What to Expect After Divorce

Depending on the circumstances, a divorce can either be relatively short or a long drawn out process.  Some spouses do what they can to end things amicably, while others are hostile and adversarial through every stage.  Once the divorce is over, both people are left to get on with their lives.  While every divorce is as unique as those involved, there are some things which can be expected when the case is finally over.

You May Not be Done with Court

Ideally, once you have completed your divorce all of your issues will be settled, and you can walk away from the experience and begin your new life.  However, when there are lingering matters such as transferring title to vehicles, changing deeds, and exchanging property, you may have to continue talking with your ex to make sure everything is completed.  Further, when spousal maintenance or child support is in place, you could have to return to court to make changes or resolve disagreements.

Parenting is Forever

For parents, the end of the divorce does not end their relationship.  You and your ex will be involved with one another by sharing custody and managing child support until your children are grown.  After the children reach adulthood, you will probably continue to see your ex at family events,  and may still be negotiating holiday schedules with one another.   As your relationship shifts from being a married couple to divorced parents, you are going to have to adjust to your new dynamic and find ways to cooperate with one another.

Grieving is Normal

While some divorces are more comfortable than others, when a marriage ends, it is a significant loss.  You may have been ready to leave the relationship, but that does not change the fact that the dream you had about spending your life with your former partner is now gone.  Experiencing grief is a normal reaction to divorce, and it is essential to recognize and accept your emotions and take time to honor them.  You should practice self-compassion and release any expectation regarding how long your grieving process should take.

Divorce will have a profound impact on your life, but you will get through the experience and recover.  Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive family law experience and can help you examine your circumstances and determine what resources you may need when beginning your new life.  Please contact us to schedule a consultation and help you take a “first look” at your options.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Co-Parenting with a Narcissist

After you end your relationship with someone who is a narcissist, it can take years to recover from the emotional damage.  When you have children with the individual, the antagonism and drama you may have thought you left behind in your marriage is likely to continue on through your parenting relationship.  Trying to co-parent when the other parent is a narcissist is not an easy task.  However, by taking certain steps, you can help minimize conflict and stress when it comes to your kids.

Narcissist

The American Psychiatry Association defines someone who has narcissistic personality disorder as having a pattern of need for admiration and lack of empathy for others. The individual may have “a grandiose sense of self-importance, a sense of entitlement, take advantage of others or lack empathy.”  When interacting, a person with this condition may be easily offended and often express rage and belittle others.

Stay Calm and Neutral

A narcissistic parent may believe that they are correct about everything to do with the children.  They are also adept at pushing your buttons and will try to keep you engaged in conflict.  You cannot realistically expect the other parent to interact reasonably or fairly with you.  However, you can keep your contact to a minimum and maintain neutrality whenever possible.

Maintain Boundaries and Stability

When your children have placement time with the other parent, you may have to accept that you can’t control what happens.  You can, however, maintain boundaries and consistency in your own home.  Despite the other parent’s behavior, you want your children to know that your home is a safe and stable place in which they know what to expect.

Follow the Plan

During your divorce, you and your ex will have probably have carefully crafted a parenting plan which sets out the rules and parameters on how you are going to share decisions and time with your children.  Hopefully, you spent time developing a very detailed  plan with some idea of how the other parent may behave.  Follow the plan and maintain boundaries when your ex tries to deviate from the terms. Remember, if your ex is trying to move things around it is probably so they can exploit the situation for his or her benefit.  A narcissist wants conflict and chaos, so the less emotional you are during the interaction and exchanges, the better.

Show Empathy and Love

When it comes to being empathetic, narcissists are at a severe disadvantage.   Your children need to know that a parent cares about their well-being and feelings.  Be sure to express empathy when they are with you and focus on making sure they feel loved, supported, and understood in your home.  Additionally, do what you can to avoid disparaging your ex around your children.  If your kids need to talk about the other parent, you may want to consider helping them find a therapist.

Raising children with a narcissist is probably always going to be problematic, but by controlling your own conduct, making your home a healthy space, and refraining from unnecessary interactions with your ex, you can help minimize the stress for you and your children.

Attorney Karyn Youso has experience helping clients create effective parenting plans and understands what it is like when one parent is a narcissist. Call us, and we can talk about your goals and help you take a “first look” at your situation and consider your options.

Planning for Your Child’s Mental Health Care During Divorce

Parenting a child with a significant mental health issue can be stressful and trying.  Often, attending to their needs can mean seeing numerous specialists and even watching them endure multiple hospitalizations.   There can also be challenges which come with making sure that they get the right accommodations at school.  When the family is going through a divorce, parents will have to consider the right ways to make sure their child’s needs will be met today and in the future.

Child Custody and Placement

In Wisconsin, child custody means a parent’s ability to make decisions regarding their kids.  The law presumes that joint legal custody is in the best interest of a child.  The decision-making authority will include deciding about medical and mental health treatment for the child.  If parents are on the same page regarding their child’s care, this may not present a problem.  However, when they disagree, there could be problems ensuring that their child gets the treatment they need.  Further, one parent may be more informed and better equipped to make therapeutic choices. During divorce, it will be critical for parents to explore this issue and develop ways to resolve disputes efficiently.

Child placement refers to the parent’s right to have their child physically with them and make routine decisions about their care. Wisconsin law favors a placement schedule which allows a child to have frequent contact with both parents.  However, when a child has a mental health condition, their placement schedule may need to be planned to support their well-being.  For instance, if structure and routine are important to keep the child’s symptoms under control, the child may need to be in one parent’s home during the school week while seeing the other parent on the weekend.

Child Support

Wisconsin courts follow guidelines when establishing child support which takes numerous factors into consideration including a child’s health.  As parents are negotiating their divorce, they will need to be mindful of the expenses associated with their child’s mental health condition and treatment.  Child support in Wisconsin ends when a child turns 18 or is 19 if they are still in primary or high school.  The law does not obligate a parent to pay support after this point.  The fact that the child may not be able to live independently because of their condition does not impact the limit on child support.  However, parents can develop agreements between themselves to continue support into the child’s adulthood.

Making sure your child will have what they need to be healthy is vital.  Attorney Karyn Youso has experience helping families develop creative and comprehensive solutions for their children.  Contact us for a consultation so we can take a “first look” at your case and figure out what needs to happen next.

 

 

 

 

Divorcing a Partner who has Borderline or any other Personality Disorder

When a relationship is ending it can bring out hostility and anger on both sides.  While some negative behaviors and comments may occur, there can be situations where one partner’s conduct is indicative of a deeper mental health issue.  When you are divorcing an individual who has borderline or another personality disorder, their condition may intensify conflict and prolong the process.

What is a Personality Disorder?

According to the Mayo Clinic, a personality disorder is a type of mental disorder which involves having a rigid and unhealthy thinking pattern and dysfunctional behavior. An individual with this type of condition typically has problems perceiving and relating to situations and other people.  Often, this will cause significant problems with interpersonal relationships at work, home, and in school.  The individual usually develops the condition in their teens or early adulthood and has difficulty recognizing that they share responsibility for their conflicts.

Borderline personality is a disorder which involves an individual having symptoms such as an unstable or fragile self-image, extreme and unpredictable mood changes, intense or chaotic relationships, manipulative and risky behaviors, extreme fear of being alone or abandoned, and episodic rage.   Those with disorders such as narcissistic and anti-social personality typically are unable to empathize with others.

Leaving Someone with a Personality Disorder

While every situation is different, if you are dealing with someone who has a personality disorder which is not being treated, once you initiate the divorce you can expect that the stress of the situation will exacerbate some of their symptoms.  If the individual has a borderline personality disorder for example, feelings of being abandoned by their spouse  can be extremely triggering and may cause them to act out.  This can include rage or manipulation.   Symptoms of other types of disorders may be destructive and include retaliation.

 

 

Maintain Boundaries

During a divorce there will be numerous conversations and exchanges between you and your former partner.  During each interaction, you will need to remain on your guard for manipulative or other dysfunctional behavior.  By setting and maintaining boundaries, you can help protect yourself and your case.   For example, your ex may ask you to come to their place to talk about the divorce with the true intent of trying to control or trick you.  Insist that all communication go through your attorney or that you speak with them about non-case issues with a witness present and in a public place.

Getting out of a marriage with a partner who is suffering from a personality disorder can be a long road and often the other party will do everything they can to create chaos and drag the case out.   By setting and keeping limits, you can help make the process easier.  You should also exercise self-care and attend to your own emotions during this difficult time.

Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive family law experience and understands the issues which can arise when a partner has a personality disorder.  Contact us today to schedule a consultation to take a “first look” at your situation.

 

Leaving a long-term marriage

Divorce is one of the most difficult and stressful experiences you can have during any phase of your life.  For those who have been married for decades, deciding how to divide assets, address retirement resources, and manage healthcare needs can be complicated issues.  Additionally, leaving someone you have shared  most of your life with can be overwhelming.

The Marital Residence

Wisconsin is a community property state which means that, outside of certain agreements and property ownership, all income and assets brought to and acquired during the marriage belong to the couple equally.  For those leaving a long-term marriage, this could mean having to sell their home and split the proceeds. When a couple has lived in and paid off a home in a community, the idea of selling the property and leaving what is familiar can be daunting.   Without adequate funds, one or both people may be priced out of their area and have to start over in an entirely new town.

Retirement Accounts

Married couples seldom plan for their retirements with divorce in mind.   When a couple has reached retirement age and has decided they want to go their separate ways they will have to examine their retirement funds and adjust their plans.  If the pair divides retirement and social security income, this could mean having half as many resources to live off of than each of them expected.  The result could be one or both people delaying retirement, returning to work, or having to seriously downsize.

Healthcare

Aging couples often have to consider healthcare issues. This is a time in life when it is critical to have the right healthcare resources and coverage in place.  If the couple has been planning by paying for long-term health care policies, they will have to determine how to continue covering the premium expenses.

 

Another aspect of leaving a long-term marriage is the inevitable emotions which come with ending such a significant relationship.   It is no small matter to leave your long-term partner and enter into a new sense of self.   Both during and after the divorce, it is critical to exercise self-care, take steps to process your emotions about these changes, and seek support.

Ending a long-term marriage can be a momentous change.  We understand the complications and issues which arise when leaving this kind of relationship.  Contact us today to schedule a consultation, and let us take a “first look” at your circumstances.

 

 

How can I safely divorce when there is domestic violence in my relationship?

Domestic violence is a rampant problem in our society which cuts through all cultural, racial, and socioeconomic lines.  When someone is being abused, it is often not obvious to even their closest friends.   The secrecy is compounded by the fact that the individual is often ashamed of what is happening and feels that he or she is to blame for the abuse.  When an abused spouse wants to leave their abusive marriage, there are significant safety concerns.

Safety Planning

A safety plan is a plan which an abused individual can create which includes practical ways to remain safe while in their relationship, when planning to leave, and after they have gone.  Safety planning encompasses dealing with the emotions of your situation, connecting with loved ones, and taking legal actions.

When a spouse abuses the other, it is likely that the abuser will keep close watch on their partner’s emails, texts, phone calls, and whereabouts.  The abuser may have installed spyware on computer and phone devices which allows them to access and read all of their partner’s communications.  If possible, discussions and research about leaving should be in person or on phones or computers and email accounts which the abuser cannot access.

Part of the abusive relationship involves isolating the victim from anyone whom the abuser believes would influence or interfere with their control over their partner.   This can be problematic as the abused person may not feel that they have a support network.  If there are loved ones whom you have lost contact with because of your partner, reconnect with them and ask for help.   Other  resources are national domestic abuse organizations such as the National Domestic Violence Hotline which are equipped to help you build your safety plan,  and  local groups who can assist you such as The Women’s Center and the Center for the Prevention of Family Violence in Waukesha, and Sojourner Family Peace Center and the Task Force on Family Violence in Milwaukee.  It is not hard to find local groups online.

Abusive partners frequently keep their victims financially dependent upon them by controlling all of the household money and credit.  Assess your financial situation, and determine what resources you have and if credit is available to you.  If you don’t have money or credit, determine if you can safely divert funds into a separate account for your support and establish a line of credit.

One the most dangerous times for abused spouse is when he or she leaves the relationship.  Abusers will often try to get to their victims by following them or accessing them through their children.  If you have left, be aware of your surroundings and avoid going to isolated locations alone.   If you have children, you will need to discuss safety measures with them and create procedures which will help protect them during and after this process.

If you are in immediate danger you should call the police and get out right away.   Violence is never acceptable, and you should not hesitate to take action to keep yourself and your children safe.

Attorney Karyn Youso understands the issues and safety issues which come with leaving an abusive relationship.  Call us today to set up a consultation so we can take a “first look” at your situation, talk about what steps you can take to remain safe.

Can I make my Spouse move out during divorce?

By the time you or your spouse has spoken the words “I want a divorce” you may have crossed a point of no return.  Knowing the marriage is over and living in the same home can be uncomfortable, and for some, too painful to handle.  You may also need your spouse to leave because of serious problems such as violence or intimidation.  If you are thinking about having your spouse move out during your divorce, here are some issues to consider:

If you want the other person to move out of your home, the reason will matter.  If you cannot agree, your only option will be to go the court and ask for a temporary order which allows you exclusive use of the marital home.   Being frustrated with the situation is not typically a valid basis for asking the court to make the other person leave.  However, if there has been violence, a restraining order can be sought to keep the violent person away from you, hour home, and if applicable, your children.  Additionally, the court will be concerned about the well-being of your children.  If they are experiencing severe emotional distress because of the dynamic within the home – such as excessive drinking or suicidal behavior –, the court may be inclined to order a parent to move out or at least refrain from certain behaviors in the—presence of the kids.

One important thing to consider is how you intend to pay for the home without your partner’s income.  If they have to move out and pay for an alternative place to live they may not have as much income to devote to the existing mortgage or rent.  If the two of you cannot afford separate residences, in the absence of violence or abuse, you both will probably have to learn to live with the situation until your assets are divided.  This may involve setting up house rules and a schedule of when you will use the home and care for the children without the other present.  This is sometimes called “the parent in charge” plan.

Whether the court will decide that your spouse needs to move out while the divorce is pending is dependent on your circumstances.  However, unless you or your children are at risk because of the other person, the court is unlikely to make them move out.  Ideally, you will be able to resolve your case quickly and cooperatively during the process so that you are able to move on.

Attorney and mediator Karyn Youso has experience helping clients evaluate their circumstances and so they can make informed choices.  Call us today to set up a consultation to have a “first look” at your options.

 

If I divorce will I lose my bond with my children?

When your marriage is just not working, and you have children, you can find yourself at a difficult crossroad.  If you stay, your kids could grow up in the same home with you but also watching you and your spouse in an unhappy and even conflictual relationship.  If you leave, you could end up seeing your kids less and be less involved in their daily lives.  In this situation you may fear that divorce will mean losing your connection and bond with your children.

Child Placement

Wisconsin law favors child placement or custody arrangements which allow both parents frequent contact with their children.  Every family is different, but generally, kids need stability and consistency to thrive.  What this looks like as far as a placement schedule can vary from family to family depending on the age of the kids and living arrangements of the parents post-divorce.  Many parents seek 50/50 placement (called substantially shared placement) in an effort to maximize their time with their children.  This could mean sharing the kids every few days, or from week to week.  These types of arrangements work best when there is amicability and flexibility, and can otherwise be hard on children when there is not.  Younger children may be better served in a primary placement situation, in which one parent has more time during the school year to minimize the back and forths, and the other parent gets more time in the summer to even out those lost days.  Again, flexibility is key, since all things child-related can vary from day to day.

Maintaining Connection

When you cannot be with your children, it can feel as if they are worlds away.  Kids grow up fast, and even the most minute life experiences can seem major in your eyes.  While having your scheduled time together cannot substitute for sharing everyday experiences, you can make being together meaningful.  Although children love their electronic devices, and this is a great way of staying in touch when you are apart, when they use them too much during visits you can miss out on valuable time together.  When you are with them, try to make your experience about being interactive with one another.  You could engage in activities such as going for a hike or playing a board game.  Another way to connect is by setting a rule of no electronics during meals.   By making an effort to connect, you can help strengthen your bond.

Time Apart

While you may not have a choice about being away from your kids, you can develop ways to remain in contact.  For instance, you could have regular face time, Skype, text, or calls with one another.  You could also send a subscription item to your child such as a book of the month which can serve as a reminder that you are thinking of them.  If they are not reading age, you could read to them over a video call.

Being There Whenever Possible

When your children have extracurricular events, school parties,ceremonies, or other activities, there may be numerous opportunities to see them even when it is not your placement time.  If your schedule allows, you could volunteer in the classroom or to coach his or her sports team.   Being involved will not only give you more time with your child but shows them that you are interested in their lives and committed to being there for important moments.  This will make a huge difference in the eyes of your child.

Adjusting to life with your children on a schedule is not easy, but there are ways you can support your relationship and maintain your bond with one another.  Attorney and mediator Karyn Youso has extensive experience helping clients evaluate their placement schedules and plan for the future.  Contact us today to take a “first look” at your situation.

Divorce when one partner is financially controlling

In some marriages, it works better when one partner  handles paying bills and keeping up with household finances.  While this may be a product of delegating money-related matters to the person who prefers to be responsible for them, it could also be that one partner is financially controlling.  When you decide to divorce from a financially-controlling partner, there can be complications.

Assess the Situation

There is a difference between believing your spouse is critical about how you spend money versus their keeping you in the dark when it comes to your marital finances.  You need to figure out how much you know about your finances and where you are missing information.  For example, are you a joint account holder on your savings and checking accounts?  If not, do you have access to the account statements?  Are you aware of the status of your partner’s retirement and investment funds?  Gather the information you have and determine if there are other pieces of data you require to get the full picture of your finances.

Credit and Accounts

When a partner is financially controlling, they may also keep the other person from holding accounts or building their own credit. It will be important to have the ability to use your personal credit after you are no longer married.   If you do not have a credit card or banking account consider opening both to start creating your own credit profile. By getting started now, you can increase the likelihood that you can have the credit and funds you need to start over after the divorce.

Take an In-Depth Look

If you are in a relationship in which your partner has all of the financial power, consider why.  It may be that you married young and fell into the same patterns that your parents modeled.  However, the fact that you are in this dynamic may be indicative of a deeper problem with your self-esteem or relationship patterns.  By taking time to consider the reasons why you may have ended up in this situation, you can help avoid replicating similar dysfunction in other areas of your life in the future.

Seek Help

If you feel you are at a disadvantage when it comes to knowing about your finances, it would be best if you met with an experienced family law attorney who can help you look at your situation and determine what you need to do next. Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive experience assisting clients during divorce and can help you take a “first look” at your case understand your options. Please contact us to schedule a consultation.

 

I rely on my partner’s income but want a divorce: What are my options?

When you are financially dependent on your spouse and want to leave the marriage, you can feel powerless and trapped.   For many in this situation, staying in an unhappy marriage out of fear of the unknown may seem like the only option.  However, remaining in the wrong relationship for financial reasons can come with painful emotional consequences.

Differences in Income

There are several reasons why one spouse may depend on the other financially.  For instance, one partner may have stayed home to raise children while the other supported the family. Perhaps a spouse may not have been physically able to work.  In other cases, one person may have earned so much income that the couple decided to live on that . single income.  Maybe both people work, but one person significantly out earns the other.  When the marriage experiences problems, the spouse without lower or no income  may have a hard time conceiving of how he or she will make ends meet on his or her own. This is especially complicated in cases with children.

Evaluating Your Situation

The first step in evaluating your options is to develop a realistic budget and determine where you believe you could afford to live.  It is also critical that you have credit in your own name and potentially access to your marital assets such as bank and savings accounts.  A large part of determining what you will need comes from knowing what you and your partner already have.   Once you have a more precise picture of what you have to work with it will take time to develop a plan.  If you are truly “in the dark” about the family finances, a more drastic approach may have to be taken depending on whether or not your spouse is financially controlling.

The Law

Wisconsin is a community property state which means that in the absence of a prenuptial agreement, you and your partner own all of your marital assets equally.  This also means that you own all marital debts 50/50.  Even if one partner’s income paid for a home or instance, you each own half of the interest, including its equity.   Wisconsin courts also have the discretion to award spousal maintenance.  Spousal maintenance or alimony is an amount of income one spouse can be ordered to pay the other after divorce.  The court can order this support indefinitely or for a limited amount of time.  To make a decision, the court will look at factors such as the length of the marriage, the parties’ ages and health, and relative education and earning potential.   Depending on your circumstances, the property division may result in you having some funds to start your new life.  Additionally, if the court decides you should be paid maintenance, this amount should help you get on your feet.

The thought of leaving the financial security of your marriage can be intimidating.  However, staying with your partner indefinitely when you are no longer emotionally connected can lead to bitter resentment and a miserable existence at home.   Explore your options by meeting with an experienced family law attorney.  Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive experience helping clients evaluate their circumstances and understand the choices available to them.   Come in and let’s take a “first look” at your situation so you can figure out your next steps. Please call us today to set up a time to meet.

 

Neutral Professionals and Your Divorce

Going through divorce impacts almost every aspect of your life from your finances to your home, emotional health, and family.  When you have devoted your emotional energy, time, and resources to building a life with your partner, separating your worlds can be complicated.  Having experts involved during the process can help you identify issues and determine how to resolve them equitably.

When are Neutral Professionals Used?

Typically, neutral professionals can assist during divorce when the court orders their participation or the parties agree.  If the court appoints someone it is usually to clarify an issue.  For example, parents fighting over custody may be asked to submit to psychological evaluations which will be provided to the court to help it make decisions which are in the child’s best interest.   In a routine divorce, the couple may agree to accept a property valuation conducted by a third party appraiser and use their assessment for purposes of negotiation.

Neutral Professionals During Collaborative Divorce

One of the most valuable ways in which a neutral professional can help during divorce is through the Collaborative Divorce process.  This non-adversarial approach involves both parties agreeing to stay out of court, be cooperative, and to use a team approach with different professionals to help them understand their issues and find amicable ways to resolve them.  The couple may have an accountant who helps them value their assets or mental health specialists who can support them during the process.  There can also be appraisers for property issues and child advocates to assist with custody and placement decisions.  There is immense value in having a group of trusted professionals involved in your case as they can help shed light on issues and provide valuable insights for the parties.  Their expertise is a critical part of ensuring that each side’s needs are fully understood and met by the process.

Having the assistance of qualified professionals during your divorce can be helpful, but for the process to be effective, it is essential to have the right people involved.  If you are considering or are in a divorce, we can help you understand how a neutral professional may become part of your case.  Please contact us to schedule a consultation and a “first look” at your options.

My Spouse is Having an Affair: What are my Options?

Any type of deception during a marriage can create a crack in its foundation.  However, when the dishonesty is about an affair, the consequences can be devastating for the innocent spouse.  After experiencing the initial shock of learning your spouse is being unfaithful, you may be overwhelmed and confused about what options are available to you now.

Depending on your situation you may not be able to conceive of leaving the marriage.  After sharing a life with your spouse it can be hard to accept that everything you have meant to each other can suddenly end because of their infidelity. You may believe that the affair is a symptom of problems between you and that it is possible to repair your relationship.  However, you may also have no choice but to acknowledge that the marriage is over.

If you are headed for divorce, you may want to file on the basis that your spouse has been unfaithful.  While the affair may be the reason your marriage is ending, Wisconsin is a “no-fault” divorce state.  This means that blame is not a legal reason you can ask the court to allow you to divorce.  However, this does not mean your spouse’s infidelity will not matter during your divorce.

Although Wisconsin law does not require that parties file for divorce based on fault, when there has been an affair, this fact could impact how the couple’s assets and debts are divided.  For example, if your spouse used marital property to pay his or her extramarital partner’s living expenses or to buy lavish gifts for them, the court could consider this and decide to give you more property.  Additionally, although the court cannot directly consider infidelity when deciding to award spousal maintenance, it could be relevant if it appears the affair placed you at a financial disadvantage.

If you and your spouse have kids, the affair could also be considered in connection with child custody and placement.  This typically will be a factor if there is evidence that the unfaithful spouse has hurt your children through their behavior or that exposure to the unfaithful spouse and his or extramarital partner would be harmful to your children.

Discovering that your partner is unfaithful can be a devastating and painful experience which can leave you not knowing what to do next.  We understand what you are going through and can help.   Call us, and we can talk about your goals and help you take a “first look” at your situation and consider your options.

 

Ending a marriage with a narcissist

Divorce can bring out negative qualities in both people which they barely recognize.  However, sometimes a person’s dysfunctional behavior goes deeper than the divorce and may be rooted in their personality. When your partner is a narcissist, their inflated self-importance, fragile self-esteem, lack of empathy, and intense rage are probably some of the reasons you are thinking of leaving the relationship. While ending a marriage with a narcissist can be difficult, there are ways to minimize their destructive impact during the process.

What is a Narcissist

According to the Mayo Clinic, a narcissist is an individual who believes themselves to be more important than others, lacks empathy, needs an unusual amount of admiration and attention, and has troubled relationships.  A narcissist cannot accept even small criticisms, does not easily control their emotions, and is prone to demeaning others.  Psychology Today states that narcissistic people are frequently as being described as arrogant, self-centered, manipulative, and demanding.

Thinking About Leaving a Narcissist

Leaving a relationship with a narcissist is almost never a simple proposition. Because of their inability to assume responsibility and sense of entitlement and self-importance, a narcissist is likely to react extremely poorly to the news that their partner is saying goodbye.  You know better than anyone what your former partner is capable of and are in the best position to gauge how they may respond.

Preparing to File

If you are considering leaving a narcissist, you need to make it a priority to find an experienced divorce attorney who can help you prepare for what is to come.  Having counsel who understands the situation and the type of person you are dealing with means you will have the protection and guidance you need throughout the process.

Before filing for divorce, identify and get all of your financial documents in order and have a plan for where you can stay if you have to leave your home.  Another way to prepare is by making sure you have funds to support yourself and credit in your own name.  Otherwise, your ex could use your financial vulnerability to manipulate and punish you when you attempt to leave the relationship.

Filing for Divorce

Once you file for divorce, you can expect your ex to create conflict and do everything in their power to punish you for rejecting them.  You can also anticipate manipulative behavior.  For example, your ex may contact you through email and text under the guise of being concerned about you and cooperative while really intending to trick you into responding in a way which helps their case. Direct any substantive communication to your attorney and keep your contact to a bare minimum.

Leaving a marriage with a narcissist can be more traumatic than the marriage itself, but by taking the right steps, you can protect your interest and get out of an unhealthy relationship. Attorney Karyn Youso is highly experienced in helping clients during divorce and understands the issues which come with ending a marriage with someone who has narcissistic traits. Contact us for a consultation so we can take a “first look” at your case and figure out what needs to happen next.

 

 

Step-children and ending your relationship

Becoming a step-parent, especially to young children, can mean taking on an important role in their lives and having a special connection.  If your marriage to their parent ends in divorce, your future relationship with these children can be uncertain.

Legal Relationship

Step-parents do not have legal rights to their step-children which means they can’t ask for custody during divorce.  The only exception is when the step-parent has legally adopted their step-child.  Wisconsin law does, however, allow step-parents to petition for reasonable visitation with their step-children as long as it is in the child’s best interest.   When the step-parents can prove that they have a bond with the child and that the child would be harmed by losing contact with them, a court may be inclined to grant visitation.

Agreements with the Parent

Most divorces will end in a settlement between the parties.  Coming up with your own agreement means having the flexibility and freedom to include terms which a court would not put in its order.  When it comes to step-children, the parent and step-parent could include an agreement about visitation and even future step-parent support.  As long as the court is satisfied that these terms are in the children’s best interest, the parent and step-parent can agree to them.

The Step-parent Relationship

Transitioning into the role of former step-parent can be difficult for both you and your step-children.  While you were once a parent figure and shared a home, you now live somewhere else and may or may not have regular contact with the children.  If you are remaining in their lives, it is important to maintain boundaries when it comes to their parent.  For instance, you would not want to ask them questions about their parent’s new relationship.  Your connection with the children needs to be about you and them and not about keeping tabs on their mother or father.  If you do not expect to have ongoing contact, you and the other parent should work together to help the kids as they adjust to seeing you less.

Ideally, if you have a positive relationship with your step-children, their parent will see the importance of allowing them to continue to see you.  However, it may also be that the children and their parent need to move on with their lives without you.  By working with their parent, you can make decisions which support the children.

Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive family law experience and understands the impact that divorce can have on family relationships.  Contact us today to schedule a consultation to take a “first look” at your situation and go through your options.

Extended Family Relationships and Divorce

In many cases, being part of a family is not just about your spouse but will also involve their siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and even their grandparents.  Going through a divorce will mean ending your relationship with your partner, but when you have children, these extended family members can still be connected to you through your kids.

Extended family members can be part of precious childhood memories.  These people are often there for important moments and are central to celebrating family holidays.  When parents split up, the focus stays on their relationships with their children and not necessarily on other members of the family.  However, children need reassurance that their parent’s divorce does not have to mean losing their other family connections or traditions.

After the divorce, you may be saddened or even relieved that you will not be seeing certain members of your ex’s family often or at all.  However, part of making sure that your children do not lose their connection to cherished relatives is helping them attend significant events and maintain contact.   While your former partner will have the responsibility of making sure his or her family can see your kids, there will be times when you have child placement time and may need to coordinate visits.  You are your former partner could discuss family events and visits and come up with a plan for your children.

Another way in which you can help foster your children’s relationship with the family is to make sure you or your ex let them know about your child’s special events such as school activities, extracurricular performances, and awards ceremonies.  Making this gesture will help ensure that important people in your child’s life can be there for them.  It also shows your child that even though his or her parents are divorced, they have not lost their extended family.

Including extended family after divorce can be critical to your child’s well-being.  However, if your child’s extended family behaves negatively, you may have to take steps to limit their contact.  For instance, if your child’s aunt says unkind things about you to your child when they are at a family function, you may have to reconsider this relationship.  In that case, you may want to ask your former partner to address the issue with their relative and make clear that this kind of behavior is unacceptable.

For children, the need for family connection will not end when their parents’ divorce and in some cases, it may even make these relationships more important.  When you and your former partner can work together to make sure your children have the benefit of relationships with their extended family, you can help create a more secure and loving environment for them.

Ending a marriage and maintaining healthy and appropriate family relationships can be complex Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive experience as a family law attorney and can help you examine your situation and consider your next steps.  Contact us today to schedule a consultation, and let us take a “first look” at your circumstances.

Talking to Your Adult Children About Your Divorce

When parents divorce, they may no longer share a home or finances, but they will always have a mutual connection with their children.   This bond does not end when children become adults and even become parents themselves.  Although your kids may have grown up, talking to them about your decision to divorce can be difficult.

If Possible, Talk to them as a Group

Although it may feel that your divorce is only about you and your spouse, this is something which impacts the entire family.  If you can, it would be best to get everyone together to talk about what is going to happen.  If you have more than one child try to tell them at the same time so they can support one another. If your child does not have a sibling, you could talk to them with their partner or a close friend.  If everyone cannot be in the same room, consider using a video conferencing call to speak with the whole family.

Be Sensitive When Explaining

Some couples stay together until their children are grown and out of the house.  While you and your former partner may have remained together for the sake of your children, this may not be information you want to share with them.  For your kids, the divorce can cause them to question their concept of their family.  Learning that you continued in an unhappy relationship for their benefit may encourage feelings of guilt and uncertainty about the life you have shared together.

Don’t Put Them in the Middle

When your child becomes an adult, your relationship can grow closer as you can now relate to one another on a more equal level.  While you may have become used to confiding in and leaning on your adult child, you should not talk to them about the details of your divorce.  Doing so could make your child feel like they have to take your side against their other parent.  Although your son or daughter is now grown up, finding out that you and their other parent are divorcing can be devastating.  Your children are dealing with their own emotions and placing them in the middle of the conflict will only make things worse for them.  It would be best if you relied on your close friends for support, not your children.

Talk About Future Changes

No longer being married may mean no longer attending family events together.  However, there will probably be times when you and your ex are going to be in the same place as your children.   You could talk to your kids about how you intend to handle future occasions such as holidays or birthdays and assure them that you are committed to being cordial when you see them together.  This is also a good time to discuss any future financial changes such as selling or dividing family-owned property and assets or commitments to paying for college.

While the experience may be different for adults than minors, divorce is never easy for children at any age.  We have expertise in helping clients consider the implications of their divorce.  Call us today to set up a consultation so we can take a “first look” at your situation and talk about your family’s needs.

 

Is Divorce Mediation Right for You?

In Wisconsin, one way to resolve your divorce case is through mediation.  During mediation, each side and their attorney will meet with a trained mediator who will work with them to reach an agreement.  Although the parties will still be in an adversarial posture while working through the issues, the introduction of a mediator may help them find common ground.

Mediation Can Help with Perspective

Divorce mediation allows each side to collect and prepare their information for the mediator and discuss their respective positions with them.  When the parties have a great deal of conflict, meeting with a neutral party and being able to set out their positions can help them step back from the situation, see it from another perspective, and try to work towards a resolution.

Mediation can Stop Litigation and Save Money

Divorce can be an expensive and emotionally draining process especially when the parties have to go to court frequently.  Deciding to mediate your case allows you and your former partner to stop fighting and focus on ending your disputes.  Further, this process can be a good alternative for those who want to settle their divorce without the burden of going through expensive litigation. Once you have reached agreements on your issues, they can resolve your case quickly and get on with your life.

Mediation Allows for Creative Solutions

Divorce courts are typically not going to adapt their rulings to the specific preferences of the parties.  When you put decisions about your divorce in the court’s hands, you have no control over the results.  Mediation, on the other hand, provides the parties with the freedom to reach agreements which suit their circumstances. For instance, you and your ex may want to share your child’s placement according to your work travel schedule.  This kind of specificity may not be allowed or included in court-created placement order.   However, you could resolve to add this arrangement to your parenting plan during mediation.

Attorney Karyn Youso is an experienced family law attorney and mediator with the experience you need to help you benefit from your divorce mediation. Call us today to set up a consultation so we can talk about your family’s needs and have your “first look” at the situation.

 

Common Myths About Divorce

It is hard to know what to expect when you and the person you thought you were going to spend the rest of your life with become legal adversaries. For those unfamiliar with divorce, there can be misconceptions which can make an already difficult situation more complicated.  By knowing some of the common myths you can avoid unnecessary fear about the process.

Divorce Means Having a Trial

While the thought of divorce may conjure images of a bitter courtroom battle where you and your ex hurl insults and accusations at one another, this is seldom a reality.  In Wisconsin, like many other states, the majority of divorce cases are settled outside of court.

Divorce has to be About Intense Conflict

There are numerous ways divorcing parties can settle their issues.  While the two may disagree about what is reasonable and fair, there are processes such as mediation and collaborative divorce which are designed to reduce conflict and assist in helping each side agree without resorting to hostile tactics.

One Parent will rarely see the Children

Divorcing parents are usually concerned about having to share time with their children.  One common fear is that your former partner will become the primary custodian leaving you with occasional and infrequent contact with your kids.  While the law allows for joint and sole custody, it generally favors creating a placement (visitation) plan which allows children continuing and regular contact with both parents.

Children Can Choose the Parent They Will Live With

While some parents believe their child can choose where they will live, that is not true.  In a divorce with kids, Wisconsin family courts are focused on what is in the best interest of the child.  While a child’s preference is something the court will take into consideration, it is not a controlling factor.

One Party will have to pay Spousal Maintenance  

Spousal maintenance is when one spouse pays the other one money for on a temporary or, depending on the circumstances, permanent basis after divorce.  The parties can agree to this support, or the court may order it.  While spousal maintenance will not automatically be ordered, it may be appropriate.  Factors such as each person’s respective education and earning capacity, the length of the marriage, and sacrifices one spouse made to support the other’s career can all be part of the court’s evaluation of whether spousal maintenance is appropriate.

Misconceptions about divorce can create unrealistic expectations and add stress to an already tense situation.  We are knowledgeable about all aspects of Wisconsin divorce and can answer your questions and help you understand what to expect during the process.   Contact us today to have a “first look” at your situation.

 

 

The Emotionally Intelligent Divorce

The term “Emotional Intelligence” is commonly used in popular culture to describe the quality of being aware of your emotions and behaviors and those of others.  A person who has emotional intelligence tends to be able to manage their and other people’s emotional reactions even when under stress. One area where emotional intelligence can be highly beneficial is during divorce.

What is an Emotionally Intelligent Divorce?

Being a legal process which involves personal issues, divorce has the potential to be extremely conflict-oriented and volatile.  Parties can be ruthless in the pursuit of their goals at the expense of their honor and self-respect.  Unfortunately, when people are going through the emotional turmoil of an antagonistic divorce, previously unseen hostility can emerge.  An emotionally intelligent divorce is not about merciless competition and maliciousness.  Instead, its focus is on proceeding through the divorce with integrity and rational behavior.

How to Conduct an Emotionally Intelligent Divorce

When you are fighting with your ex during your divorce it may seem impossible to operate from an emotionally intelligent place.  However, you if can control your emotions and reactions, it will make the process easier on you.  There are also choices which will allow both sides to go through their divorce without contentious court hearings.  One option is to choose divorce mediation.  Divorce mediation enables the parties to work with a trained mediator to craft a divorce agreement which is tailored to their specific needs.  This process lends itself to being flexible and mindful of the other party’s perspective.  Another method which employs qualities of emotional intelligence is collaborative divorce.  This type of divorce focuses on helping the parties amicably and cooperatively resolve their differences with the help of a team of specialized professionals.

Ultimately, how you decide to go through a divorce is up to you.  While you may choose to be empathetic and considerate of the other party, there is no guarantee that he or she will do the same.  However, by managing your emotions and controlling your reactions to your former spouse’s behavior, you can minimize the negativity and conflict between you.

We understand the challenges of divorce and can help provide guidance in resolving your differences collaboratively and cooperatively.  Come in today, and we can take a “first look” at your divorce options.  Please contact us to schedule a consultation.

Creating a Healing Place After Divorce

After the divorce papers are signed, and everything becomes final, the case activity stops, and your post-divorce life begins.  Being focused on the process may have served as a distraction from painful emotions but, when everything ends, feelings such as loss, anger, and grief can be overwhelming. While it can be a long road, there are steps you can take to care for yourself and heal after your divorce.

Be Careful with Your Self Talk

What we tell ourselves can be become locked in our minds and self-perception.  After the divorce, you may believe that you have failed or that some of the unkind things your ex said about you are correct.  Thoughts like these can become repetitive negative self-talk where you continue to blame yourself.  If you are not careful, you can end up accepting these hurtful comments as true.  Try need to be conscious of your thoughts and make a real effort to avoid saying cruel things to yourself.

Keep the Right Company

Whom you choose to spend time with usually has a direct impact on your mood and sense of well-being.  You need to be around those who genuinely care about you and have your best interest at heart.  By keeping a positive support system, you will have people in your life who can offer insight, empathy, and kindness when you need it the most.

Take a Break from Social Media

While social media can be a great way to stay connected with loved ones, it can also be anxiety-provoking and painful for someone who has just gone through a divorce.   When looking around on these forums, it is easy to accidentally, or not so accidentally, to see or post something about your ex.  Looking at seemingly happy images, and information displayed there can make you feel bad about your situation.  Further, anyone can become depressed after looking at too much negative commentary online.  Disengaging from social media can provide you with a more peaceful environment while you get some distance from your ex and the divorce.

Be Patient with Yourself

While your divorce may have seemed to drag on forever, the end of the case does not mean you will be automatically over it.  Each divorce is as unique as those involved.  There is not a set formula for when you should be done having intense feelings or grieving what has been lost.  Take the time you need, move at your own pace, and don’t feel pressured to be a certain point in your healing.

Seek Professional Help if Needed

Understanding and processing your divorce can be challenging to do on your own. The supportive and balanced viewpoint of a trained therapist can be a tremendous help to someone who is trying to recover from this experience.  When you have a safe and therapeutic space, you can express your feelings without judgment and learn coping mechanisms which can help you move toward acceptance and healing.

We understand how difficult recovering from divorce can be and can help you connect with resources which will support your emotional health and healing.   Please call us today to set up a time to meet.

 

Surviving Divorce: Letting go of anger and embracing forgiveness (forgiving isn’t always forgetting but some research suggests it helps!)

Going through a divorce can feel as though you and your life have been turned inside out.  During this process, you will be in an adversarial posture which can bring out sides of your personality which you barely recognize.  You may also find that the partner you once expected to spend your life with has become your greatest enemy.  As the case proceeds, property, and debt will be divided, child placement and custody decisions will be reached, and then, after it’s over, you are left with a host of negative emotions which can seem to be fused to your very core.  While it may seem impossible, this is the time to move toward letting go of your anger and embracing forgiveness.

Research has found that carrying anger not only prevents us from moving past our pain but places a burden on our physical and psychological health. In time, these negative emotions can result in numerous medical issues and illnesses.  However, those who can attain forgiveness have been reported to reduced stress hormones, lower blood pressure, and stronger immune systems.  Aside from these health benefits, forgiveness offers you psychological relief as you move toward the path of understanding, resolution, and closure.

Forgiveness is a word that can have several different meanings.  For some, this term connotes denying painful emotions just to avoid conflict with the offending party.  For others, it is something we are expected to grant to another person even when they are undeserving and unworthy of in order our own quality as a human being.  Forgiveness does not mean ignoring past hurt, forgetting, overlooking unacceptable conduct, or denying or minimizing your own emotions. True forgiveness means finding a way to examine how we have been harmed, acknowledge what has occurred, and our own participation in it, and releasing the need for revenge.  The goal of the process is to stop perseverating on past wrongdoing so that we can be free of resentment. Achieving a state of forgiveness will not literally mean forgetting what has happened during your divorce, but it does mean being able to remember it without re-experiencing the trauma each time.

Often, the first place to begin being able to forgive is with ourselves.  Even when your former partner committed acts which you feel were the reason for the marriage ending, you may still be carrying feelings which have to do with your own conduct in the relationship. Forgiveness, like love, is not something which can be forced.  However, you can examine your feelings and decide if you are unknowingly holding resentment and anger which you have been directing at yourself.  Once you have done this work, it makes it more possible to move toward forgiving your former partner in a way which allows you to be free of your anger.

Ultimately, the person who is most harmed by your continuing anger following divorce is you.  While it is not a simple or uncomplicated task, committing to resolving and processing these emotions and reaching a space of forgiveness can mean having better physical health, lower stress, and an improved sense of well-being.  Your physical and emotional well-being are worth the effort it takes to let go of the past and embrace forgiveness.

Attorney Karyn Youso understands the pain and anger which can come during divorce and can help you assess your situation and find the assistance you need to move forward.  Please contact us to schedule a consultation.

 

 

Divorce After 50

The reasons that lead a couple to divorce are complicated and vary from situation to situation.  It may be that after a long-term marriage, the couple has grown apart, and the people they have become individually no longer work together in a relationship.  The marriage may also be ending because of something as devastating as infidelity, deception, or cruelty. Whatever the circumstance, divorce is an overwhelming experience which can leave even the most emotionally well-adjusted person feeling as if their entire world is out of control.  When a couple faces divorce in their senior years, they will have to endure this difficult experience while being mindful of the issues which pertain to their stage of life.

“Gray divorces,” or divorce by those over 50, have been on the rise over the last two decades.  For a person entering this time in their life and starting anew as a single person, there can be significant financial implications.  Depending on their circumstances, the individual may not have been the primary wage earner during the relationship, and may not have many options for supporting themselves.  Additionally, it may be that one partner managed the couple’s finances throughout the marriage and now the other partner will have to learn about their assets and debts during the divorce and how to manage their interests when it is complete.  Additionally, as each person prepares to leave the relationship, they will also have to examine their retirement plans and funding sources and how the divorce will impact them.  A couple who planned to retire together did not do so with the possibility of divorce in mind.  However, divorce will mean dividing assets which will most likely include retirement accounts and social security.  This means that the funds they planned to share will now be split to support them separately.  This loss of resources may result in one or both people having to continue working past their expected retirement age.  For divorcing couples with children in college, the parents may have to reconsider how much financial support they can continue to provide to them.

Another aspect of divorce after 50 is dealing with the emotions which come with the ending of a lengthy marriage.  Leaving a long-term relationship and entering into a new life and sense of self is a significant transition.   Additionally, one or both individuals may be leaving the family home after decades of living there.  This may mean leaving behind a space where they feel emotionally balanced and have created cherished memories and community connections.  In this situation, the individual may have intense feelings as the divorce is happening and after it is over.  It is vital to exercise self-care, take steps to process these feelings about changes, and seek emotional support during these times.

Our office has experience helping people going through divorce and understands the unique challenges presented when someone is contemplating divorce after 50.  Schedule a consultation today. Call us, and we can talk about your goals and help you understand your options. Let us take a “first look.”

 

Surviving Divorce: Recovering from the pain of an Affair

While any act of deception during a marriage will feel like a violation, discovering that your spouse is having an affair can create devastation which leaves a wake of betrayal, anger, and sadness that permeates every aspect of your life.   When the infidelity leads to divorce, you are left to manage the destruction of your married life while feeling emotionally depleted and raw. After this traumatic experience, forgiving your ex for this injury can seem impossible.  However, this harm can create prolonged bitterness, resentment, diminished self-confidence and mistrust which you will not be able to become free of without taking definitive action.  Fortunately, moving towards recovery from the pain of the affair after divorce is possible.

Your path to healing after infidelity ends your marriage will depend on what you and the unfaithful partner are willing to contribute.  If you are seeking to reach a place of forgiveness, both parties must be willing to be open and honest with one another about the conditions leading to the affair and their part of what has happened.  This process requires just as much from the unfaithful partner as it does from you. Forgiveness does not mean pretending to forgive the other person as a means to avoid conflict, nor does it mean refusing to accept responsibility. This is a time to be truthful about your pain and receptive to what your former partner can give.  When your ex can offer truthfulness, give of themselves, and a meaningful apology, and you can be open to understanding all contributing factors, both parties may be able to work towards a state of authentic forgiveness and resolution.

While the forgiveness process can offer both sides the opportunity to begin healing, it is often a difficult and unrealistic course following the trauma of divorce involving infidelity.  This can be especially true when the unfaithful partner is now in a relationship with the person they had the affair with and does not appear to be apologetic for their choices. One of the hardest things to overcome is wanting the offending party to be remorseful for their actions when they either are not sorry, incapable of seeing things from your point of view, or not available.  After this betrayal, you may closely identify as the victim in the situation and therefore feel entitled to but unable to move forward without your unfaithful partner’s apology. However, the offending partner has not experienced the same trauma as the hurt partner and may feel justified in their behavior.  In this situation, seeking remorse from someone who, for their own reasons, is unable or unwilling to provide it is an exercise in futility which can result in you falling deeper into resentment. When you are in this situation, you have reached an impasse where you have the choice of learning to live with your pain or taking steps to achieve acceptance.  Unlike forgiveness, acceptance is not a process which involves the unfaithful partner’s apology or participation but is instead a place which you must reach within yourself.   It can feel unfair that after having been grievously injured, you now have to take on the burden of completing this process alone.  However, dealing with and examining your experience therapeutically and constructively can allow you to better understand yourself and what has occurred, process your emotions in a safe environment, and ascend to a place of peace.

When a marriage ends in divorce following an affair, the injured partner will face many challenges in working through their pain.  The paths to resolving these feelings through authentic forgiveness or finding acceptance can offer both healing and resolution.  Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive experience helping clients through divorce after infidelity and can provide guidance and support as you determine what you need.  Call today to set your appointment to talk about your situation and how we may be of assistance during this challenging time. Contact us today for a consultation.

 

Self-Care and Divorce

Divorce can bring out sides of your personality which you barely recognize.  It can also cause you to enter a near constant state of anger, sadness, anxiety, and defensiveness which can take its toll on even the most emotionally balanced person.  While divorce can be punishing, there are measures you can take which will you help you protect yourself and manage your emotions.

During divorce, you will learn more about the people in your life and the support they are willing to provide in a time of crisis.  This is the time to take stock of friends and loved ones and reach out to them.  It may be that you have not sought out your support network due to being private or embarrassed.  While keeping personal issues to yourself is understandable, you will need to tell friends about the divorce eventually, and it is better to bring them in to support you during the process.  Sometimes a kind word during a painful moment will help you make it to the next one.

Showing care for your body is one of the most loving things you can do for yourself. You may have a hard time gathering the energy to be physically active right now.   However, engaging in exercise, whether it is walking, aerobics, running, or swimming, causes mood-improving chemicals to be released into the brain.  The effect is a natural way to manage stress and a more positive mood.    Additionally, being conscious of the foods you are taking in and making the decision to eat a well-balanced, healthy diet, will help you ensure you are feeling your best and showing care for yourself.  Further, without adequate sleep are we think less clearly, our immune systems weakened, and it becomes increasingly difficult to keep perspective.  During divorce, increased stress levels can make rest harder to obtain or lead to sleeping at the wrong times of the day.  When ending your day, take time to wind down without electronics or caffeine. Develop a relaxation practice where you do something calming such as yoga stretches, reading or deep breathing exercises.  Although it can be tempting during times of stress to neglect your physical health, this is when you need it the most.

When a marriage ends in divorce, it is common for people to blame or be hard on themselves. In some ways, our culture seems to be geared towards harsh self-criticism which results in our becoming our own worst enemy. Whatever happened, this is not a time to be unkind to yourself.  While it is normal to feel anger, grief, and pain, it is imperative that you address these emotions without being self-destructive.  It is healthy to express your feelings about the divorce, but it is not healthy to punish yourself.  People make mistakes.  What is important is that we learn from them, and move on.

Divorce can be one of the most stressful times in your life.  While dealing with the issues that come with divorce, it is essential to be patient and kind towards yourself.  We understand and can direct you to the right resources as you go through this process.  Contact us today to schedule a consultation.  Let us take a ‘first look.”

Creating a Workable Parenting Agreement

Communication and cooperation between parents are essential to effective parenting.  When everyone lives in the same home, parents often regularly relay information and coordinate responses to issues concerning his or her children.  After a divorce, parents have to adjust to communicating and parenting from separate residences.   Fortunately, there are ways to move past the negative emotions connected to divorce and engender a positive co-parenting relationship through your parenting agreement.

Establish Ground Rules

After your divorce, you and your former spouse will be required to observe the terms of the parenting plan.  This plan will have set rules regarding decision-making, who will have time with the child according to a specific schedule, and other matters.  While having these terms memorialize in a tangible document is an excellent way to resolve ambiguities and understand how issues will be decided, the plan cannot create a cooperative atmosphere without assistance from you and your former partner.  Taking time to develop concrete rules for how you will communicate with one another and maintain a functional and collaborative atmosphere for your children will benefit everyone.

Choose a Collaborative Divorce Model

The way in which you choose to manage your divorce will affect your children today and in the future.  When parents opt to divorce using a non-adversarial model which allows the parties to be cooperative, the process can be less stressful for both parents and children.  A Collaborative divorce is a process in which the parties can work together amicably with the assistance of trained professionals to find solutions in divorce which benefit everyone while staying out of court.  When you choose to divorce using a Collaborative approach, it sets the tone for a future co-parenting relationship and a parenting plan which is based on cooperation rather than conflict.

Show Respect for One Another

While it may seem that being respectful is a basic co-parenting premise, parents sometimes struggle to remain civil with one another when it comes to parenting issues.  Divorce is an intensely emotional process which impacts almost every aspect of a person’s life.  After it is over, strong emotions will still be present and may cause parents to have justifiable animosity towards one another.  These feelings will not change the fact that they are responsible for parenting their children together.  Remember, children are ever-watchful of their parents’ conduct towards each other and can interpret negative behavior between parents as being their fault.  It is incumbent upon the parents to find a way to set these feelings aside for the good of their children and future relationship with each other.  By showing mutual respect while implementing your parenting plan terms, you both will provide reassurance to your children and build a more positive co-parenting dynamic.

Utilize Family-Centered Resources

It is emotionally jarring to go from being a unified family to living separate lives.  As such, it can be difficult to create a dynamic which supports everyone’s well-being and fosters positive co-parenting.  The family may benefit from going through counseling together during this transition to your plan terms.  There are also support groups for divorced parents and children of divorced parents which could assist in providing support during this time.  Emotional healing is necessary for everyone after divorce.  By using family-centered therapeutic resources, the family can work towards achieving a positive relationship with one another as they implement their parenting plan.

Positive co-parenting begins with creating a parenting plan which is mindful of the needs of the children and parents.  We have knowledge and experience is helping families collaboratively develop plans which support the parent-child relationship and effective co-parenting.  We are here to take a “first look” to help you figure out where to start.  Please, contact us to schedule a consultation.

Signs Your Child May Need a Therapist

As much as a parent tries to insulate their child during a divorce, they cannot keep them from experiencing some of the negative emotions which occur when a family goes through this drastic change. When there is a conflict between a child’s parents, they often experience stress and confusion about where to go for comfort and support.  With this support, the child can obtain assistance in managing their emotions and developing positive coping mechanisms. In this circumstance, a child therapist may be helpful in assisting your child in processing their emotions and adjusting to their new situation.   Here are some signs that your child may need a therapist:

Children, especially those who are young, sometimes experience insecurity when being away from a parent. When parents are divorcing their anxiety and need for stability may increase in response to the changes in their home environment and family dynamic. If a child is having an unusually hard time separating from their parent and this does not improve over a significant period of time, they may need the support of a therapist.

Another indication that your child may be struggling is when they have a noticeable change in their personality traits which does not shift after a significant period of time.  For instance, if your child is ordinarily excited about an extracurricular activity and spending time with friends but suddenly refuses to attend events or socialize, they may be having a difficult time.  If the change in behavior does not improve over a prolonged period connecting them with a counselor may offer them the tools they need to manage their emotions.

Younger children who are unable to verbalize their emotions entirely may have tantrums or outbursts when they become frustrated.  However, when the child cannot be soothed after an unusually long fit, there may be something wrong.  If this behavior continues, the child may be showing signs that he or she is in crisis and in need of therapeutic intervention.  Another sign that a small child needs support is when they emotionally regress to an earlier stage of development.  For example, a child who has been using the restroom independently and without accidents may begin wetting their bed, or an older child may start up an old thumb sucking habit.  These behaviors may only be a temporary response to the situation but, if they continue, your child may benefit from talking with someone.

Unfortunately, there are times when children become self-abusive as a means of coping with their negative emotions.  The child may engage in harmful acts such as cutting themselves or otherwise hurting their bodies.  They may also begin making comments about their own feelings of low self-worth or even not wanting to live.  Children can also become physically aggressive and violent toward others in response to their feelings.  If your child is exhibiting any of these signs, it is critical that you procure mental health assistance for them as soon as possible.

When children are struggling with their emotions, it is vital that they have the support they require. We understand the toll divorce can take on families and are here to help. Call us today to set up a consultation so we can talk about your family’s needs.  Let us take a “first look,” and set you on the right path.

Divorce and Mental Health

When an individual has a psychiatric condition and is not able to consistently manage their symptoms, the marital relationship can become strained.   Sometimes, the stress created by this circumstance can prove to be too much for the marriage to survive.  When mental health issues are part of a divorce, there can be added considerations.

For many, divorce is one of the most stressful experiences they will have in their life.  Further, this process can evoke feelings of sadness, anger, grief, and anxiety.   An individual who has a serious mental health condition may experience increased symptoms in times of intense negative emotions such as those which arise in a divorce.  Therefore, a spouse could become symptomatic when faced with the painful feelings which come during the ending of their marriage.  Depending on the individual’s condition and the degree of conflict between the parties, the person could become unreasonable in their demands and irrational.  When the couple is unable to communicate effectively, it can make it impossible to engage in productive or meaningful negotiations.  If the situations does not change, it may be appropriate to take the case before the court.

In Wisconsin, as in most other states, the court must make decisions regarding custody and child placement which are in the best interest of the child.  This evaluation is conducted through the court’s examination of both parents and their ability to provide the child with a safe environment.  If a parent has a mental illness but has demonstrated stability and safe behavior around their child, a court may be inclined to order that the parent have the same custodial and placement rights as the other parent.  However, if the parent has a known history of violent, unsafe, or abusive conduct due to their mental illness symptoms or otherwise, a court may determine that limited contact and decision-making is in the child’s best interest.

Mental health issues and divorce can be complex.  Attorney Karyn Youso has experience assisting clients through divorce and finding the right resources and solutions when mental health issues are present.  Contact us today to schedule a consultation, and let us take a “first look.”

Co-parenting and the Hostile Ex

After parents divorce, ideally they will be able to get past their negative feelings towards one another and focus on caring for their children.  Unfortunately, many parents struggle with getting along with each another and can find themselves at odds over even minor decisions.   This problem can be exacerbated when one partner is overtly antagonistic with the other.  Fortunately, even when your ex is hostile, there are ways in which you can help reduce conflict in the co-parenting relationship.

Keep Your Children Away from the Conflict

Although you cannot control how your former partner chooses to behave, you can take action to keep your children from being exposed to their negativity when they are with you.  By not speaking ill of the other parent or placing your children in the position of having to take sides, you can create a secure and safe environment for them.  However, if your ex is making comments which are harmful to your children either in or outside of your presence, you may need to discuss their conduct with counsel.

Find Ways to Communicate

Although you and your former partner may not like one another when you have shared custody and placement of children, you are going to have to communicate with one another.   If one parent is unable to appropriately and respectfully communicate with the other, it may be necessary to use a third-party communication service to facilitate conversations.  Using this kind of tool allows all discussions to be completed through a separate server in a neutral environment.  Using this resource may cause the hostile parent to be more thoughtful and careful in the use of their words and provide a safe place for the other parent to receive and give necessary information.

Set Limits and Keep them in Place

When one party is aggressive with the other, this behavior could be part of an old and ongoing pattern in their relationship.  Perhaps the hostile parent is accustomed to being forceful with their ex to get their way.   The other parent is going to have to set clear and distinct boundaries with their former partner and maintain them.  Otherwise, the hostile partner will get the impression that their behavior does not have consequences.  By being assertive and consistent, the non-hostile parent may build a healthier dynamic to help put a stop to unacceptable conduct.

Consider Family Therapy

Family therapy can be a vital resource to both parents and children following a divorce.  Although the parents are no longer married, seeing a family counselor can be an effective means of identifying the source of the hostility in the coparenting relationship.  This process may also help the hostile parent see the impact of their behavior on his or her children.   If the aggressive parent is unwilling to see someone, it may help you to talk with a counselor about your situation and identify healthy coping mechanisms.

Hostility in the co-parenting relationship can be difficult.   Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive experience as a family law attorney and can help you examine your situation and consider your next steps.  Contact us today to schedule a consultation, and let us take a “first look.”

 

 

 

Protecting Your Children During and After Divorce

A parent going through a divorce may face not only the grief of their marriage ending and the stress of dividing property and debts but also the worry of safeguarding their children during the process.  Although it may not be possible to entirely shield your children from the emotional fallout of divorce, there are steps you can take to minimize the impact it will have on them.

You and Your Former Partner

To reduce the stress divorce can place on the children it is vital to take action to limit conflict between you and your former partner.  An important place to begin is by agreeing not to disparage the other parent in the presence of the children. This includes making comments about one another to friends or family when the children are within earshot.  Even while your children may seem to be preoccupied or otherwise engaged, they are usually listening to what you are saying.  When children hear negative comments about their parents, they can internalize the criticism. Further, although you are no longer married your children are depending on you both to be respectful to one another and provide reassurance that you love them and that they are not the reason for your marriage ending.  When you both are cooperative and courteous, you can provide the support and the sense of stability they need.

Be Prepared for Reactions

When parents divorce, family dynamics and their children’s perceptions of themselves and the family will change significantly.  Like their parents, children are going to have to adjust to living under extremely different conditions.  Children may respond to these changes in a variety of ways.  For example, a younger child may be confused and stressed by the changes to their life and routine and may respond by having behavioral issues.  Older children may have a cognitive awareness of what is happening but may still feel they are to blame for the situation.  It is important to be watchful for signs of conflict and anxiety and to be ready to talk with your children or get them appropriate support to assist them as they work through their emotions.

Consider a Non-Adversarial Process

How you choose to conduct your divorce will have a significant impact on your children both during the divorce and into the future.  Electing to use a non-adversarial divorce process is often the least stressful for children and parents as it is rooted in cooperation between the parties.  For example, using divorce mediation to reach agreement in a case allows the parties to avoid antagonistic court hearings and resolve their differences in a manner which is suited to the needs of the individuals involved.   Those who decide to proceed through a Collaborative Divorce are committing to being open and cooperative as they try to reach a peaceful resolution with the support of trained professionals outside the litigation process.  This process allows the parties to reach amicable solutions that consider the well-being of everyone in the family.  By choosing to divorce cooperatively, you can reduce interpersonal conflict and make decisions for the good of your entire family.

Everyone in the family including the children will be affected by the changes which come with ending a marriage.  However, there are ways to protect your children during and after divorce.  We have experience helping families through this process and can provide guidance and support for you during this time.  We are here to help.   Please contact us to schedule a consultation.

 

 

When Sole Custody May be Necessary

Ideally, divorced parents will be able to share their parenting time and decision-making concerning their children cooperatively.  While parents being able to work together constructively is a positive goal, there are situations when it is better that one parent has primary placement and authority.  When a parent has sole custody and placement, the other will not have the power to determine visitation or make important parenting decisions.  Here are some important facts to know about sole custody.

Custody and Placement

Sole custody means that one parent has the exclusive right to make decisions regarding their child about educational issues, medical treatment, and psychological care.  Having physical placement refers to when your child resides with you, and you make those day to day life decisions.

Sole Custody and Placement

 Wisconsin law favors parenting plans which allow parents frequent and ongoing contact with their children and shared decision-making.  Joint custody is actually presumed to be in a child’s best interest in Wisconsin.  However, an unfortunate truth is that are some parents who are or have the potential to be a danger to their children.  The reasons can range from obvious threats such as a history of spousal battery or child neglect or abuse to issues with drug/alcohol addiction or serious unresolved mental health issues.  When a parent has been violent, the court is going to be extremely cautious when it comes to allowing them to make decisions for or have unsupervised contact with their child, or requiring the non-violent spouse to have to work with them on decision-making.  The result could be a court order which names one parent as primary placement custodian and with the power to make all major decisions.  Depending on the situation, the other parent’s visits may even have to be monitored by an approved third party, or not even be permitted at all.

A parent’s struggle with addiction may also be a basis for sole custody and placement.  This is because substance dependence can impair a parent’s judgment and ability to provide safety for their child. While the source of the addiction may be an illegal drug, in many instances the abused substance is alcohol or a prescription drug.  A parent’s recent alcohol or drug abuse could be so serious as to limit or preclude their custody or placement.

Another basis for sole custody and placement may be a parent’s mental health. While a parent’s psychological or psychiatric diagnosis is not a reason in and of itself to grant the other parent exclusive authority or physical placement, when the affected parent’s symptoms impact their parenting, sole custody may be appropriate.  For example, a parent may have a mental illness which requires medication management due to their symptoms of extreme and volatile behaviors which could endanger themselves or others. If the parent has a history of non-compliance with their medication regimen and displays ongoing symptoms, sole custody may be warranted.

Cooperative and collaborative parenting and joint custody are usually the best results for families after divorce.  But when children may be exposed to danger by a parent’s conduct, it is critical that their legal and physical placement be arranged in a manner which is in their best interests.

Our office helps clients examine custody matters and finds ways to work toward custody agreements which protect children and support their well-being.  We understand and can help. Please call us today to set up a time to meet.

 

Grandparent Visitation

A child’s relationship with their grandparent can be one of the most cherished connections in their life.  Ideally, grandparents will be a vital part of their grandchildren’s lives while serving as a support to their parents. Unfortunately, changes in the family can sometimes mean that grandparents will no longer be able to experience visits with their grandchild as before.  When a family goes through divorce, separation, or death, grandparents may find themselves being denied access to their grandchildren.  However, Wisconsin grandparents do have legal remedies which may help them see their grandchildren.

Wisconsin Law on Grandparent Visitation

Wisconsin, like many other states, is protective of parents’ rights to deny others access to their children.  However, Wisconsin law permits grandparents, great-grandparents, and certain other individuals to ask the family court to allow them to have visitation with a child.  Grandparents may be awarded “reasonable visitation rights” with their grandchild provided the parents have notice of a hearing on the matter and the grandparents demonstrate that:

  • The child’s parents are not married, are divorced or separated, or one parent had died.
  • If the grandparent filing the petition is the paternal grandparent, paternity has been determined, meaning that the father of the child has been legally established.
  • The child has not been adopted
  • The grandparent has maintained a relationship with the child or has attempted to maintain a relationship with the child but has been prevented from doing so by at least one of the parents.
  • The grandparent is not likely to act in a manner that is contrary to decisions that are made by a parent, related to the child’s physical, emotional, educational or spiritual welfare.
  • The visitation is in the best interest of the child.

Typically, the court will appoint a Guardian ad Litem to the case in order to act in the best interest of the child. The Guardian ad Litem will talk with the grandparents, the parents, and if of a suitable age, the child, to gather information and form an option about whether visitation is in the child’s best interest.  If the grandparent petitioning for visitation has met the requisite criteria and the Guardian ad Litem recommends visits, the court may grant them visitation despite the parents’ opposition.

The court has the discretion to determine what constitutes “reasonable visitation,” but when grandparents and children have a close relationship which has been disrupted due to divorce, separation or death, it is probable that the court will order that consistent contact take place.

The disruption of the grandchild-grandparent relationship can be devastating to both parties.  When their connection is interrupted during a divorce, it can undermine the child’s sense of stability and support during a confusing and frightening time.  However, there can be situations which warrant keeping grandparents away from grandchildren to safeguard their well-being.

Deciding how to manage family relationships during a divorce can be challenging.  We have experience and understand the issues and laws surrounding grandparent access and can help you determine your next steps.  Please contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

 

 

Divorce and Pets

For many of us, our pets are not only faithful companions but are also considered part of the family.  They share our lives and are often cherished and loved by everyone in the household.  Therefore, it may not come as a surprise that, in some cases, when a couple with pets is going through a divorce, the issue of pet ownership can be as contested as child custody. Here are some considerations regarding divorce and pets:

Wisconsin Law and Pets

While pet custody and visitation may be important to the parties to a divorce, Wisconsin law does not provide obvious guidance on this issue.  Under the law, pets are viewed as property just as any other possession obtained during a marriage.  As Wisconsin is a community property state, any property acquired during the marriage, including pets, belongs to each person in equivalent shares.  Because pet ownership is not something which can be literally divided, the matter of who will retain the pet will depend on what the court deems to be equitable.   This means that to decide who should be awarded a pet in the divorce, the court will consider how other property is being divided as well as other factors in an effort to make a fair determination.

What Kinds of Evidence May the Court Consider?

While Wisconsin law does not provide direction regarding pet custody, the courts can consider both sides’ arguments for being awarded marital property.  If this issue has to be decided by a court, you will want to present evidence that the animal is going to be better off in your care.  For instance, you may want to establish that you have been the pet’s primary caretaker.  The court could also examine facts such as who has taken the animal for veterinary care if the pet is going to be parted from children, and the ability of each party to care for the animal.

Reaching an Agreement

In many cases, the parties opt to develop their own pet ownership agreements rather than leaving the matter to the court.  This allows the former couple to create an arrangement which fits their circumstances. For instance, the couple could decide that the pet will reside at the children’s primary placement residence or that they are going to share possession and be jointly responsible for the animal’s care, feeding, and other expenses.  Every situation is unique, but by being collaborative, the parties can develop a workable resolution concerning their pets which is mutually beneficial.

Deciding who will keep the family pets and how to create a functional agreement regarding future contact can be an important issue in a divorce.  We understand the importance of maintaining a connection with your pets and can help you explore potential solutions.   If you have questions concerning pet ownership and divorce, we are here help.   Call us and we can talk about your goals and help you understand your options.

 

Who Gets the Engagement Ring?

When two people decide to get married, it can be an exciting time filled with plans for the future.  Traditionally, the celebrations begin after one person proposes marriage and presents their future fiancé with an engagement ring.  However, as the two move towards their wedding day, they may realize they are not an ideal match.  While the former couple can go their separate ways without having to assume the burden and expense of a divorce, the question of who gets to keep the engagement ring may remain.

Wisconsin, like many other states, follows the “conditional gift rule”.  In this context, a conditional gift means that the ring is considered a gift which is predicated upon the recipient marrying the giver.  The effect of this rule is that true ownership of the ring by the recipient does not take place until the marriage occurs. The rule remains the same despite a lengthy engagement or a messy break-up.  However, there may be exceptions in limited circumstances.

One exception to the conditional gift rule which could be applied by Wisconsin courts involves a scenario where it is unclear whether the ring was given as a condition of marriage or was an ordinary gift.  In such an instance, if the recipient can show that the ring was given as a gift rather than being conditioned upon marriage, they may be able to keep the property.   This will most likely involve the recipient providing corroborating evidence of the fact that the ring was indeed a mere present.  For example, if the ring was presented at the recipient’s birthday party without mention of engagement, the recipient may be able to establish the ring was a birthday gift rather than for the condition of marriage.

Another possible exception is if the recipient tried to give back the ring, the giver refused to accept it, and then came back later demanding the ring’s return.  If the giver refuses the ring and then waits several months or years to ask for it again, this could create a basis for the recipient to claim that they believed the ring to be a gift after the giver refused to take it back.

One way to avoid having a dispute over an engagement ring is to enter into a legally binding agreement regarding its ownership.  Although it may not seem the most romantic gesture following an engagement, solidifying possession of this and other property before marriage can help both parties articulate their expectations and enter into their union feeling that their respective interests are protected.

While some engagements end before marriage, separation does not always easily decide who keeps certain items.  When issues such as this arise, it can be difficult to traverse the legal process and accurately convey the terms related to prior agreements and gifts.  Our office understands the various matters which can come up when a relationship ends before marriage and can help.  Contact us today for a consultation.

Child Support and Special Needs Children

Parents of children with special needs have the dual responsibilities of caring for their child’s basic requirements and providing for their specialized conditions.  Often, looking after their children means becoming an expert on the available medical care, education, and therapeutic services as well as spending countless hours advocating for their well-being.  When families in this situation divorce, their child’s future support will be a critical issue.

Child Support

Wisconsin law allows courts to consider numerous elements in calculating child support.  The court’s central focus is making sure that the child’s best interest is served by having the resources they require for their care and needs. When deciding the appropriate support amount for a child with special needs, the court could set a support total which is beyond the usual calculation.  The law provides that upon the request of a party, the court may consider deviating from the standard child support percentage. If, after considering several factors, the court finds that use of the standard percentage is unfair to the child or to any of the parties, it may order a different amount.  Some of the issues which the court may examine include the child’s physical, mental, and emotional health needs; their educational requirements; what the child’s standard of living would have been if the parents not divorced; and the desirability of the custodian remaining in the home to parent on a full-time basis.

Age of Majority

Wisconsin law requires that an obligated parent pay court-ordered child support for their child until they turn 18 or 19 if the child is still working on completing high school or its equivalent.  The law does not currently require a parent to pay child support beyond the age of majority even when the child will most assuredly need financial support into adulthood.   However, when a child has a significant physical or mental disability which is anticipated to prevent them from being self-sustaining, parents can enter into a voluntary support agreement which extends beyond the statutory limit.

Spousal Maintenance

The divorce court has the discretion to award a party spousal maintenance (alimony).   One issue the court can examine is whether a parent will need to remain at home full-time to provide for their children’s custodial responsibilities.  When a custodial parent is devoted to their child’s special needs, the court could take this into consideration and award a higher or longer support amount to the parent so that they will be better equipped to provide for their child’s requirements.

Going through a divorce while trying to anticipate and provide for your child’s special needs can be overwhelming.  Ideally, you and your former partner will both be able to put your differences aside and come to agreements which support your child’s well-being and long-term care needs.   A good place to begin is by consulting with a knowledgeable family law attorney who is well-prepared to help you examine the situation thoroughly and work towards finding the right solutions.

Attorney and mediator Karyn Youso has the knowledge and experience you need to help you understand your options, plan for your child’s future, and make informed choices for your family.  If you need advice concerning child support and how to prepare for your child’s need please contact us today.

How An Extra-Marital Affair Figures Into Your Divorce Case

When a couple’s relationship ends due to an affair, there are usually painful feelings and animosity throughout their divorce.  When the case starts, the injured spouse may seek to file for divorce on the basis that their former partner has been unfaithful.   Although adultery is not a ground for divorce in Wisconsin, this does not mean that infidelity will not be a factor in the case.

Wisconsin is a “No-Fault” State

Wisconsin is a “no-fault” divorce state, which means that either spouse may file for divorce without stating a specific reason such as adultery.  The only requirement is that the party who files must claim that the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”  If the court finds that the marriage is permanently damaged and cannot be repaired, the divorce will be granted.  However, while a partner’s infidelity is not a legal ground for divorce, it can be a significant element in other aspects of the case.

Property Division

While it is true that Wisconsin does not consider culpability a legal reason for divorce, this does not mean that adulterous conduct is irrelevant.  The court is responsible for examining each person’s behavior as it decides how to fairly and equitably divide the parties’ assets and liabilities.  The court’s assessment can take a partner’s infidelity into consideration under certain circumstances.  For instance, if the unfaithful spouse used marital funds to finance their extramarital partner’s living expenses or purchase gifts for them, the court can consider this evidence when deciding how to divide assets equitably.  Depending on the situation, the injured spouse could end up recovering a disproportionate share of the marital estate, essentially being paid back those funds spent on the girlfriend/boyfriend.

Child Custody and Parenting Plans

Depending on the situation, an extramarital relationship can be injurious not only to a spouse but also to the couple’s children.  Family courts will examine multiple factors in deciding whether a proposed child custody arrangement and parenting plan are in a child’s best interest.  When there has been adulterous conduct, the court can consider harm caused by the parent’s behavior and whether the child’s future exposure to the parent’s new partner is detrimental to the child’s well-being.  If the court finds that a parent’s action have been harmful to their child, this could result in limitations on where the child resides and their degree of contact with the parent.

When infidelity is part of a divorce, it raises multifaceted issues for both parties and potentially their children.  If adultery is a factor in your divorce, you may be overwhelmed and unsure of what actions to take next.  Karyn Youso has experience helping individuals in this situation connect with the right resources and evaluate their circumstances. We are here to help you figure out where to start.  Please, contact us to schedule a consultation.

 

International Travel After Divorce

After a divorce, parents, and children have to adjust to spending time together according to a placement schedule. One way for families to enjoy their parenting time is by taking vacations together.  Although embarking on a trip may have once been a simple matter of choosing a destination and making reservations, doing so after divorce is more complicated.  Further, making these travel arrangements with children can become even more complex when one parent wants to take the children out of the country. When a divorced parent plans to travel internationally with their children, there are numerous factors to consider.

Child Passports

United States citizens are required to have a valid passport for international travel. For a child get a passport they must apply in person with one or both parents along with evidence of parentage (usually a birth certificate).  If the parents share custody of the child, it is preferred that both parents be present, but one can appear as long as the absent parent completes a specific consent form, has it notarized, and gives it the other parent to present at the time of application.  If the other parent cannot be located, there is another form which the applying parent can present to seek approval of the child’s passport. Passports for children under sixteen are only valid for five years.  To renew a passport for a child under sixteen, the parent or parents must go through the same initial application process for the child to reapply.

Although there are certainly procedures in place to get a passport for a child, sometimes parents will not be able to agree on where the other parent can travel with their child.  In these cases, a passport will not be issued by the United States Passport office without the objecting parent’s consent.

Disagreements about International Travel

When parents who share custody cannot agree regarding the matter of getting their child a passport, it is probable that at some point they will end up bringing the issue before the court.  Depending on the objections provided by the disagreeing parent, the court will either order that the passport be permitted or that neither parent will be permitted to obtain one.  When a parent refuses to consent to a passport but does not have a valid reason, the court is likely to side with the other parent.  However, if the objecting parent can demonstrate that traveling out of the country with the other parent presents a risk to the child, such as a threat that the child will not be returned to the United States, the court may side with the disagreeing parent.  The court may also order that any existing passports be held in trust pending the outcome of the dispute or order that they be held in the custody of a particular party.

Ideally, agreements regarding travel will be negotiated between the parties during the divorce process and be explicitly stated in their final order.  Anticipating possible international travel and coming to an agreement beforehand can help you avoid having to return to court and ensure that your future travel plans can be made without unnecessary conflict.

Understanding how international travel will take place after divorce involves carefully examining your situation and various aspect of the law.   An experienced family law attorney can provide you with the guidance you need as you decide how to plan for your family’s future visits abroad. We have extensive experience in assisting our clients in understanding how to prepare for future family travel.  Call us today to set up a consultation so we can talk about your next steps.

Name Changes After Divorce; You and Your Child

When family members go through divorce, it can mean enduring changes to some of the most fundamental aspects of their lives.  Parents and children find themselves in different living environments, in new jobs and schools and with a new sense of identity.  One issue which a parent and child may contemplate after divorce is whether or not to legally change their names.

Parent Name Change

For a parent, deciding to go back to a former name can be a difficult decision when their children have their last name.  In some cases, a parent may choose to keep their married name in order to have the same last name as their children.  However, under other circumstances, having different names may not be an issue for the parent or the child.

If you do decide that a name change is the right choice for you, the simplest way to make this change is by asking the divorce court to make it part of the divorce.  The divorce court is permitted to allow a spouse to revert to any of their former legal names during the process.  If you wait until after the divorce is final, you will have to incur the expense of pursuing the change through a separate legal proceeding.

Child Name Change

The complexity in changing a minor child’s name will depend on the degree of parental agreement and involvement in the decision.  If both parents consent, changing a child’s name is a relatively simple process.  However, this is not the usual scenario following divorce.  Instead, a parent seeking a name change is more likely to be faced with having to do so without the consent or participation of the other parent.

Without Consent

In Wisconsin, when a child is under the age of 14, a parent may request that the child’s surname be changed.  The requesting parent has to notify the other parent and give them an opportunity to respond.  If the other parent objects, the court can still consider the request.  However, the court will only grant the name change if it determines that the modification is in the best interest of the child.  The court will look to numerous factors to evaluate whether changing the child’s name is in their best interest such as how long the child has had their name, what the child wants (if they are old enough to express their preference), and changes to the family.  The court may also grant the request if the petitioning parent can show the non-consenting parent’s parental right have been terminated or that they have sole custody and the other parent has not accepted parental responsibility.

Without Objection or Consent

When one parent has not objected or consented, the court may be able to grant the request for a name change provided the requesting parent can show that the other parent was properly served and then fails to attend the hearing on the matter.   If the non-petitioning parent cannot be located, the petitioning parent must demonstrate that they made a reasonable attempt to find and provide notice to them, but after using reasonable diligence, were unsuccessful.

Deciding to change your or your child’s name following a divorce can a difficult decision.  Children often see themselves as being part of both of their parents.   If your former partner is still involved in your child’s life, trying to change their name could be perceived by your child as you rejecting the part of them which comes from the other parent.  Your child may also view your name change as a way of putting distance between you and your former partner and the life you once shared as a family.

It is essential to explore the issues surrounding changing names before taking any steps to initiate the process.  We can help you evaluate your situation and assist in helping you determine the direction you would like to go.  Contact us today for a consultation.

 

What Happens to the House in Divorce?

For generations, homeownership has been the goal for married couples who are beginning their new lives together.  For many, these homes will be their single most substantial investment as well as a place where countless memories are created.   Over time, the couple may become homeowners but then later find that they no longer want to remain married.  This invites the question:  What Happens to the House in Divorce?

Who Owns the Property?

Wisconsin is a community property state which means that, in most cases, all marital property can be equally divided during divorce.  Therefore, the first question to ask is whether the dwelling at issue qualifies as marital property.   Property conveyed by gift or inheritance is typically considered separate non-marital property and will not be divided during a divorce, as long as it has been maintained separately by the spouse.  However, if marital funds were used to maintain the property during the marriage, or if the property was titled jointly during the marriage, even inherited or gifted real estate can become the joint property of the marriage.  If the home was acquired during the marriage, then it belongs to both parties, unless a prenuptial agreement says otherwise.  All assets brought to the marriage are considered marital (even houses owned by one party before marriage).

What is Your Equity?

If you and your former partner have owned the home for several years, there is a likelihood that the property has increased in value and therefore has equity.  Even if one party decides to leave the home in the other’s possession, both have an equal right to any equity which has accrued.  You should have the home value appraised, and then, if one person is getting the house, that spouse could choose to pay the other their half of the home’s equity.  However, there are numerous financial decisions involved in divorce and, in some case, a party may allow the other to keep the home and equity in exchange for something else of value in the case.

What if we Both Want the Home?

When both parties want to keep the marital residence they can either reach an agreement or ask the court to decide who will get the home.  A court will hear evidence from both sides as to the reason they believe they should keep the property, and may ultimately award the home to one party or order that it be sold and that the parties divide the proceeds.

What if Neither Wants the Home?

If both parties decide that they do not want to keep the property, then the two should consult a mutually agreed upon realtor who can determine the home’s selling price.  The parties should also have agreements in place regarding who will be responsible for payments and maintenance on the home while the sale is pending and how expenses associated with the transaction will be paid.  Ideally, the sale will result in a profit which can be equitably divided between the parties.  However, you should also be prepared for how expenses will be allocated if the home is sold at a loss.

Is Keeping the Home Right for You?

When a divorce begins, it can feel as if everything in your world has been turned upside down.  Remaining in your home can be grounding at a time when significant decisions about your life seem to be beyond your control.  All of that being said, you have to take a realistic look at your finances and consider what it will be like to pay the mortgage, bills, and maintenance on your own.   You will also need to evaluate  whether staying in the home is more about your emotional comfort rather than a sound financial decision.  If you find that paying for and maintaining the home is beyond your means, you may need to consider other options.

Deciding how to manage real property interest during a divorce can be complicated.  Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive experience in assisting clients with marital property division and can help you understand the possibilities concerning your home.  Contact us today to schedule a consultation.

Social Media and How It Can Sink Your Divorce Case

Social media is a regular part of daily life for millions of people.  As a result, it has become commonplace for many of us to routinely share personal details about our lives on public forums such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.  When going through a significant event such as divorce, it may seem like a natural choice to discuss the case details through these accounts. However, sharing this type of information on social media is not only ill-advised, but it may also be extremely harmful to your case.

Social Media Posts are not Protected

In a world where personal contact is not always available, social media provides a way for us to connect with others and express our feelings about a variety of issues.  When someone is experiencing the negative emotions which accompany divorce, his or her first instinct may be to put this information on social media in order to gain support and validation from family and friends.  What the individual may not realize is that even though these comments are on their personal accounts, they are not protected.  The truth is that you do not have an expectation of privacy on social media.  Anyone in your network can access, copy, and share your content with whomever they choose, including your former partner.  This includes information regarding your state of mind, new relationships, the divorce, and your children.  Make no mistake, what you share or have shared with your social media accounts, can be extracted and used against you as evidence in your divorce case.

Social Media Activity Can Impede Settlement

One of the most productive ways to resolve a divorce is by working towards an agreement with the other party.  However, when one or both individuals make disparaging comments about the other, the chances of reaching an amicable resolution are greatly diminished.  Ultimately, negative comments on social media can harm your case by creating unnecessary tension and increased animosity between you and your former partner thereby impeding the possibility of a reasonable settlement.

Use of Social Media during Your Case

Ideally, you will disable and delete all of your social media accounts until your case is finalized.  If you must continue using social media, you should immediately adjust your security setting to the most restrictive level and refrain from posting anything personal or which reflects extreme opinions. You should also review older posts and remove anything that appears to be potentially incriminating and ask your friends and family to be careful when they post information related to you.

Find a Different Outlet

The emotions surrounding divorce are intense, and it is important to have a safe and supportive environment in which to manage them.  Talking about your feelings during such a stressful time is healthy.  By seeking the comfort and support of close friends or confiding in a therapist rather than using social media, you can process your feelings in a safe space without endangering your case or creating unnecessary conflict.

By being judicious with your use of social media and protective of your information, you are taking critical steps towards safeguarding your case and facilitating cooperation between the parties.  We understand the issues which can arise during divorce and are here to help.  Please contact us to schedule a consultation.

 

Domestic Violence and Divorce

According to a report published by End Abuse Wisconsin, in 2016, 73 people died in this state due to domestic violence.   A disproportionate number of these kinds of assaultive incidences occur between spouses, and in many cases, will be the primary reason for divorce.   Violence between spouses often follows a cycle of abuse followed by reconciliation, a pattern which can be difficult to escape.  When someone in this situation wants to leave their marriage, contemplating divorce and taking the initial steps can be overwhelming and frightening.  However, knowing how the pattern of domestic violence may affect your divorce is a good way to begin understanding your options.

Safety of the Household

When there is ongoing violence in a relationship, the first issue which must be addressed is your safety and the safety of others in the home.  If you believe you or your children are in immediate danger, you should not wait to make a Safety Plan.  The time to seek help is now.  It may be necessary to obtain a restraining order to keep the violent party from being near you. There are also community resources which are available to individuals who need assistance in getting away from an abusive spouse to remain safe.

Custody and Decision-Making

When there is physical abuse between marital partners, its destructive impact reaches every part of a family.  Children residing in a home with domestic violence experience emotional trauma even when they do not witness the physical abuse.  A parent’s physical violence is usually accompanied by verbal abuse, and their volatile behavior causes everyone in the family to live in fear of invoking further rage and brutality.  This hostile atmosphere puts children in a place of constant anxiety as they wait for their violent parent to lash out at them or their other parent.

While Wisconsin law supports parenting plans which allow both parents to maximize contact with their children and have equal decision-making, the child’s best interest will always come first.  Consequently, when children are part of a divorce, the court is going to exercise extreme caution in allowing a child to be exposed to a violent parent or situation.  When deciding whether child placement with a particular parent is in a child’s best interest, the court can and will specifically examine whether the parent has engaged in a pattern or serious incident of interspousal battery or domestic abuse.  Depending on the circumstance, the court could decide to name one parent as the primary placement parent and assign them all decision-making authority for the child.  The court could also order that the violent parent not have contact with their child and former partner or require that all visits be supervised until the abuser gets proper treatment.

Property Division and Alimony

 Wisconsin is a community property state meaning that most marital assets and debts will be divided equally.  The law also allows the court to order that one party pay the other spousal maintenance (alimony) in certain situations.  When there is evidence of domestic abuse, the court may consider this fact when deciding matters related to both property division and alimony.  For instance, if the evidence shows one spouse kept the other from household funds or employment, or their abusive conduct harmed the other in a manner which prevented them from being able to work, this information could factor into the court’s assessment of how to fairly divide property and whether to award spousal maintenance.

Contact Us

When you are living with violence in your relationship, deciding to leave the situation has broad implications which can be difficult to comprehend and process.  Additionally, depending on your situation, filing for divorce could have dangerous and immediate consequences for you and your family. If domestic abuse is an issue in your marriage and you are considering divorce, we can help you access appropriate resources and consider your options.  Call today to set up a time to talk about your situation.

Wisconsin’s Attitude Toward Fathers and Custody

Custody issues are, understandably, some of the most hard-fought and contentious issues in family law.  Every parent only wants what is best for their children, but during a divorce, parents will often disagree about precisely what that means.  Some people believe that is a foregone conclusion that the mother will always be awarded the primary custodian of the children.  Fathers often wonder if it is possible for them to be awarded custody and the attitude of the law in this state toward such requests.

In Wisconsin, child custody is determined depending on what is in a child’s best interest.  The factors to be considered in custody and physical placement determinations are detailed in Wisconsin statute 767.41(5).  There is a long list of factors, including such issues as the age of the child, the child’s adjustment to the home and community, the relationship between the parent and child, the willingness of each parent to encourage a good relationship with the other parent, the existence of domestic violence, and whether either parent has significant problems with drug or alcohol abuse.  Notably absent from the list contained in the statute is the gender of either parent.  In other words, the best interest factors specifically omit the gender of the parent seeking custody from the consideration.  There is no presumption in Wisconsin law that the mother will automatically be named custodian of the child.  Moreover, Wisconsin law presumes it will be in a child’s best interest that the parents be named joint custodians of the child, which means they will both participate in the major decisions for the child, such as religion and schooling.

In reality, the parent who can demonstrate that he or she has historically been the primary caretaker for the child and has the more intimate relationship with the child will have the advantage in court when requesting primary residential placement.  In many households, that happens to be the mother.  However, the law does not presume that it will be.  The mother and father enter court on equal footing, and both must produce proof that his or her proposal for custody and parenting schedules are in the child’s best interest.  Accordingly, if the father produces proof that he is the more appropriate person to have primary placement of the child, then there is no legal bar to him being awarded custody.

If you have questions about custody and how a court makes a best interest determination, contact us today.  We can talk with you about your children, your case, and the first steps you need to take to achieve what is best for your children.

Annulment or Divorce?

The end of a marriage is a difficult time, with many decisions to be made, ranging from child custody to division of credit card debt.  You may be faced with the choice of whether to seek an annulment or a divorce.  Before making this very important decision, you need to understand the fundamental difference between the two.  A divorce will put an end to your marriage, whereas an annulment makes it so your marriage never legally existed.  Like a divorce, however, a judge can still order child custody, property division, and support.  An annulment also will not remove the parentage presumption for children.  In other words, if children were born during the marriage, even if the marriage is annulled, the father will not have to bring a suit to establish paternity as he would have to do if the child was born outside of wedlock.

In order to be granted an annulment, you will need to allege and prove one of the specific grounds available.  These grounds include: 1) mental incapacity; 2) one spouse was underage; 3) one spouse fraudulently hid something essential to the marriage; 4) one spouse forced, threatened, or coerced the other into getting married; 5) one spouse is physically unable to have sexual intercourse; 6) the spouses are first cousins or closer related; 7) one spouse was already married; or 8) the marriage occurred within six months of one of the spouse’s divorce.  If you are unable to prove one of these very specific grounds, you will be unable to get an annulment and will need to file for divorce instead.  Note that being married for a very short time is not a ground for annulment, despite the pervasive urban myth to the contrary.  Unlike a divorce, there is no waiting period to get an annulment in Wisconsin.

By contrast, neither spouse must prove grounds to be granted a divorce.  Wisconsin is a “no-fault” state, which means neither spouse must prove any wrong-doing by the other spouse in order to get a divorce.  You only need to state that the marriage is no longer working, and the court will grant a divorce to the requesting spouse.  Wisconsin has a mandatory waiting period of 120 days from the date the petition is filed until the divorce can be granted, even if the parties have settled all of the issues.

If you have questions about the divorce process, we are here to help.  Call us and talk about your goals and we can help point you in the right direction.

 

Prenuptial Agreement Basics

Getting married and starting a new life is a thrilling time.  During this excitement, no one wants to contemplate the potential end of the relationship.  Prenuptial agreements are contracts designed to do precisely that.  A prenuptial agreement is a contract that is designed to arrange the financial outcome of a divorce before the marriage even begins.  They are often used when parties want to be clear about what particular property is separate property and will not be divided in divorce, the availability of spousal maintenance, or specify that debt one spouse brings into the marriage will remain that spouse’s sole responsibility in the event of divorce.

These contracts are generally enforceable in Wisconsin, but there are important rules that must be followed for the court to uphold a prenuptial agreement.  The agreement must be in writing and it must be signed by both parties.  The agreement must also be signed “in contemplation of marriage,” meaning that the parties negotiated and signed the contract with the view that they were about to get married.  The document becomes valid once the marriage takes place.  By contrast, a prenuptial agreement will be unenforceable if 1) the spouse with substantially more assets badgered or cajoled the other spouse into signing; 2) the agreement is grossly unfair; or 3) one of the spouses failed to make a full and accurate disclosure of assets before the parties signed the agreement.  It is permissible for only one party to be represented by a lawyer during the process, but it is advisable for both parties to retain counsel.  The parties cannot be represented by the same attorney or the agreement will be unenforceable.

Although prenuptials can be useful to simplify the financial issues in case of divorce, it is important to also understand that they have limits.  Provisions that cap child support or pre-determine child custody are unenforceable.  The reason for this is that courts do not want to support a party’s ability to “buy” child custody by waiving property rights or spousal maintenance.  Similarly, child support is meant to help support the child, and a parent should not be able to use support as a bargaining chip in a prenuptial agreement.

If you are considering a prenuptial agreement, call us today.  We can discuss your goals, your assets, and whether a prenuptial agreement is right for you.

Protecting Your Family Business in Divorce

Millions of Americans own and operate their own family business.  Self-employment can be a fantastic way to ensure financial security for yourself and your children.  It can also be a fulfilling way to continue on your family’s legacy and contribute to your community.  Divorce, however, can disrupt the continuity of your business and threaten its future.  Protecting your family business in case of your divorce requires a firm understanding of the laws surrounding property division.

If your business exists before your marriage, as would be the case when, for example, you are working in a family business that was founded by your parents, it is likely that your business is separate property.  This means that your family business would not be subject to division in a divorce action.  However, depending on how you and your spouse treated the business during your marriage, it is possible that it is now marital property.  For example, if you are the sole proprietor of a business you inherited from your parents, and during the marriage, your spouse works only for the business, substantially contributes to its upkeep and improvement, and the business accounts are in both of your names, it may now be marital property.  If you have a business already before your marriage, the best way to protect that business is through a valid and enforceable prenuptial agreement specifically stating that the business is separate property and not to be divided in the divorce.  In the absence of a prenuptial agreement, it will be up to you to prove to the court that your business has remained separate property throughout the marriage and that it is not subject to division.

If you started your business after you were married, then the assets are almost certainly marital property and the business will be subject to division.  However, this does not necessarily require that you literally give half of your business interest to your former spouse.  It is possible for you to offset the value of your business with other marital property.  For example, if your business is worth $100,000, your spouse’s share of the business would be $50,000.  Instead of selling your business and giving half to your spouse, it is possible for you to make sure your spouse receives $50,000 worth of other assets from your marital estate to make up for not receiving a portion of the business.  In order to have a fair and accurate distribution of your business, regardless of whether you offset the value or sell the business and split the proceeds, it is likely you will need to retain the services of a professional business evaluator to get an accurate value for the business.

If you have a family business, you need the help of an experienced team to help make sure you protect your future and goals.  We can speak with you about your business and help set you on the right path.  Contact us today to schedule your consultation.

Child Support Calculation Basics – Primary, Shared, Split, and Serial Placement

Every parent knows that raising a child is expensive.  Clothing, diapers, school fees, extracurricular activities, daycare, and a myriad of other costs mount up quickly.  After a divorce or custody action, the parents will have to divide parenting time as well as the expenses associated with raising the child.  Child support is designed to help the custodial parent be able to continue to provide for the child’s daily needs.  Wisconsin has specific laws providing how child support is to be calculated, and several factors are taken into account.  There are four basic ways support is calculated, depending on whether the placement order is classified as primary, shared, split, or serial.

If a parent has 75% or more of the overnight placement with the child, that parent is considered “primary.”  In such a case, the other parent’s income alone will be considered for support.    Income is not defined as solely the money a parent receives from a regular job.  Income from many different sources can and will be taken into account, such as annuity payments, rental income, or funds from a side job, just to name a few examples.  However, funds received from certain sources will not be included, such as child support received for other children, or public assistance funds.  Once the parent’s gross income has been determined, the court will then look to the guidelines as established by Wisconsin statute.  According to the guidelines, particular percentages are applied to the paying parent’s income, depending on how many children are subject to the order, ranging from 17% (one child) to 34% (5 children or more). A person receiving maximum support in a primary placement scenario will then be fully responsible for 100% of the child’s “variable” expenses (out of pocket expenses for school, daycare, extra curriculars, etc.).

If both parents have at least 25% of the overnight placements with the child, the placement is considered “shared,” and support will be calculated differently.   This method takes both parents’ incomes into account, and the child’s variable costs will be shared in accordance with the percentage of time each parent has placement with the child. Split placement means that the parents share at least two children.  In split-placement situations, one parent is the primary parent for one child while the other parent is the primary parent for the other child.  As with shared parenting, each parent’s income must be calculated.  However, as in primary placement, there is a percentage to be applied to each parent’s income depending on the number of children placed with each respective parent.  The resulting support order for each parent will then be offset, with the parent who would have been ordered to pay the higher amount to pay the difference to the other parent.

Finally, if a parent has children with more than one family for whom he or she pays support, the child support order will be adjusted due to the paying parent having “serial families.”  In such a case, the court can adjust the paying parent’s existing child support orders to take into account that he or she now has the legal obligation to provide financial support for another child.  Generally, his/her income is reduced by the first child support obligation before the second obligation is calculated.

Child support can be a complicated inquiry.  We have extensive experience in helping our clients understand the process and help set them on the right path to reach their goals. Contact us today for a consultation.

Dividing Retirements Accounts

Retirement is a time that we all plan for in detail.  Thinking about how we will spend our golden years is an exciting prospect, and we all save money to hopefully allow us to devote our retirement to our favorite hobbies.  During marriage, especially longer ones, it is likely you and your spouse have accumulated significant resources in retirement.  At divorce, you and your spouse will be faced with the prospect of dividing all of your property, which includes your retirement accounts.

Wisconsin is a community property state.  This means it is presumed that all marital property will be equally divided.  Generally speaking, marital property is property that was brought to the marriage or acquired by either spouse during the marriage, although there are exceptions to this rule (prenups, inheritances, gifts from outside parties).  This means that whatever value accrued in a retirement account during the marriage is subject to division during the divorce.  This is the case even if the retirement account was through the employment of only one of the spouses.  Any value that accrues during the marriage is marital property.

Dividing retirement accounts is often more complicated than dividing other more liquid assets, such as bank accounts.  Some accounts may be cashed out immediately, but others, like a pension, may not have that option.  Moreover, there are often severe tax consequences associated with pulling money out of retirement accounts prematurely.  It may be possible to enter a special order called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order, or “QDRO.”  A QDRO allows the account to be divided with the financial provider, without actually cashing it out, thereby avoiding potential financial penalties.  Another option is to offset the value of the retirement account with another asset to avoid dividing the account at all.  For example, if your 401(k) is worth net $50,000, your spouse’s share would be $25,000.  Instead of dividing the 401(k), you could instead offer to let your spouse have an extra $25,000 of other marital assets. Whatever the method of division, it is essential that you have an accurate valuation of the retirement asset.  In some cases, this may require the assistance of a professional.

Division of property is a very important issue in any divorce.  Contact us today and talk to us about your assets and your divorce.

Family Law Mediation

Divorce and child custody matters are often some of the most stressful processes that people have to go through.  The stress stems mainly from the fact that there is a major change in your family dynamic, living situation, and financial resources.  Moreover, divorce litigation means you are handing over your important life decisions, such as custody and property division, to a judge, which means you retain little control over the process.  Family law mediation is an excellent way to help you take back control over your family law case.

Mediation is a non-binding process, during which you and your spouse or partner sit down with a neutral third-party mediator.  The mediator is not a judge and will not make decisions for you.  Instead, the mediator’s job is to help facilitate an agreement, and help resolve any issues you may have.  The mediator will talk to you and the other party about possible resolutions to issues such as property division, spousal maintenance, child support, or visitation schedules.  The mediator has special training to help provide a peaceful and respectful atmosphere designed to help you and your spouse come together and find common ground.  You will not be forced to reach an agreement, and neither will your spouse.  It is possible to come to an agreement on some, all, or none of the issues in your family law case.

Mediation has significant advantages over a contested trial.  First, and most importantly, settling your case at mediation can allow you and your spouse to create tailor-made solutions for your issues.  These may be solutions that a judge would be reluctant to impose without an agreement, such as “bird’s nest custody” agreements.  Another very important advantage to mediation is that it can save you significant time and expense.  If you are able to settle your case in mediation, your signed settlement agreement can be entered quickly and you can avoid accruing significant attorney’s fees as you will not have to pay your attorney to prepare for and try your case.

Although mediation can be a good choice for many cases, it is not suitable in every case.  Where there is a history of domestic violence, for example, mediation is not appropriate.  Similarly, where there is a vast imbalance of power between the parties by virtue of a significant disparity of financial resources or mental capacity, mediation may not be proper.

Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive experience in assisting clients with mediation, both as their attorney and as their mediator.  Contact us today to talk about your options and mediation.

Divorce When Your Spouse Has Disappeared

The end of a relationship is a difficult time for everyone.  While sometimes people will file for divorce immediately when they separate, this is not always the case.  It is not uncommon for people to delay getting a divorce right away for a variety of reasons, ranging from financial to emotional.  After a period of time, you may have lost touch with your spouse, or he or she may have simply packed up and left town.  Fortunately, it is possible to proceed with your divorce even if your spouse has disappeared.

Every lawsuit requires that you properly serve the respondent with a copy of the paperwork you have filed with the court, and divorce is no exception to this.  It is necessary that you properly serve your spouse with the divorce papers before you can proceed with the case and get a divorce.  In most cases, this is achieved through personal service, with a professional process server or law enforcement officer physically handing the papers to your spouse.  If your spouse has disappeared, you will need to apply to the court to request permission to complete service through a process called service by publication.  You will need to demonstrate to the court that you have made all good faith efforts to locate your spouse, but have been unable to do so.  These sorts of efforts would include things like calling his or her last phone number, calling his or her last job, looking on Facebook, contacting relatives, and that sort of thing.  If after all of this, you are still unable to locate your spouse, the court will approve your request.  Service by publication means running a specifically worded notice in the paper to attempt to notify your spouse that there is a lawsuit pending.  If after the ad has run your spouse still does not file a response with the court, you can then ask the court to grant you a default divorce.  In a default divorce, as the name suggests, you are granted the divorce by default because your spouse did not show up and respond to your request for divorce.  It is important to understand that there are important time limits for this process, and even if you serve by publication, your spouse will still be given time to respond.  Moreover, you will not be able to get a default divorce before the mandatory divorce waiting period of 120 days has elapsed from the date you published notice of your divorce petition.  Finally, the terms of your divorce (what you are entitled to get for property/support), may also be affected if your spouse is missing or has no ties to the State of Wisconsin.  But you CAN get your actual divorce, even in their absence.

We have extensive experience assisting clients with all types of divorces.  Contact us today for a consultation and we can talk about your first step.

Alimony – Will I Have to Pay and If So How Long?

Few events are as financially stressful as divorce.  During a marriage, spouses typically combine financial resources to help pay the necessary bills, such as rent, groceries, and utilities.  After divorce, each spouse will have to rely entirely on his or her own resources to make ends meet.  In some cases, one spouse may be ordered to pay alimony after the divorce is over.  In Wisconsin, alimony is referred to as spousal maintenance, but the idea is the same; a court will sometimes order spousal maintenance when the earnings between the two spouses are unequal, in order to help the economically disadvantaged spouse to maintain a comparable standard of living.  It is common for clients to want to know whether they will have to pay maintenance, and if so, how much and for long the award will be.

There is no set formula for exactly how long a person may be required to making spousal maintenance payments or how much the payments will be.  Spousal maintenance orders are based on a variety of factors, and because no two cases are alike, no two orders will be the same.   Often the court is focused on a spouse’s need as compared with the other spouse’s actual ability to pay.  This need will be weighed against the requesting spouse’s ability to eventually generate income that is sufficient to continue the standard of living established during the marriage.  The length of the marriage is also very relevant – the longer the marriage, the more likely a court is to make an award.

In many cases, the court will set a specific start date and end date for spousal maintenance payments.  For example, the court may schedule the maintenance to be paid for a particular number of years or maybe until the receiving spouse has completed receiving a new degree.  In some rare situations, a court may not provide an end date at all.  This means that the paying spouse will have to continue making spousal maintenance payments (“indefinite”) until the receiving spouse dies until the recipient remarries, or until the parties return to court to request the payments be eliminated.  To modify spousal maintenance, the paying spouse may return to court to request the payments be lowered or eliminated if financial circumstances change.  The types of changes in circumstances that would make a modification of spousal maintenance appropriate would be an involuntary job loss or reduction in pay, reasonable retirement age, or disability.  If the paying spouse seeks modification based on his or her income being lowered, the change must typically be involuntary.  This means that the paying spouse cannot simply decide to quit his or her job or take a much lower paying job just to spite the receiving spouse and get out of paying spousal maintenance.

Attorney Karyn Youso has extensive experience in evaluating spousal maintenance cases.  Call today to set your appointment to talk about your case and your goals for your divorce.