Family Law

Providing legal aid for adoptions; custody; divorce; guardianships; legal separations; marital property agreements; paternity actions/suits; prenuptial agreements; and post-nuptial agreements.

Family Matters

Navigating your way through a divorce will not be easy. That is a given. Divorce is messy both emotionally and financially. Without the best help and advice to guide you regarding your own particular case or circumstance, a person can find it difficult to figure out which court they need to go to, since different courts may deal with different issues, forms and processes.

Angell Legal will be there to help you every step of the way. Attorney Angell will educate you on the process and will keep your divorce moving through completion.

Child Custody

When two people have a child, each parent has an equal right and equal responsibility to raise the child. This is true whether the parents are married or not.

Wisconsin follows the standard known as “the best interests of the child.”

If custody of a child is a contested issue, the court will order the parties to mediation. While attendance at mediation is required, and the court hopes that the parties will come to an agreement on their own, the Courts will recognize that agreement is not always possible. The next step is the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem. Who will act as the children’s attorney to advocate for the children during the court process. The parties will pay the Guardian ad Litem for their services.

The Guardian ad Litem will make their recommendation to the Court for the best interests of the children. Generally, Courts will look to providing a stable, safe environment for the children.

If the parties still do not agree with the Guardian ad Litem’s recommendation then the court could require a custody study. A custody study is usually done by the same mediators as did the original mediation but could be completed by another counseling agency that your specific county authorizes for this purpose.

Educational Programs

Most courts require divorcing parents to attend educational programs on the effects of divorce on children. A court may also require the children (if at an appropriate age) to attend an educational program designed to help them cope with divorce.

Child Support

The Percentage of Income Standard provides guidelines to Wisconsin courts for setting payment amounts for child support and medical support. These guidelines are based on the belief that both parents are responsible for supporting their children, whether they live together or not.
The child support guidelines are based on:
  • the parent’s income
  • the time a child spends with each parent
  • whether a parent is supporting other children

Percentage of Income Guidelines

Each of the percentages below are applied to the parent’s income for child support:
17% of income for 1 child
25% of income for 2 children
29% of income for 3 children
31% of income for 4 children
34% of income for 5 or more children
In special cases, the court may use other guidelines to set support. Special cases involve:
  • parents who share placement of their children (the court order states that the parents will share the placement of their children at least 25% of the time – at least 92 days/year)
  • parents who support more than one family. This situation is known as a serial family situation.
  • parents who split the placement of their children (the court order gives one parent the placement of one or more children and gives the other parent placement of the other children)
  • parents with a low income
  • parents with a high income

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Keeping your Property

Wisconsin is a community property law state. You can expect that you will not be able to keep everything, but you should not lose everything either. Property division issues can be a challenging part of any divorce, whether spouses can work out a property settlement, or they let the courts decide. If a couple can negotiate a property settlement on their own the court will usually agree with it. And this is obviously the least expensive way to handle your divorce.

The division of property by the court depends upon a number of factors. The classification of the property and what is fair and equitable to the parties. Fair does not always mean equal. Generally property acquired during marriage is community property. Upon divorcing, generally each spouse takes half the community property. Unless you can show that the property is a separate property as a gift or inheritance. For example, you would need to show the source of funds in your bank account was a gift to you from grandma.

Property is generally classified into two groups:
  • Marital/Community property, gained by a couple during the marriage
  • Separate property, acquired by a spouse before marriage, or certain property acquired by one spouse after marriage and separation (such as by gift or inheritance)
Exceptions for Gifts or Inheritances

Even if you received money in your bank account from Grandma, your actions could change the character of the property. If you transfer the money from a single account to a joint account it could be considered a gift to the marital property. Or if you provide a down payment on a house or car, this could also be considered a gift to marital property.

Marital/Community Property Division

Wisconsin’s marital property division does not always mean an exact 50/50 split, Wisconsin courts generally try to order property distributions that leave the parties with the same amount of assets and debts.

A court may deviate from an equal distribution of assets after considering several factors, including:

  • the length of the marriage
  • the property each spouse brought into the marriage
  • whether either spouse has substantial assets not subject to division by the court (e.g., substantial separate property, such as a large inheritance)
  • the spouses’ ages and physical and emotional health
  • each spouse’s contributions to the marriage, giving appropriate economic value to any homemaking and child care services either spouse provided during the marriage, and
  • each spouse’s earning capacity (the ability to earn income based on education, job history and skills, and local employment opportunities).

For a complete list of the factors courts consider when dividing property, see Wis. Stats. § 767.61.

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Alimony or Maintenance

Either spouse may be ordered to pay spousal maintenance to the other spouse. The factors for consideration are as follows:
Wisconsin Law
  • The length of the marriage.
  • The age and physical and emotional health of the parties.
  • The property division.
  • The educational level of each party at the time of marriage and at the time the action is commenced.
  • The earning capacity of the party seeking maintenance, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market, custodial responsibilities for children and the time and expense necessary to acquire sufficient education or training to enable the party to find appropriate employment.
  • The feasibility that the party seeking maintenance can become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage, and, if so, the length of time necessary to achieve this goal.
  • The tax consequences to each party.
  • Any mutual agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage, according to the terms of which one party has made financial or service contributions to the other with the expectation of reciprocation or other compensation in the future, if the repayment has not been made, or any mutual agreement made by the parties before or during the marriage concerning any arrangement for the financial support of the parties.
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other; (10)
  • Any other relevant factors the court deems relevant.