Domestic Partnership Registration Ending in Wisconsin

As of April 1, 2018, Wisconsin will no longer offer new applicant Domestic Partnership status in Wisconsin. The Domestic Partnership registry provides some important protections to unmarried

same-sex and opposite-sex couples. When this status was made available almost a decade ago, marriage was not a legal right for all persons. Now, marriage is a legal right in Wisconsin for all persons.

Some of these important protections that domestic partnership status includes are: family medical leave for a sick or dying partner, the ability to obtain health insurance for a partner, hospital visitation rights, application of spousal privilege so a domestic partner cannot be compelled to testify against his or her partner, the right to inherit if a partner dies without a will and the transfer of real estate between partners without taxes.

While this status does not provide the full legal protections that legally married couples are entitled to, it also does not require the same obligations. For example, in the event that a domestic partnership does not work out, there is no official “divorce” process and there is no requirement to share debts, support your partner, etc. This is part of the appeal to obtaining this type of status.

Importantly, couples who have already obtained domestic partnership status in Wisconsin or successfully do so prior to April 1, 2018, will still maintain the rights and benefits associated with this status after the April 1st deadline. If couples are not likely to get married this year, registering for this status before the April 1st deadline may be worth considering.

Should you have any family law related questions, please feel free to contact our office at 414-258-1644 to schedule a free ½ hour consultation with one of our attorneys.

What to Look for in Hiring a Divorce or Family Law Attorney

Once you make the difficult decision to pursue legal action such as a divorce, paternity action, or a a post judgement modification or enforcement motion in a family law matter, the next decision you are faced with can be as equally difficult. Will you hire an attorney and, if so, which attorney will be best suited to represent your best interests in your legal matter? There can be many attorneys to choose from and the internet may seem to be overloaded with information and options.  Below are some tips for what to look for in hiring a divorce or family law attorney.

 

If you do not have a direct referral to an attorney, most people start their search with an internet search with terms such as divorce attorney or ____ (fill in the blank with the type of attorney you are search for) attorney in your area.  This brings up a list of attorneys or firms who practice that type of law in that certain geographical area.  The attorneys or firms who appear on the first page or high up in the search results are often the attorneys or firms who have the best reviews or have the highest volume of cases in that particular area.  This generally means they are also the most experienced attorneys in that practice or geographical area.  Generally, people choose attorneys from those who appear first in those couple of pages.  From there, when searching for the right attorney, you may want to review an attorney’s or firm’s website, online reviews, and schedule a consultation. When doing this, there are a few things you may want to keep in mind. For example, a website can be very helpful in showing whether or not an attorney has kept their page up to date,  whether  they write articles or blogs, which can offer helpful information and tips and also provide insight into whether the attorney, or whether their firm, is truly knowledgeable in that area and stays up to date with the laws that apply to family law.  Websites can also provide information as to which specific areas of law an attorney or firm practices, how experienced they are, or whether they have won any awards or are members of any specific organizations.  For example, please review our website at www.nkmfamilylaw.com. All of this information can give you a better idea about how experienced an attorney is in the area you are searching for.  The more experienced an attorney, the better chance you have at receiving a positive result in your matter and/or obtaining the best possible advice about what may happen in your case.

 

When searching for an attorney, it is important to find out how the attorney how their fees are charged.  Some attorneys and firms charge an hourly rate and calculate your fees by the amount of time it takes to work on your matter. When you are considering attorneys, it is important to ensure that you will get an itemized billing statement on a frequent basis. Other firms may bill at a flat rate based upon the work that needs to be completed in your matter. That may be a cost-effective way to handle certain matters, but it may also be difficult to know if you are going to get the attention and dedication to your case once your flat fee has essentially “run out.” It is important to know what services the flat fee will cover, and if any future fees may be required if your matter becomes more time intensive, or if something changes in your matter, that would require additional fees and how much.

 

It can also be very helpful to look at online lawyer client reviews to help you when choosing an attorney. While many of these reviews can give you a better understanding of how the lawyer practices, it is also important to keep a few things in mind. Attorneys have certain ethical obligations that prohibit them from making any in-depth comments about client’s cases.  So, if you encounter a bad review of an attorney, keep in mind that the attorney may not be able to respond to the commentator, whose review may or may not be truthful or relevant to the quality of services that the lawyer or law firm provides. It is also helpful to remember that anyone can leave a review, including an unhappy or unsuccessful opposing party, which has been known to happen. There are also cases where a client is in the wrong or is the cause of the problems in their own case which causes an unfavorable result.  These clients often are the ones who leave negative reviews which really do not accurately reflect the competency of an attorney as a whole.  You should take into consideration the above if the majority of the reviews for the attorney or firm are positive, except for one or two.  To determine for yourself if the reviews are accurate, it may be best to review the attorney’s or law firm’s website and utilize a consultation with the attorney or law firm to decide for yourself if that attorney will best represent you in your legal matter.

 

Finally, you may be able to schedule a consultation with one or several attorneys to see who is right for you. Some attorneys and law firms offer a free consultation, while others may charge a fee for their consultation.  Whether there is a charge for a consultation or not does not necessarily indicate the quality of that attorney’s or law firm’s services.  Instead, consultations, like job interviews, are helpful for both clients and attorneys to ensure that there is a good fit for any future legal representation.

 

These examples show why it is important to consider many factors when choosing the best attorney to represent you in your family law matter. After reviewing our firm and our attorneys, we are confident that you will find we fit all of the above criteria.  If you wish to contact our firm to see if we can best represent you in your upcoming or pending family law matter, call us at (414) 258-1644 to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.

What Is the Most Popular Time of Year To File a Divorce?

Divorce concept with gavel and wedding rings

When do people most commonly file for divorce? While there can be many reasons why individuals may consider filing for divorce, there are certain times of the year that courts see an increased number of divorce filings. In a recent article published by CNN, with an analysis by FindLaw.com, states that American divorce filings between 2008 and 2011 revealed a surge in divorces in the month of January, with divorce filings increasing and peaking in late March. The article suggests many reasons for this trend, and can be found here:

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/09/health/january-divorce-month-matrimony/?iid=ob_homepage_deskrecommended_pool

In summary, this article suggests that many people make up their minds about a divorce before the holidays, but hold off until January to avoid appearing heartless to family and friends by ending a marriage during the holidays. Many people may also be motivated by budget issues to wait until after the New Year. The end of the year is generally when many people receive bonuses, which can be helpful when approaching the expense of a divorce. Plus, waiting until the New Year can allow couples to file their taxes jointly for the previous year, which can be beneficial for the parties facing a divorce.

It is suggested by psychiatrist and author of “The Intelligent Divorce” book series, Mark Banschick, that the start of the year, for many people, is an “existential moment,” where people self-assess their lives and determine that life is too short, and that the current version of who they are is unhappy. He notes that the best time for a divorce is when an individual feels centered about who they are and what it is that they need in life.

Surprisingly, another time of year that people commonly file for divorce is in September. Traditionally, summer is the time for family vacations because the children are home from school, and many people do not want to start trouble at this time. Summer is also wedding season, and many people do not wish to attend weddings in the middle of a divorce. So, similarly to the end of a busy holiday season, people tend to feel like the time for togetherness is over, and it is time to get back to real life.

To those of us involved in the area of family law, it is clear that a divorce is a difficult decision for anyone to make at any time. The decision to proceed with a divorce can have a profound effect on the individual’s family, financial well-being, and daily life. If you are facing this difficult decision, call us at (414) 258-1644 to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.

Divorce from the Child’s Perspective

Please stop fighting!I recently read an article that discussed divorce from a child’s perspective. Since a significant portion of my caseload is Guardian ad Litem appointments (where I am appointed by the court as the attorney for the child’s best interests), I am frequently tasked with speaking with children whose parents are in the process of divorce or other custody and/or placement disputes. In my work as Guardian ad Litem, I see first-hand what divorce is like from the child’s perspective. As such, it is important as parents going through a divorce, to be mindful of the below requests and thoughts that children wish their parents knew during a divorce:

1. We can love both of you 100%. Just because we love being at dad’s house and love our dad, does not mean that we don’t love you and being at your house mom. This also means that when we miss dad when we are with you, it’s not because we love you any less. Please do not make us feel like we have to choose who we like more or less. Also, please do not make us feel that we cannot share with you that we are enjoying our time with both parents. This is a tough time for us, so please allow us to be happy.

2. We notice when you are civil with one another and appreciate it. We know that you are not getting along well. Otherwise, you would still be together and not going through a divorce. However, the fact that you can still both attend our sporting events and school concerts and be nice to one another for our sakes means a lot to us.

3. We are not informants. Period. When you ask us questions about what happens at mom’s house or about mom’s new boyfriend, we know it is because you want “dirt” on mom. When you put us in a position to be an informant, it will go one of two ways: 1) we will tell you what you want to hear at the expense of being truthful. We are so scared to hurt you that we will say anything to make you feel better about yourself, or 2) we will shut down and not tell you anything because we feel betrayed that you have asked us to be the conduit of information for what happens at mom’s house. Can’t you just respect that it is difficult enough for us to go back-and-forth between two different homes, with two different styles of parenting, much less have to worry that we will be interrogated about the other parent’s house? Either way that we react, our relationship with you becomes less pure when you put us in this investigative position.

4. Do not use us as pawns. We are not chess pieces. Do you really want your children to grow up feeling used, manipulated and duped? This is how we feel when you use us as leverage against the other parent. And if you think we do not know that you do it, you are wrong.

5. Do not overshare. No matter our age, we do not need to know every dirty detail. We may ask you to tell us. In fact, we may beg you to tell us everything and say we want to know why you hate dad and why you filed for divorce. The reality is, however, no matter how awful or hurtful dad’s behavior was to you, you still chose him to be our other parent. So, be careful how much you share with us. If you need to talk to someone, please see a therapist or confide in a close friend. We are children; we are not therapists.

If you are going through a divorce and you have children, it is important that you have an attorney who is sensitive to the needs of your children and encourages you to continually put your children first. If you wish to speak with an attorney at our office, please call us at (414) 258-1644 to schedule a free thirty (30) minute office consultation..

-Attorney Madeleine Olmstead

 

Addressing the Unexpected During a Divorce Proceeding

Shocking news.The recent events involving Lamar Odom’s hospitalization, which had the unexpected result of Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom petitioning the court to dismiss the couples divorce action, highlights how stressful divorce can be for many couples. Kardashian explained that this request to halt the divorce was to make medical decisions on Odom’s behalf after the former NBA player was found unconscious in a brothel in Nevada in October.

There are many reasons a couple may consider either dropping a divorce action, or putting the action on hold. Medical emergencies, such as Lamar Odom’s, may occur and incapacitate a party, their children, or family members. Courts must weigh circumstances that may a delay in the legal proceeding, such as medical emergencies, with an individual’s rights to have his or her legal matter addressed in a timely manner. This can easily affect how the divorce action proceeds, as well as the timeline for conclusion.

On the other hand, a couple may decide that they would like attempt to save their marriage and reconcile. In Wisconsin, that couple can submit to the court a Stipulation and Order to suspend proceedings to effect reconciliation. This document would request that the court allow up to 90 days for the parties to try and save their marriage with the intent end the divorce proceedings. After the 90 days, the parties must then notify the court as to whether or not they wish to proceed with the divorce. Further, a couple can request that the Court dismiss the divorce action at any time before the divorce is finalized.

Lamar Odom’s situation also highlights the importance for any party, at the start of a divorce action, to consider who they want to make financial or medical decisions for them if they were to become incapacitated. This may require a party to amend their powers of attorneys accordingly. If an individual were to suddenly become incapacitated during the pendency of a contentious divorce, they may no longer wish to have their spouse make such important decisions on their behalf.

Any individual who facing similar circumstances during their divorce or family law action, should feel confident that his or her attorney can offer legal solutions throughout the entirety of the legal action, regardless of whatever unique circumstances are involved. If you are facing this difficult situation, call us at (414) 258-1644 to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.

Issues Remain Unresolved Regarding Same-Sex Divorce in Wisconsin

Businessman stress, ripping up partner word on paperOne year ago this June, federal Judge Barbara Crabb overturned Wisconsin’s ban on same-sex marriage. Along with the advent same-sex marriage in Wisconsin came the inevitable issue of same-sex divorce in Wisconsin. However, because of the laws on divorce in Wisconsin, same-sex divorce presents some very distinct issues.

These issues are addressed in an article by Jim Stingl in the Journal Sentinel, found here: http://www.jsonline.com/news/milwaukee/one-year-later-gay-marriage-also-brings-gay-divorce-b99513974z1-306392381.html

As mentioned in this article, one question looming over same-sex divorce involves the award maintenance, or alimony, which often requires a consideration of the length of a marriage. While there were no same-sex marriages in Wisconsin until June 6, 2014 (when the ban on same-sex marriage was overturned), many other states, as well as Canada, have allowed same-sex marriage for several years. So the questions remains, when will the Court consider a marriage that occurred previous to June 6, 2014, outside the state’s jurisdiction, to have begun? On the date of their actual marriage, or on the date Wisconsin legally recognized that marriage? There certainly appears to be some confusion among judges, which would have a direct effect on a court’s ruling for maintenance.

Another important issue is the marital presumption, and whether the courts will extend the marital presumption to children of same sex couples. Currently, the law states that the husband is presumed to be the father of any child born to the wife during the marriage.  However, it is unsettled as to whether children born to same sex married couples would be ‘presumed’ by the State of Wisconsin to be children of both parties. This may also evoke similar timing questions as to when and if Wisconsin will extend this presumption to same-sex couples married outside the state’s jurisdiction.

The legal community is anticipating that the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling later this month regarding whether states must allow same-sex marriage and recognize same-sex marriages from other jurisdiction will provide courts with some guidance. Until then, this unique issue remains unsettled with the Wisconsin courts, and open for interpretation. Moreover, because this issues remains unsettled with the courts, it can also leave divorces finalized during this time vulnerable to post-judgment litigation in the future.

These issues regarding custody, placement and support of children, maintenance, and property division, should be at the forefront of any divorce discussion. Any individual seeking a divorce should choose an attorney who understands the unique issues involving same-sex marriage and divorce, and who is prepared to guide her client through the divorce process. If you are facing this difficult situation, call us at (414) 258-1644 to schedule a free initial consultation to discuss your case.

Wisconsin Legislators Taking on the Issue of Revenge Porn

Revenge Porn refers to the practice of ex-lovers or ex-spouses sending or posting compromising or romantic photos of their former significant other to a (or multiple) third party in order to humiliate that person. This practice has become alarmingly popular on social media networks and electronic communication.

This is something that family lawyers see all too often in cases. Ex-lovers or ex-spouses sparring with each other over social media, and crossing the line of exposing personal and private moments. Most often we see instances where the photographs were consensual photographs when taken, however when the parties break-up, they are used to harm someone. Obviously, this is without consent of the harmed party. While we vehemently advise clients against engaging in this practice for many reasons, there is no current law that deals with this issue.

Wisconsin lawmakers are looking to change that.

Under current law, anyone who possesses, reproduces or distributes an image of a nude person that was captured without that person’s consent faces a felony charge that carries a maximum sentence of $10,000 in fines and three-and-a-half years in prison. This is seen in family law cases of, for example, stalking and restraining orders.

Under the “Revenge porn bill”, anyone who disseminates a nude picture without the subject’s consent, regardless of whether the subject granted consent to capture the image, would be guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and nine months in jail. This bill, if signed into law, would prohibit the specific instance discussed above.

On Tuesday, November 12, 2013, the Wisconsin Assembly passed this proposed law with ease. The state Senate will review the Revenge porn bill next, but not until after the new year.

Prohibited by law or not, we strongly discourage ex-lovers and ex-spouses from using private photos against each other, even if they were consensual photos when taken. Participating in revenge porn, or other harmful social media practices could effect custody and placement determinations by the court. Please see our previous blog for more on related social media issues in family law.