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How will the Coronavirus affect my Divorce or Family Law case?

Governor Evers has declared a public health emergency due to the novel Coronavirus and associated COVID-19 pandemic for the State of Wisconsin. The United States Centers for Disease Control has issued guidance directing that businesses, organizations, and governmental units develop and implement flexible attendance policies that allow employees to stay home when sick, to remain home to care for sick household members, or to work from home when possible. The Wisconsin Supreme Court has issued orders implementing these guidelines into the Wisconsin Court system.

How does this impact the courts?

The Courts of the State of Wisconsin remain open.

However, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has suspended all in-person proceedings through Thursday, April 30, 2020. This suspension may be extended or modified by court order as circumstances may warrant. Many hearings and court conferences may proceed telephonically or via video conference. Some courts may even livestream proceedings on YouTube.

Each County, and in some cases each circuit court, has implemented policies to direct the management of cases under the order of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. Family Law and Divorce matters are subject to these rules. Pretrial hearings may be rescheduled or converted to telephonic proceedings. Some courts may permit stipulated hearings to proceed via telephone or other remote means, but other contested issues may be subject to rescheduling. Reaching a final resolution in your case may remain possible, but depends on your circumstances and potentially whether your counsel remains well versed and informed on each court’s policies.

Mediations through Family Court Services may be conducted remotely, but individual offices and individual cases may have unique qualities. Preparation for these proceedings is even more essential under these special circumstances.

Are you concerned about your case?

The Family Law Legal Team at Petit & Dommershausen, SC, is here for you. Governor Evers order provided that Legal Services are an Essential Service. We are therefore open and ready to assist you.

We can determine the status of your divorce or family law matter, implement a responsive strategy under the current circumstances, and we can guide you through your case challenges during this difficult time. A Great Outcome Will Not Just Happen under these circumstances. A knowledgeable, caring, and responsive legal team is an essential component of a Great Outcome. We have implemented significant policy changes to protect our clients, staff, and community as we work through this time.

Contact us at 920-739-9900 or visit us at pdlawoffice.com for more information.

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Child Support in Wisconsin

Establishing Child Support and Child Support Guidelines

The law is clear that every parent must financially support their children, regardless of each parent’s involvement in the child’s life. Children have a legal right to receive support from both of their parents. In Wisconsin, we use a Child Support Percentage of Income Standard to determine this. This is outlined in Wisconsin Administrative Code – DCF 150.

Child support is intended to cover the basic expenses of having a child, including food, clothing, housing, utilities, transportation, personal care, and health insurance.

Who can initiate a child support action? Any of the following:

  1. The person’s spouse.
  2. The minor child.
  3. The person with legal custody of the child.
  4. A non-legally responsible relative.

How much? The court must then determine the amount, if any, that the person should reasonably contribute to the support and maintenance of the spouse or child and how the sum shall be paid. The amount shall be expressed as a fixed sum unless the parties have stipulated to expressing the amount as a percentage of the payer’s income.

The standard percentage of income guideline in Wisconsin for child support is:

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

However, the court can still deviate from the standard if it would be unfair to either the child or one of the parents. Special child support guidelines exist for parents who:

  • Share placement of their children (child with each parent at least 25% of the time)
  • Split the placement of their children (Ex.: one parent has one child; the other parent has another)
  • Support more than one family
  • Have a Low income
  • Have a High income

No matter which guideline is used, the income of the parents must be determined. Wisconsin considers the following sources to be income:

  • Wages, salaries, earnings, tips, commissions, and bonuses from work
  • Interest and capital gains from investments or property
  • Worker’s compensation benefits or personal injury awards intended to replace income
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), but not Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or other public assistance
  • Military allowances and veterans’ benefits
  • Voluntary retirement contributions, cafeteria plans, and undistributed income of a corporation

Child support can also be based on a parent’s ability to earn based on past earnings, current health, education, work experience, history as primary care giver, and availability of jobs locally. Income can also look to intangible or non-cash sources, such as life insurance, cash, deposit accounts, stocks, bonds, and business interests.

How long? Parents have an obligation to pay child support until the child turns 18 or 19 if still enrolled in high school or a GED course. Additionally, you still owe past due child support after your child turns 18. Past due child support cases can be opened up to 20 years after the youngest child on the order turns 18.

What if I don’t pay? When a parent doesn’t pay child support, the debt becomes past-due. The interest charged on past-due child support in Wisconsin is .5% per month or 6% per year. Child support agencies can enforce a child support order by:

  • Intercepting the debtor’s federal or state income tax refunds or tribal per capita payments
  • Denying the parent who owes support a U.S. passport, college grants, or small business loans
  • Placing a lien on the debtor’s property that must be paid off before the property can be sold
  • Suspending or restricting a professional, recreational, or driver’s license

If you need help with child support, please contact Petit & Dommershausen today and speak to one of our experienced family law attorneys. With three convenient locations in Oshkosh, the Appleton area, and Green Bay, we serve all of northeast Wisconsin including Outagamie, Winnebago, Waupaca, Calumet, Brown, Oconto, Marinette, and Fond du Lac counties.

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Import Wisconsin Divorce Law Changes: Impact of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on Family Law

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed in 2017, imposed extensive changes throughout the tax code. A few of those changes directly impact Wisconsin family law litigants and are important to keep in mind, particularly when going through a divorce.

The first, and arguably most drastic change which impacts family law, is the elimination of the deduction for maintenance payments. Maintenance, also commonly referred to as “alimony,” is a monetary payment from one former spouse to the other, for either a limited or indefinite period of time. Prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, a former spouse who paid maintenance to the other spouse was allowed to claim a tax deduction from his or her income. Similarly, the recipient spouse of the maintenance was required to report all maintenance payments as taxable income. Under the new law, for any divorce or separation decree executed after December 31, 2018, the payor spouse is not allowed to claim a deduction, and the recipient spouse is no longer required to claim the maintenance as taxable income. This is an important change because prior to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, many divorce litigants were incentivized to pay maintenance based on the knowledge that they would receive a tax deduction. This incentive no longer exists under the new law, which may make maintenance disputes more prevalent.

The second important change which impacts family law is the elimination of personal exemptions. Prior to the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, taxpayers were allowed to claim a $4,050 deduction per qualifying taxpayer, spouse, or dependent. Under the new law, personal exemptions are suspended for the tax years of 2018-2025. Personal exemptions provided tax savings for all filers, but particularly for filers with dependent children. This is an important change for the divorce process because parents going through a divorce typically negotiated as to which parent would be allowed to claim the child(ren) for each tax year.

Although personal exemptions are eliminated under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the child tax credit was doubled from $1,000 to $2,000 for the tax years of 2018-2025. The child tax credit is available for each qualifying child under the age of 17. Although this increase can impact divorcing parents, it does not hold the same negotiation importance during the divorce process as the personal exemption did because the child tax credit is generally only available to the parent who the child lives with for at least six months out of the year.

It is important for family law litigants to keep tax considerations in mind when going through a divorce. If you need help with a divorce, please contact Petit & Dommershausen today and speak to one of our experienced family law attorneys. With three convenient locations in Oshkosh, the Appleton area, and Green Bay, we serve all of northeast Wisconsin including Outagamie, Winnebago, Waupaca, Calumet, Brown, Oconto, Marinette, and Fond du Lac counties.

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Grandparents Rights (Updated 10/09/2019)

Grandparent Rights in Wisconsin

Many states allow at least some form of grandparent visitation, after a determination as to whether such visitation is in the best interests of the child.  However, under a new WI Supreme Court case this process has gotten much more difficult. The first thing the grandparents must prove is that the parents aren’t fit or are unfit to make this decision.   At Petit & Dommershausen, we guide you thru the process to get grandparents a great outcome.

Grandparent Visitation

Parents have fundamental rights to raise their children as they see fit, as long as the children’s basic emotional and physical needs are being met.

A grandparent must file a petition requesting visitation with the court. A judge will schedule a hearing to review the circumstances of the case and allow the child’s parents to respond.

All of the following factors must be present for a judge to grant grandparent visitation:

  • The parent is unfit (this is a difficult standard)
  • the child’s parents are not married, or were married but have subsequently divorced, separated or one parent is deceased
  • the child isn’t adopted (to non-family members)
  • the grandparent has maintained a relationship with the child, or has attempted to maintain a relationship but was prevented by the parent
  • the grandparent is unlikely to act counter to the parent’s decisions regarding the child’s emotional physical, educational or spiritual welfare, and
  • that grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests.  Most of the time a Guardian ad Litem will be appointed to advise the Judge as to what they think is in the best interests of the child.

Wisconsin courts require all the above elements to be met for grandparent visitation to occur.

The Court will then determine a reasonable amount of visitation.  What constitutes “reasonable visitation” will depend on the unique circumstances of your case.

When Can Grandparents Get Guardianship of a Grandchild?

In some cases, a grandparent may be able to obtain guardianship over a child’s natural parent when it’s necessary to protect the child’s safety or well-being and the parents are unfit to meet the child’s needs.

A court may only award guardianship to a child’s grandparent if the following are true:

  • granting guardianship to the grandparent would serve the child’s best interests, and
  • the parent is unfit or unable to adequately care for the child, or there are other compelling reasons for awarding guardianship to a grandparent.

The experienced and compassionate attorneys at Petit & Dommershausen can help you thru this difficult process. Call Attorney Tajara Dommershausen today to learn more about your rights and get the help you need.

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Wisconsin Law: At what age can a child decide which parent they want to live with?

So, you’re either going through a divorce or you already have an existing placement order. Your child is at an age where they have started to express an opinion as to which parent they want to live with or spend the most time with. At what age does the child’s opinion matter?

Under Wisconsin statutes, physical placement orders will be structured to either award shared placement to both parents or primary placement to one parent. Shared placement occurs when both parents have at least 25% of overnights per year. Primary placement occurs when one parent has more than 75% of overnights in a year. Wisconsin law provides that a child is entitled to meaningful periods of physical placement with each parent, unless such an order would endanger the child.

In a contested placement dispute, Courts will typically appoint a Guardian ad Litem for the minor child. A Guardian ad Litem is an attorney who advocates for the best interests of the child and makes a recommendation to the court upon conducting an investigation. Under Wisconsin law, the Guardian ad Litem is required to consider the wishes of a minor child, but is not bound by those wishes when making their recommendation to the Court.

Similarly, the Court is required to consider the child’s wishes when determining periods of physical placement. However, the child’s opinion is only one of the many factors that the Court must consider. Among the other factors that the Court is required to consider are: the parents’ wishes, the age of the child, the amount and quality of time the child has spent with each parent in the past, the mental and physical health of the parents and child, etc.

Therefore, there is no specific age in Wisconsin where a child is able to decide which parent they want to live with. A child’s wishes must be considered by both the Guardian ad Litem and the Court once the child reaches an age where they are able to articulate those wishes. However, both the Guardian ad Litem and the Court are also required to consider all factors relevant to the best interests of the child, even if the result is a placement order that is contrary to the child’s wishes.

If you need help with a divorce or custody/placement dispute, please contact Petit & Dommershausen today and speak to one of our experienced family law attorneys. With three convenient locations in Oshkosh, the Appleton area, and Green Bay, we serve all of northeast Wisconsin including Outagamie, Winnebago, Waupaca, Calumet, Brown, Oconto, Marinette, and Fond du Lac counties.

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How much will a Child Support Attorney cost?

Cost considerations are an important factor in the selection of any good or service. Making an informed choice necessarily includes an assessment of possible costs. These questions often are raised when considering hiring a lawyer to assist with a child support matter.

Child Support Lawyer from the Child Support Agency

Many folks first experience with a lawyer connected to a child support case is the lawyer who works with and for the county child support agency. You should be aware, that lawyer is not a lawyer representing you. That lawyer may advocate for you to receive child support, but the lawyer does not owe a client duty to you. That lawyer is a representative of the county and its child support agency in its capacity as an advocate for children.

While it may save some legal fees in the short term to handle a matter on your own and let the attorney from the child support agency do all the talking and legal work, it may not be in your interest. You have the right to a lawyer to assist you and be your representative.

Child Support Attorney Fees

Child Support attorney fees can be based on either a per-hour or flat-fee basis. To find out more about child support attorneys and how much they cost, continue reading.

Reasons to Hire a Child Support Attorney

Before we get to how much it may cost, lawyers will often need to understand the type of case and the legal work that may be necessary. There are certain circumstances that we advise you strongly consider hiring an attorney.

  • Establishing paternity. If Dad is on the birth certificate, that may just be the first step in the process. A child support hearing may be scheduled, but at that hearing additional important legal issues may be considered by the court. The court will presume you are able to handle these issues regardless of whether you have consulted an attorney. The issues for review may be Child Legal Custody, Child Placement, Child Support, Variable Expenses, Birthing Expenses, and numerous other issues.
  • Child Support matters with variable income. Is a parent self employed? Works a few jobs? Changes jobs frequently? These additional areas of complexity require additional legal analysis that may not be completed at your hearing.
  • Need to Modify an existing agreement or order. If changes are needed, the court may require a specific legal showing to occur before it even considers the need for a change. In these cases, a lawyer may be able to present law and facts that may meet the court’s expectations and then also necessitate a change in support.
  • Collecting outstanding child support. Does a parent owe back support? In those circumstances, a lawyer can assist in understanding how a back amount is calculated and how it may be resolved.

But How Much Does It Cost?

Short answer = it depends. A consultation with a lawyer would get you the best understanding of the potential costs. It may be far more affordable that you think.

The ultimate costs depend on your circumstances, the parents placement arrangements, the other areas of dispute between the parties, and the conflict level. If some of the circumstances described above are present plus a high level of conflict, legal costs can be high. It may be in a parent’s interests to negotiate, but that doesn’t always happen.

At Petit & Dommershausen, SC, we pride ourselves on good legal service and a transparent billing process. Our lawyers will directly outline the nature of our representation agreements and the retention costs. Once we are on board as your lawyers, you will be kept up to date with all financial circumstances and our Office Manager and staff will be happy to respond to additional inquiries.

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School District Choice: Who makes it?

So, you and your significant other separated and have a joint custody/joint placement order. Sharing placement has been relatively calm but now your child needs to start school.  The two of  you live in different school districts so who gets to choose the school district?

Under Wisconsin statutes, joint legal custody means that the parents share major decision making. Neither parent’s rights are superior. Major decisions include consent to marry, consent to enter military service, consent to obtain a driver’s license, authorize non-emergency healthcare, choice of school, and choice of religion. The presumption in Wisconsin is that joint legal custody is in the best interest of your child.

The sooner you start this discussion with your former significant other, the better. August is not the time to start discussing this. Most counties will require the parents to go to mediation first. Mediation is with a neutral third party who tries to help you work through the issues that you are having. This is the least expensive alternative. If at mediation you cannot reach an agreement, a motion will need to be filed with the court.

The court does not decide which school the child will go to; however, the court does decide which parent gets the right to make that choice. After a motion is filed, it will be set for an initial hearing. If you have already been to mediation on the issue, the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem. A Guardian ad Litem is an attorney who does an investigation and looks into the best interest of your child and makes a recommendation to the court. If, after a Guardian ad Litem recommendation, the parties can reach an agreement or the court makes an order. If the parties are in disagreement with that order, the matter can be set for a trial. Mediation can often take a few months as can the Guardian ad Litem process. Therefore, the sooner this important decision is discussed and a motion filed, the better off you and your child will be.

If you need help with this process, please contact Petit & Dommershausen today and speak to one of our experienced family law attorneys. With three convenient locations in Oshkosh, the Appleton area, and Green Bay, we serve all of northeast Wisconsin including Outagamie, Winnebago, Waupaca, Calumet, Brown, Oconto, Marinette, and Fond do Lac counties.

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Domestic Violence Restraining Orders

What is a Domestic Violence Restraining Order?

A judge or circuit court commissioner may grant an injunction, also known as a restraining order, that orders a person to refrain from committing acts of domestic abuse against the petitioner, to avoid the petitioner’s residence, or any other location temporarily occupied by the petitioner or both, or other remedies under law.

A Court may grant such an injunction if all of the following occur:1. The petitioner files a petition alleging the necessary elements 2. The petitioner serves upon the respondent a copy or summary of the petition and notice of the time for hearing on the issuance of the injunction, or the respondent serves upon the petitioner notice of the time for hearing on the issuance of the injunction.3. After hearing, the judge or circuit court commissioner finds reasonable grounds to believe that the respondent has engaged in, or based upon prior conduct of the petitioner and the respondent may engage in, domestic abuse of the petitioner.

What is domestic abuse?

Wisconsin Statutes for the Entry of a Domestic Violence Restraining Order provide the following definitions. 

“Domestic abuse” means any of the following engaged in by an adult family member or adult household member against another adult family member or adult household member, by an adult caregiver against an adult who is under the caregiver’s care, by an adult against his or her adult former spouse, by an adult against an adult with whom the individual has or had a dating relationship, or by an adult against an adult with whom the person has a child in common:1. Intentional infliction of physical pain, physical injury or illness.2. Intentional impairment of physical condition.3. A violation of s. 940.225 (1)(2) or (3).4. A violation of s. 940.32.5. A violation of s. 943.01, involving property that belongs to the individual.6. A threat to engage in the conduct under subd. 1.2.3.4., or 5.(b)

“Dating relationship” means a romantic or intimate social relationship between 2 adult individuals but “dating relationship” does not include a casual relationship or an ordinary fraternization between 2 individuals in a business or social context. A court shall determine if a dating relationship existed by considering the length of the relationship, the type of the relationship, and the frequency of the interaction between the adult individuals involved in the relationship.

“Family member” means a spouse, a parent, a child or a person related by blood or adoption to another person.(c) 

“Household member” means a person currently or formerly residing in a place of abode with another person.(ce) 

“Reasonable grounds” means more likely than not that a specific event has occurred or will occur.(cj) 

Do you need legal assistance with a Domestic Violence Restraining Order?

Attorney Nathan J. Wojan and the rest of the legal team at Petit & Dommershausen is here to help. Call 920-739-9900 for your confidential consultation. We have assisted many people through these difficult proceedings and we can help you.

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Paternity Law In Wisconsin

DECLARATION OF PATERNAL INTEREST

Don’t let your parental rights be terminated without your knowledge!!

Do you believe someone you slept with could be carrying your child?  If so, do you want to be notified if the mom is making the important decision to give the child up for adoption? If the answer is yes, you must file a declaration of paternal interest which can be found at: https://dcf.wisconsin.gov/files/forms/pdf/0019a.pdf

This declaration can be filed as soon as you suspect a child could have been conceived but it must be filed either 1) before the birth of the child  2) within 14 days after the birth of the child or 3) if the possible father receives notice under Wisconsin Statute 48.42(1g)(b) that the mother of a child under the age of one is seeking to voluntarily terminate her parental rights and has identified him as the father. 

If it is not filed, any potential father’s rights could be terminated and the child could be placed for adoption with only a tiny notice published in a local paper!

This filing is confidential and can only be used by children’s court proceedings.

Filing a declaration of paternal interest does not establish parental rights to a child. The potential father will need to take further action to establish and protect his rights and responsibilities as a father!!

Need help?? Contact Petit & Dommershausen today at 920-739-9900!

With three convenient locations in Oshkosh, Appleton and Green Bay. We serve all of Northeast Wisconsin including Outagamie, Winnebago, Waupaca, Calumet, Brown, Oconto, Marinette and Fond du Lac counties.

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Grandparents Rights

Thank you for visiting this page.  Be aware there is an update to this posting.  The law has changed or the application of the law has changed in practice.  Please visit this blog for the most up to date information.

Grandparent Rights in Wisconsin

Most states allow at least some form of grandparent visitation, after a determination as to whether scuh visitation is in the best interests of the child. This inquiry can vary vastly from county to county and Judge to Judge. At Petit & Dommershausen, we guide you thru the process to get grandparents a great outcome.  Learn more about Grandparent’s Rights below.

Grandparent Visitation

Parents have fundamental rights to raise their children as they see fit, as long as the children’s basic emotional and physical needs are being met. However, in certain circumstances, Wisconsin law allows grandparents to have reasonable visitation with a grandchild, even if it’s against the parent’s wishes.

A grandparent must file a petition requesting visitation with the court. A judge will schedule a hearing to review the circumstances of the case and allow the child’s parents to respond.

All of the following factors must be present for a judge to grant grandparent visitation:

• the child’s parents are not married, or were married but have subsequently divorced, separated or one parent is deceased
• the child isn’t adopted (to non-family members)
• the grandparent has maintained a relationship with the child, or has attempted to maintain a relationship but was prevented by the parent
• the grandparent is unlikely to act counter to the parent’s decisions regarding the child’s emotional physical, educational or spiritual welfare, and
• that grandparent visitation is in the child’s best interests. Most of the time a Guardian ad Litem will be appointed to advise the Judge as to what they think is in the best interests of the child.
Wisconsin courts require all the above elements to be met for grandparent visitation to occur. Grandparent visitation is almost always granted in cases where grandparents have had a strong relationship with the child and death or divorce has disrupted the child’s nuclear family unit.
The Court will then determine a reasonable amount of visitation. What constitutes “reasonable visitation” will depend on the unique circumstances of your case.

When Can Grandparents Get Guardianship of a Grandchild?

In some cases, a grandparent may be able to obtain guardianship over a child’s natural parent when it’s necessary to protect the child’s safety or well-being and the parents are unfit to meet the child’s needs.

A court may only award guardianship to a child’s grandparent if the following are true:

• granting guardianship to the grandparent would serve the child’s best interests, and
• the parent is unfit or unable to adequately care for the child, or there are other compelling reasons for awarding guardianship to a grandparent.

The experienced and compassionate attorneys at Petit & Dommershausen, S.C. can help you thru this difficult process. Call Attorney Tajara Dommershausen today to learn more about your rights and get the help you need.