here are some tips for managing holiday drop-offs with true co-parenting grace.

 

  • Try to talk with your ex (if you can’t talk, email or text but in as neutral tone as humanly possible!!). If your children will be traveling, you and your ex must discuss beforehand what they will need to bring. Winter coats? Games they love? A backpack of activities? A favorite stuffed animal?  Bring necessary items to the drop-off. Don’t be passive-aggressive by “forgetting” anything. Similarly, don’t yell at your ex if he didn’t bring what was expected. Protect your children from any transitional snafus by handling the situation like the adult you are and arranging, if possible, to deliver the goods as soon as you can.

 

  • Talk with your children.Younger kids especially can be confused by the change in your usual schedule.  Discuss holiday plans with them beforehand. Assure them that they will get to spend time with both parents and other important family members. Explain this well before the holiday so they have time to process the news and ask questions before drop-off.  Does traveling make them anxious? Would they like to take something along? Games they love?  A backpack of activities? A favorite stuffed animal?  Help your children transition easier.

 

  • Be on time.Do not be late! If your child is worried about how he’s spending the holiday, rushing to get her to your ex’s will only increase her anxiety. And don’t purposely dawdle. It doesn’t matter how much you hate your ex; your children deserve to arrive to a holiday gathering – or an airport – on time. Remember: ruining the holiday for your ex will also ruin it for your kids.

 

  • Keep your feelings in check. No matter how sad or angry you may feel, you must pull yourself together before and during your placement exchange. This means no crying, no angry words with your ex, no hostile body language. Your composure will make the exchange easier on your kids. It will also model to them how to resolve conflict and manage tough situations. If you must fall apart, do it as you drive away or when you’re alone, or with your therapist.

 

  • Take care of yourself – Kids are often reflections of our own moods. If you can be calm, they’ll be more likely to be calm – and we all know the reverse is true too! So be kind to yourself. Exercise, eat healthy food, get good sleep, enjoy close friends, meditate, pray, relax.

 

  • Don’t prolong drop-off. If your kids are crying, do not use this as an opportunity either to gloat or to seek reassurance from them that they will miss you. Assure your children that you love them, wish them a happy holiday with your ex, and remind them when they will be with you next. Do NOT have a prolonged farewell! If they’re nervous or upset about their time away from you, engineering a long goodbye will only make them feel more anxious. You do not want to communicate, through words or body language, that this is a scary time, or that they have to tend to your feelings. An appropriate exit is much more tolerable for them than an angst-ridden, ambivalent one.

Try to take the high road. A smooth exchange will signal to your children that it’s okay to have a good time with their other parent. It doesn’t matter how big a jerk you think your ex is. Your children deserve to enjoy their holiday.

Above all, give your kids permission to love their other parent and their family. They are connected to their other family and your kids should not have to hide it from you.

If you need help with your custody issues, contact a family law attorney at Petit & Dommershausen, located in Menasha and Oshkosh.

You can reach our Fox Valley attorneys at 920-739-9900 or our Oshkosh attorneys at 920-231-0699.

Petit & Dommershausen wishes everyone a wonderful holiday season.

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What is the difference between a crime and an ordinance violation in Wisconsin?

Ordinance Violation or Criminal Offense?

In all counties, including Fond du Lac and Winnebago County, Wisconsin state law provides the answer to this question.  In Wisconsin, a statute numbered 939.12 explains in simple language the difference. A “crime” is defined as conduct that is prohibited by state law and that is punishable by a fine or imprisonment or both. A person can be sentenced directly to jail for a criminal conviction. Conduct that is punishable only by a forfeiture (fine) is not a crime. One thing to remember though is that sometimes a failure to pay a forfeiture or fine on an ordinance can still result in “sanctions”, including jail, for failure to pay those fines. However, jail is not a direct consequence of an ordinance violation.

As the definition above states, a crime is prohibited by “state” law. Ordinances are issued for conduct that is prohibited by a municipality, such as a city, town, village, or borough, which are a political subdivisions of the State of Wisconsin. These municipalities are local governments in a defined geographical area.   Often times municipal ordinances mimic or reference state law. The Wisconsin Law Library provides online access to nearly half of Wisconsin’s municipalities and counties that have made some or all of their ordinances available online (http://wilawlibrary.gov/topics/ordinances.php).

A blog post by attorney Catherine Block.  Attorney Block practices in the areas of Criminal, Juvenile, Guardianship, Family Law, and can handle local Ordinances as well. Please reach out to Attorney Block at https://pdlawoffice.com/ or 920-231-0699.

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No Good Deed Goes Unpunished

The Importance of Understanding How to Take Title

The law of real property is rife with complicated language intended to answers basic questions. “What if I want to add someone as an owner of my property?” seems like a simple enough inquiry, but to a real estate lawyer, answering that question requires a clear understanding of their client’s objective.

Consider a man, Albert Abertson, who owns a home in his name only who wants to add someone else’s name to the title. He has a consultation with a lawyer about how this can be accomplished. To his surprise, instead of being handed a simple form and walking out the door after five minutes with a shiny new title, the lawyer begins to ask questions.

Lola Lawyer, Attorney at Law, asks him “who do you want to add to the title?” Considering this a reasonable enough question, he replies “Bob Bobson.” Ms. Lawyer follows up, “and who is Bob Bobson to you?” Now Albert has always been told to mind his own business and shifts in his chair, uncomfortable with delving too much further into his personal affairs.

This is not being Ms. Lawyer’s first encounter with a reticent client. She senses Alfred’s discomfort and explains, “Albert, the reason I need to know is because it will help me advise you on several important matters. Did you know that adding someone’s name to the title can impact your obligations as a homeowner, have tax consequences, and affect how you plan your estate?” If Alfred is able to let his guard down and answer Ms. Lawyer’s questions, he will be a much more satisfied client long-term.

Alfred will learn about the difference between being a tenant in common, a joint tenant, and taking as marital property. He will learn about the tax implications if Bob doesn’t pay him anything to be added to the title, as well as the impact this could have on Medicaid benefits. He will learn about sharing liability with Bob, as well as the possibility that Bob’s creditors could come after the property.

This is just one example of how seemingly simple questions relating to property can have complicated answers implicating a wide variety of legal topics.

A blog post by Attorney Scott Engstrom.  If you have Property Law questions or require representation, please contact Attorney Engstrom at 920-739-9900.  Mr. Engstrom serves clients throughout Northeast Wisconsin with Offices in the Oshkosh Area and the Appleton Area.   Call now.

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What is a prenuptial agreement and should you have one?

Do you know someone in Wisconsin who is engaged or married? Have you talked to them about a prenuptial agreement? Attorneys from Oshkosh and the Fox Valley can guide you in the right direction. A prenuptial agreement is a legally binding contract that two people negotiate and sign with a view toward what would happen if the marriage ends by divorce, separation or death. Before getting married, and even after, you should consider your legal options. It is commonly mistaken that prenuptial agreements, otherwise known as “prenups,” are only for those who are wealthy. No matter how much money or assets you have, a prenup is in fact a useful tool that can protect you and your (future) spouse.

There are many elements to be considered in a prenuptial agreement. In Wisconsin, if you and your spouse acquire property during marriage, a judge will apply statutory guidelines to divide that property in the event of a divorce. Prenuptial agreements can also contain provisions about child support and custody. If a couple divorces and decides to abide by the terms of the agreement, then they can self enforce the provision on child custody and support. However, if the parties end up disagreeing, a judge will disregard the portions that refer to custody and support in the agreement. Our skilled Fox Valley and Oshkosh attorneys are here to help you.

A prenup can provide a way of avoiding lengthy or expensive legal disputes, pre-determining the division of a couple’s property, including things such as land, retirement accounts, jewelry, or automobiles. A prenuptial agreement can be applied to any couple. If one or both of you are bringing a lot of debt into the marriage, one or both of you are bringing property into the marriage, one of you is much wealthier or poorer than the other, or if one or both of you is remarrying or has children, getting a prenup is of greater importance.  Each spouse should retain his or her own attorney to review and negotiate the prenuptial agreement. You and your spouse cannot share a lawyer, or the agreement won’t be legally enforceable. It is permissible for one party to be represented by an attorney, even if the other party is not. After you are married, you can still revise a prenuptial agreement and it will be called a postnuptial agreement. Both parties have to agree to the changes, and the new agreement must be in writing.

If you have any questions about whether you should enter into a prenuptial agreement, contact a family law attorney here at Petit & Dommershausen, located in Menasha and Oshkosh, for advice. You can reach our Fox Valley attorneys at 920-739-9900 or our Oshkosh attorneys at 920-231-0699.

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Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC): Penalties and Consequences in Wisconsin

The possession of marijuana and substances containing any amount of THC remains illegal in Wisconsin. Therefore, even if you have obtained a legal prescription of medical marijuana from another state, it becomes illegal when you bring it into Wisconsin. Under the Wisconsin Controlled Substances Act, THC is considered a Schedule I Controlled Substance in the same category as LSD, heroin and PCP. This classification makes the penalties for marijuana possession in Wisconsin sizable and includes damaging repercussions. Attorneys in Appleton and Oshkosh are here to help with these serious offenses.

For a first time offense of THC possession in Wisconsin: Charged as a misdemeanor but still carries a maximum fine of $1,000 and up to 6 months in jail. Every subsequent conviction is then considered a Class I felony with penalties up to $10,000 and 3 years, 6 months in jail. It’s also important to note that with every drug conviction in the state of Wisconsin, a suspension of driving privileges for up to 5 years is included. If you are a college student and charged with drug possession in Wisconsin you are at risk for losing federal student grants and loans. If a THC possession offense occurred within 1,000 feet of a school, public park, school bus or various other building, you could be required to complete 100 hours of community service in addition to the above penalties. There are other charges you could face if the drug possession offense occurred while you were driving or if you were in an illegal possession of a firearm at the time of your arrest. Fox Valley and Oshkosh attorneys here at Petit & Dommershausen are available to help.

In addition to the penalties one could face with possession of THC, there are also penalties for cultivating or selling this illegal drug. These punishments vary according to the amount possessed, grown, or sold and the penalty increases for sales to minors or if the sale occurs within a drug free school zone.

If you or a family member has been charged with a marijuana possession or delivery offense in the Appleton, Oshkosh or Fox Valley area, consult an experienced Wisconsin criminal defense lawyer here at Petit & Dommershausen as soon as possible. You can reach skilled Fox Valley attorneys at 920-739-9900 or our outstanding Oshkosh attorneys at 920-231-0699.