Preparing for a divorce can seem like an overwhelming task. On one hand, you need the presence of mind to concentrate on issues during the case that could impact the rest of your life. On the other hand, it can be difficult to make rational and reasonable decisions when you are dealing with the emotional fallout of ending your marriage. One way to help maintain focus is by identifying and planning for the most important terms during your divorce.
Planning for Your Divorce
You may only be considering divorce or already be in a case. In either event, you will need to know more about the decisions you will make during the divorce. Your first step is to meet with an experienced Wisconsin family law attorney to assess your case.
As you explain your circumstances, your lawyer will be asking questions to help better understand your concerns.
From there, you and your attorney will go over multiple facts. This meeting will be crucial in assisting you in identifying the essential terms during your divorce case.
Some issues matter in most divorce cases, while others may or may not be as common. You and your attorney will be best situated to determine which areas will matter the most for your circumstances. That being said, the following divorce terms tend to be standard in most Wisconsin divorce cases:
In a Wisconsin divorce, the court will divide all marital property, assets, and debts. Wisconsin is a community property state, meaning that, outside of specific agreements, all income earned and property acquired during the marriage belongs to each partner equally.
All pre-marital assets brought to the marriage are also part of the divorce estate, but other factors would need to be considered in their division.
When you are involved in a Wisconsin divorce, you will disclose financial information to the court as part of the process. It’s essential to be knowledgeable about what you have and where your assets are located.
If you have not already done so, gather documents and account information, deeds, vehicle titles, credit card statements, and any other relevant data that reflects your financial information, and maintain an organized file.
If you and your ex own a home, you will need to decide if you want to remain in the property or move out. You will want to consider if you can afford house payments on your own or if you would prefer to let your ex have the asset. The two of you may decide to sell your home and divide the proceeds. There is also the matter of determining who will pay for home maintenance while the sale is pending.
If you and your ex have worked and contributed to retirement accounts during your marriage, they are considered marital assets. Retirement is divided with a specialized legal document called a Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO) that orders a retirement plan to pay a retirement benefit according to marital property rights. However, depending on the circumstances, you and your ex may decide to leave one another’s retirement accounts alone.
Vehicles and other Assets
Most people have multiple cars, and each partner usually wants one after the marriage. You will want to consider which vehicle you would prefer to own and why. Is the car newer? Is there still debt on the vehicle? If you accept a vehicle with debt, that will need to be considered in the overall property division. You will also need to think of other assets you own. If you have a boat, timeshare, or anything else of value, these items would also need to be taken into account.
Legal Custody and Physical Placement
If you and your ex have minor children, you will be considering legal custody and physical placement issues. Legal custody refers to a parent’s authority to make legal decisions regarding their child and to direct their care and education. Parents can share joint custody or decision-making, or one parent may have sole custody. If both parents are safe and appropriate, the court will usually award them joint custody.
Physical Placement refers to how parents will share time with their children. Wisconsin courts look at several factors before establishing a placement schedule: a child’s age, educational needs, “the wishes of the child, which may be communicated by the child or through the child’s guardian ad litem or other appropriate professional,” the parents’ wishes, stability for the child, and “the amount and quality of time that each parent has spent with the child in the past, any necessary changes to the parents’ custodial roles and any reasonable life-style changes that a parent proposes to make to be able to spend time with the child in the future.”
If the issues of legal custody or physical placement are contested, Wisconsin law requires that the parties present proposed parenting plans to the court for approval. The plan will set out how the parents will meet the child’s financial needs, how placement time will be shared, where the child will go to school, how medical treatment will be addressed, and how numerous other parenting decisions will be made.
These are just some of the issues that may be relevant to your divorce. Every case is unique, and it’s important to review your circumstances with an experienced family law attorney who can help you identify crucial issues and plan for the most important issues in your Wisconsin divorce case.
Attorney and Mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law has extensive experience assisting clients during and after divorce and can help you determine your next steps.