Legal matters related to the family can be scary, emotional, and stressful. If you're going through a divorce, or seeking to change placement with your children, you want a strong advocate on your side. At Herrick & Hart, we offer compassionate expertise to help you navigate the legal system during these difficult times.
The family law attorneys of Herrick & Hart help people resolve issues related to divorce, child placement and custody, financial concerns such as property division, and maintenance, or alimony.
Family Law - An Overview
"Family Law" is the broad term applied to legal matters that involve family relationships, including marital and parental relationships. While "family law" often refers to divorce, family lawyers can also assist with child custody, placement, and child support; paternity; post-divorce issues; and even with marriage and relationship planning through pre-marital agreements ("Pre-Nups").
At Herrick & Hart, we understand the significant value of these key family relationships, and how important it is for you to have expert advice so that you can make the best and most informed decisions for you and your family.
Divorce and Related Issues
Deciding to pursue divorce is one of the most difficult and emotional decisions you will ever make, particularly if you have children. At Herrick & Hart, we are able to assist you with every aspect of this process, from the initial filings to working through child placement and financial settlement. A family law attorney can provide the necessary advice and information you need to resolve the many issues involved in divorce.
Child Placement and Custody
In the State of Wisconsin, child custody refers to the parents' ability to make major decisions for their children including medical treatment, religious upbringing, and education. It is most common for parents to have joint legal custody, meaning that both parents must make major decisions together or have a court rule on a decision if they are unable to agree.
Placement refers to the time that the children spend with each parent. A family law attorney can discuss the implications of various placement arrangements, and how it may impact child support.
Division of Assets and Debts
The State of Wisconsin is a “community property” or “marital property” state. Essentially, all the debts and assets accrued during the course of the marriage are to be equally divided between the parties. The primary focus of the court in dividing debts and assets is to ensure that both parties have an equal share of debts and assets. There are exceptions to this broad rule, and a family law attorney at Herrick & Hart can help you work though the complex division of your finances.
Maintenance, formerly referred to as “alimony,” is a payment made from one spouse to another following the dissolution of the marriage. The goal of the court is to ensure that both parties are able to maintain their present lifestyle for a period of time to ensure that both parties are financially prepared to support themselves. The factors that the court considers are many and include the length of marriage, the disparate incomes of the parties, and various economic decisions the parties had made together during the course of their marriage.
Federal legislation and uniform state laws exist to make enforcement and collection of child support easier for America's single parents. Because every state uses its own guidelines for establishing child support and each has various methods to set support amounts and recover support when it is overdue, it is often important to consult with a family law attorney who is familiar with the child support guidelines and child support enforcement laws in your state.
In the state of Wisconsin, child support is set based upon two primary factors: The first is the placement schedule. If one parent has primary placement then there are guideline percentages for child support, i.e., 17% of gross income for one child; 25% of gross income for two children, 29% of gross income for three children, etc. If the parents fall into what is called "shared placement" then there is a different formula. Shared placement means that each parent has at least 92 overnight placements with the children per year. If the parents fall into the shared placement category then there is a comparison of the mother's income and the father's income under a specific formula based upon the percentage of overnights each parent has. Again, child support is based upon gross income of the parent or parents and gross income is broadly defined to include just about every source of income.
The second primary factor in setting child support other than the placement schedule as indicated above is the income of each parent. The income of new spouses or significant others is not directly considered however the court has the option of considering the parties' total economic resources in determining whether a party should pay the requisite guideline amount for child support.
Child support is not directly related to custody. Typically parents have joint custody of their children however even if one parent has sole custody, child support can still be ordered depending on the placement schedule. Some people think that joint custody means equal placement. This is not the case. The first question in determining child support is what is the placement schedule and the second primary question is the gross incomes of the parties.
At Herrick & Hart, we utilize the leading technology in this practice area to ensure that you are able to understand your options related to child support. We can assist you with establishing child support through a paternity action, work with you to modify your current child support, or advise your regarding the rules for child support collection and enforcement.
Parents who have not been married can benefit from the expertise and insight of a family law attorney. Many of the issues which would typically be addressed in a divorce proceeding, such as placement, custody, and child support, can be established through a paternity action. If you and your significant other have separated and are effectively co-parenting, it is still highly recommended that your placement arrangements are filed as an order of the court to ensure that, in the event that you and your co-parent have a breakdown in communication, you will be able to have your rights enforced.
Even years after the ink has dried on your divorce judgment, there may be issues that still arise. Primarily, these cases deal with enforcement of provisions of the judgment, such a spousal support. A family law attorney can provide you the insight on how to proceed with a legal action to ensure compliance with the order of the final judgment of divorce.
Marriage and Pre-Marital Agreements
Marriage is a voluntary, private contract between two adults. While it is a personal and emotional commitment, it is also a legal relationship that changes the legal status of both parties. A family law attorney at our firm can help you to understand the legal technicalities of marriage. Additionally, we offer pre-marital agreements in the event that pre-marital property and assets are a concern.
When families are going through separation or conflict, it impacts so many aspects of everyday life. Having the tools to make the best decisions for you and your family can help in easing the stress of this difficult transition. The family lawyers at Herrick & Hart are here to help.