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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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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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Relocating with a Child after a Divorce or Paternity Judgment

The State of Wisconsin has recently updated its laws and procedures regarding how a parent is to obtain a court’s approval to relocate with a child that is subject to an order granting periods of physical placement to both parents, as well as the procedures that a parent opposing such a move will have to follow. The new procedures are outlined in Wisconsin Statutes Section 767.481, and important features of the new law include:

-A moving parent must now seek court approval by filing a motion to move a child more than 100 miles from the other parent, rather than 150 miles as the law had been previously written (unless the parents already live more than 100 miles apart). This distance threshold applies whether or not the moving parent is moving out of state with the child.

-A parent objecting to a proposed move must file and serve, at least 5 days in advance of the initial hearing, an objection to the proposal and any alternate proposal that he or she may have.

-The court will schedule an initial hearing within 30 days after the motion has been filed. If a parent is objecting to the proposed move, the parents will likely be referred to mediation, and a guardian ad litem will be appointed by the court to conduct an investigation if the parents still cannot agree after the mediation process. A final hearing on the matter will then be held within 60 days, and the court may issue a temporary order to allow a child to be moved pending the final hearing if the court determines that the move is in a child’s best interest.

If you have questions regarding placement and child custody, please call Petit & Dommershausen at (920) 739-9900 for a free consultation with an experienced family law attorney.

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Controlling Costs in a Divorce | Cost-Effective Divorce

TIPS TO CONTROL COSTS IN A DIVORCE

When you’re stuck in an emotional battle with your soon-to-be ex-spouse and it feels like money is flying out the door and the fees are mounting faster than the results. These tips will help you understand how to better manage your divorce so costs don’t skyrocket out of control. The number one reason that divorce fees get out of control is leading the fight with your heart instead of your head. The more your emotions get away from you, the more you fight and the more expensive your divorce will be. While you cannot control your spouse and they may be the primary reason that your divorce is costing so much particularly if your spouse is mentally ill, unwilling to compromise or just vindictive; however, they cannot continue the battle by themselves. While you may be playing a much, much smaller role than your spouse, you can take control of yourself and your actions.

A blog post by Attorney Tajara Dommershausen. Here are some practical steps to decrease the cost of your divorce:

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Dads and Divorce | Child Custody | Divorce Lawyers

“A father’s love is just as important to a child’s development as a mother’s, and sometimes more so, suggests a new review of about 100 studies published between 1949 and 2001.

Researchers found that, overall, the love — or rejection — of mothers and fathers equally affects kids’ behavior, self-esteem, emotional stability, and mental health. “But in some cases, the withdrawal of a father’s love seems to play a bigger role in kids’ problems with personality and psychological adjustment, delinquency, and substance abuse,” says study coauthor Ronald P. Rohner, Ph.D., director of the Center for the Study of Parental Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut in Storrs. And for others, the presence of a father’s love may do more to boost children’s sense of well-being and improve their emotional and physical health.”

An excerpt from an article by Sandra Y. Lee – found on Parents.Com 

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Divorce Residency Rules

You must be a resident to file for Divorce in Wisconsin

30 days hath September, April, June and…the residency requirement for Divorce filing!

If you are filing for divorce or legal separation in the State of Wisconsin, you or your future ex-spouse must be a resident of the county where you file your action for at least 30 days before you file. One of you must also have lived in the State of Wisconsin for 6 months before filing; however, you may be able to file a legal separation after 30 days. This is important to keep in mind if you are planning to file for divorce or legal separation and both spouses are moving out of the marital residence. If both of you move to a new county, neither of you can file the divorce until you’ve resided in your new county for at least 30 days.

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Reconciliation | Can a Divorce be stopped or paused?!? YES

Attempting Reconciliation? We don’t want to get divorced anymore! Or maybe we do?
Did you know that you and your spouse can agree to suspend your divorce proceeding or put it on hold while you try to work out your problems? Or get counseling? It is not uncommon for clients and their spouse to attempt a reconciliation. The divorce process can be very emotionally trying, and it can be even more difficult if you are attempting a reconciliation when you have court deadlines staring you down.

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Selecting the RIGHT Divorce Attorney

Assisting you to ensure you protect yourself and your family while dealing with a divorce.

Choosing the Right Divorce Attorney

Many times, potential clients call to ask whether or not they need an attorney. Our standard response is that while that is your decision, divorce can have many ramifications for your financial and emotional well-being including dividing assets, bills and personal property; the awarding of maintenance (i.e. spousal support or alimony), child custody and child placement that a skilled attorney or mediator can help resolve. Although friends and relatives may have good intentions, their advice is without proper training and is likely to be inaccurate even when based upon their personal experiences. Circumstances in their cases may have been far different from those in your case or the laws may have changed since their divorce. It is like using another’s eyeglasses–they rarely fit properly. Make sure you are comfortable with the attorney you chose as they will help guide you thru one of the hardest times of your life.

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Do I have to go to mediation? And why do I have to take a parenting class first?

I have had many parents ask me why they have to participate in mediation. They often explain that they have not been able to reach an agreement with their child’s other parent on their own, and therefore mediation just won’t work. What those parents don’t realize, and what I explain to them, is that Wisconsin’s family court laws have made mediation the required first step.  Wisconsin Statute 767.405(5) directs that a court must refer parents with placement and custody disputes to their county’s mediation program.  In addition, parents are required to attend a parenting class, which usually doubles as the mediation orientation session. The focus of this programming is often related to co-parenting communication and explanations of how the mediation process works.   Though you should not agree to any custody arrangements you can’t deal with for at least a couple years, most of the local counties have very high rates of successfully getting parents to an agreement.   There are only limited circumstances in which you can bypass the mediation process and proceed directly to a GAL (guardian ad litem).

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Different Kinds of Divorce Resolution-Litigation, Mediation and Collaborative Divorce

In addition to the traditional divorce litigation representation, both collaborative divorce and divorce mediation services are ways to proceed with a divorce in a much less aggressive manner. Petit & Dommershausen handles all three types of representation.

As a divorce mediator, Petit & Dommershausen does not take a sides. Our role is to help a couple to communicate and arrive at mutual agreements. Through mediation, you may be able to resolve disputes faster, with less bitterness, and at less cost than battling in court. The mediator can provide information about the divorce process and guide a discussion to help resolve issues. Petit & Dommershausen would not represent either party and could not provide legal advice. The couple can hire Petit & Dommershausen as a mediator if you have an attorney or if you are not represented by an attorney at all. During this process, the parties may communicate with one another directly in the presence of the mediator. The goal of mediation is to allow parties to reach agreements that meet the needs of both parties and their children without the financial and emotional cost of a court battle.

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