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Divorce Tips from a Pitbull Madison Divorce Lawyer

Fighting for your rights during a difficult time

Mediation in Family Law

Mediation is a tool used by the courts in many types of family law cases. It is used during the divorce process, to settle disputes between two parents that are not married and to settle matters between the parties after the divorce is over. The role of a mediator is to be a neutral party that can be objective, and help you and your spouse or child’s parent communicate effectively and find a way to meet in the middle, so to speak. When you file a case in the family court, you are usually automatically ordered to attend a session of mediation with a court appointed mediator. In other cases, you and the opposing party can hire a private mediator, who is usually a retired judge or a very experienced attorney. Let’s take a look at a few scenarios and see how mediation could be of use. Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation.

During the Divorce Process

Scenario: You and your spouse cannot agree on custody and placement of the children, and the court has ordered you to attend a mediation session. This is a setting in which a mediator can help you and your spouse communicate as to what the best interests of your children are. You do not have to come to an agreement in mediation. In fact, in many contested cases, mediation fails because one party is overly demanding, and was never going to come to an agreement anyway. If this is the case, the court will most likely order a Guardian ad Litem to be appointed to your case. A Guardian ad Litem is an attorney that is appointed to represent the best interests of the children in a custody or placement dispute.

Scenario: You and your spouse are attempting to divide your assets fairly on your own, without going to trial. This is difficult, because communication during the divorce process is very strained. Either party can request mediation through the courts. Once the court appoints a mediator, they can assist you and your spouse, with or without your attorneys present, come to an agreement on your property division. You are not obligated to agree to something you feel pressured into or are not happy with. In this case, you and your attorney will have to decide if it is in your best interests to start making some concessions, or you may decide that you are going to take your chances at trial with an experienced trial attorney and let the judge decide.

Paternity Cases

Scenario: You had a child out of wedlock, and now you and the other parent are struggling to co-parent your child. You are unhappy because the other parent has a very different parenting style than your own. You can’t agree on what doctor your child should see, what school they should go to, or what type of entertainment is age appropriate. Perhaps you feel the other parent is neglectful, does not give the child prescribed medications, or does not make sure the child’s homework is done on time. Mediation can help. Either party can request that the court appoint a mediator to help you communicate on these fine points of co-parenting. However, in cases where either party has extreme viewpoints and cannot agree, it is best to have a pit bull on standby to immediately take steps to modify your custody and placement order.

After Divorce

Scenario: You have been divorced for about a year. You’ve been offered a great job...100 miles away. This will impact your placement schedule, because it will make transportation more difficult for placement exchanges. In this case, it is best to consult an attorney on taking your ex back to court to modify the current placement order. In this case, the court may order you to attend mediation to try to come to an agreement on the placement of your children, and the transportation between homes.   Whatever the case, when successful, mediation can be very helpful in arriving at a settlement in your case that accommodates the needs and desires of everyone involved. Once an agreement is reached, the mediator will write up the agreement, and both parties will sign it. This agreement can then be incorporated as an Order of the court.

If mediation fails, do not feel as though you are out of options. The attorneys at John T. Fields & Associates are here to serve you and your family law needs.

Milwaukee Area Office: (262) 782-8322

Madison Area Office:  (608) 260-7370

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Coping With A Difficult Spouse

Even the most amicable divorce comes with its fair share of stress, but when one spouse is determined to make the situation as difficult as possible, it can seem unbearable. Perhaps one spouse does not want the divorce and they may try to do anything they can to slow the process, hoping the other party will eventually be willing to reconcile. Or, perhaps one spouse is financially dependent on the other and does not want to lose the financial support they had while married. And then there’s always the spouse that may see their attempts to complicate the divorce process as their way of “getting even” with their spouse.

The number one issue that divorcing couples have are problems communicating. Communication between spouses may have been difficult prior to the marriage disintegrating, but after the divorce is filed it can become nearly impossible. There are things that can make communication more clear and smooth during the divorce process.

Communication During The Divorce Process

* Put all communication in writing. If you must communicate with your spouse in person, it would be good to email them afterwards and confirm what items you discussed and any conclusions or decisions you came to. That way there is a record so that it cannot be later turned into a “he said - she said” situation.

* If your spouse wants to meet with you to discuss the issues of your divorce, talk to your divorce attorney prior to agreeing to meet. Strategically plan with your attorney what items you should discuss and what items should be off limits to talk about. Don’t agree to anything that you have not discussed with your divorce attorney.

* Have a list of items that you wish to discuss with your spouse. If the conversation gets sidetracked, refer back to your list and keep the discussion on topic. It is too easy to let these discussions turn into a heated argument. A difficult spouse may see this as an opportunity to place blame and rehash every mistake that was made in the last 15 years instead of being productive and moving forward.

* If the discussion does become heated, take your leave. Arguments often escalate into domestic violence or threats. If your spouse does make threats, take these seriously and contact your divorce attorney as soon as possible. It is most important that you protect the safety of yourself and your children.

Forceful, threatening spouses in a divorce

In many situations, one spouse may have been more forceful than the other during the marriage. They may have been the one that always had to have their way. And just when you felt like you knew the rules of the game, he or she changed the game completely. You may refer to your spouse as “controlling”, “demanding”, or “possessive”. These traits that made marriage difficult can make a divorce feel insufferable. Do not give in! With an aggressive divorce lawyer, you can take the control back. We can help protect you from a threatening, over bearing spouse that has been pushing you around for too long.

When you attempt to communicate with a forceful difficult spouse, always speak with confidence. Don’t let them bully you into an agreement that is in their best interest. You do not have to discuss the divorce with them at all; that is what your divorce attorney is for. If you have children, try to keep the communication solely about the children. Even then, if you can communicate through email or text messaging that may be best. That way there is a record of everything that is said. If your spouse makes threats against you or your children, those would be in writing as well and would be valuable evidence if you needed to obtain a restraining order against him or her. And most importantly, if your attorney advises you to cease communication with your spouse and allow communication to be through the attorneys, follow the advice of your attorney.

Difficulty getting financial information during a Madison divorce

Another way that a person will try to control the other is by refusing to cooperate with handing over financial information. If you have a lot at stake financially, it is imperative that you hire a skilled divorce attorney that knows how to legally obtain the correct documentation needed to build a solid case for property division, maintenance, and even child support. If a demand for documents is not met, you need an experienced attorney to file a motion with the court to force your spouse to turn over the needed documents. This is one way that we can turn the tables on a spouse that is attempting to make your divorce as difficult as possible.

Regardless of what your spouse is doing to be difficult, slow the process, or intimidate you to get their way, your best chance to get what you want is to hire an attorney to fight for what you want. You need an experienced, aggressive attorney who will not back down or be affected by the intimidation tactics of a controlling, abusive, or difficult spouse. Call our office today at 608-260-7370.

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Pension Rights

Whether negotiating a settlement or engaging in a high asset divorce dispute, rights to retirement savings and pensions are incredibly important. These valuable bargaining chips are often overlooked by spouses preoccupied with establishing possession of more tangible properties like houses and vehicles. Divorcing couples tend to view the house as the most valued property in an adversarial dispute, but securing rights to pension plans and other investments often provides greater long-term benefits to the asset holder.

Divorce Assets Worth Fighting For

There are many kinds of accounts to be divvied up in a Wisconsin high asset divorce. Different kinds of accounts have different rules affecting marital property division. Some factors include:

  • the valuation of comparable accounts
  • investments under the spouse’s name
  • the length of the marriage

Some of the most commonly disputed marital assets include:

Marital Property Division Considerations

Dividing martial property isn’t as simple as drawing a line down the middle.  Some assets are worth exactly what the numbers say, while others should be valued differently. Investments must be measured by risk and reward. Many retirement accounts carry significant taxes and penalties for early withdrawal. Non-liquid assets correlate less directly to cash which means they have less value to divorcing parties with immediate financial needs. The divorce attorneys at John T. Fields & Associates have years of experience in determining which assets to pursue and how to fight for them with aggression and effectiveness. From Milwaukee to Madison, our firm provides expert valuation of long term assets to ensure our clients receive their maximum share of marital property.

Milwaukee Area Office: 262-724-8482

Madison Area Office: 608-729-5020

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FAQ: When Is A Party Entitled To Maintenance?

The law acknowledges that marriages are partnerships and even though one party may not have worked at a wage paying job, he or she is presumed to have contributed equally to the marriage in other ways. These contributions could be:

  • child rearing
  • managing a household
  • providing physical and emotional support to the wage earning spouse

A divorced party is not automatically entitled to alimony or maintenance. The party asking for maintenance must have a need for it and the other party must have the ability to pay. If both side's criteria exist then the court will look at a number of factors to determine not only the amount of maintenance to be paid but also for how long it is to be paid. The factors included would be:

  • Length of marriage
  • Age and physical and emotional health of the parties
  • The division of property
  • Educational level of each party 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
  • 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
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other

After the court considers the factors, a decision to how much support will be given to a party and for how long will be made. If you are considering divorce or have an active case that you are asking for maintenance in, contact the attorneys at John T. Fields & Associates to help fight for your rights.

Milwaukee Area Office: (262) 782-8322

Madison Area Office: (608) 260-7370

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FAQ: What Are Grounds For Divorce?

Grounds for a divorce are the legal reason clients file for a divorce. When thinking about filing for a divorce, you may be of the opinion you need “grounds” for the divorce or a reason for divorce. Modern divorce laws, or “no-fault” divorce laws, have eliminated the need for divorce grounds in most states. Wisconsin is a no-fault state. No- fault means neither spouse is required to prove “fault” or marital misconduct on the other. Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is the only grounds for a divorce in Wisconsin. The primary reasoning behind no-fault divorce laws is keeping emotions out of divorce court. Our Madison divorce attorneys at John T. Fields & Associates, LLC will process each case efficiently through a no-fault divorce. There are countless reasons for a divorce and every case is situational. Cruel and inhuman treatments remain leading reasons for a divorce in the United States. Acceptable differences also constitute a spouse in having the ability to arrange grounds for a divorce. Regardless of your reasons for a divorce, Wisconsin divorce attorneys will keep your best interests in mind when litigating your rights. Contact the law offices of John T. Fields & Associates, LLC today to learn more information.

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FAQ: How Do I Know What Is The Best Route For My Case?

Divorces today are more complicated than ever. Deciding whether to hire a mediator or lawyer portrays a large role in the success of your divorce battle. Our experienced Madison divorce lawyers highly recommend contesting your divorce and bringing your case to trial. Legal support from the divorce attorneys at John T. Fields & Associates, LLC will fight for you and your family’s best interests. A divorce can put your future largely at stake and should not be made by a non-legal representative. Whether it’s the custody of your child or your financial security, a mediator does not have the legal grounds to back your case. Mediators may offer quicker solutions, however they do not provide the legal advice necessary for a divorce. Our Madison divorce attorneys provide substantial, legal advice where a mediator can only tell you where to find additional information. John T. Fields & Associates' experienced divorce lawyers have the knowledge in fighting for what is rightfully yours. Our qualifying legal representation offers clients unmatched, comprehensive legal support. Trust our leading divorce attorneys and win your contested courtroom battle. Contact our professional divorce attorneys today at John T. Fields & Associates, LLC for the legal representation you deserve.

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Divorce's Effect On Children

Divorce can be a painful and stressful time for everyone involved, including your children. Often during the divorce process, parents are overwhelmed with the situation they are facing.

It is important to remember that children are facing the same situation without the coping skills of an adult.

It is especially important at this time that parents reassure them of their love and that they will protect them throughout the divorce process. When filing for divorce in Wisconsin, some counties will require you and your spouse to complete what the court refers to as a parent education class to help you better assist your children in coping with divorce. You may also want to consider some counseling for your child, either through their school guidance counselor, your church, or another qualified professional. Here are some suggestions for you to help your children cope with the coming changes in their lives:

When Children Are In Danger

In some cases, children are put in dangerous situations as a result of a parent’s poor judgment, addictions, or the new people a parent may choose to expose the children to. For example, what if one parent has a drug or alcohol addiction? It is your job to protect your child, and an experienced divorce and custody attorney can fight for supervised placement while the child is in the care of the spouse with the addiction. This is accomplished by either a third party family member, or an outside service in your area that can accommodate supervised placement when appropriate. A Guardian ad Litem can also be a voice for your child, perhaps by recommending to the court that the problem parent has only supervised visitation, if any at all. If your ex-spouse is introducing someone new to your children, it is very important that you have some background on that person. In some situations, the new boyfriend or girlfriend has drug or alcohol addictions, a criminal history, or a history of abuse, even abuse of children. It is your responsibility to protect your child. Don’t leave it up to someone else to protect your child. If the children’s best interests were what they had in mind, they wouldn’t have gotten involved with this dangerous person in the first place.

Putting Your Child In The Middle

Some parents feel that in a custody battle, their child is their best witness. They may try to influence what the child says to the Guardian ad Litem. They may suggest to the child that they testify against the other parent in court. This is typically not allowed in Family court in Wisconsin. Children are not usually allowed in the courtroom at all during a divorce hearing. Discussing the proceedings with your child, no matter how mature you perceive them to be, is not healthy for your child, and will work against you in long run. If a Guardian ad Litem senses from your child that you have coached them at all, it will destroy your credibility. As you deal with your own sense of betrayal, your hurt feelings, and your concern for your future, it can be tempting for parents to sometimes talk with their children about their problems, even seeking advice from their children. This can put the children in a difficult position because they should never be made aware of the other parent’s shortcomings through your eyes. So whether your spouse has gambled away your life savings or committed adultery with your cousin, your children should not be made aware of what the other person did or did not do to contribute to the breakdown of your marriage.

Your children should feel free to love and trust both parents equally and develop individual relationships with both parties.

Introducing Your Children To Your Significant Other

It is not uncommon for parents to begin dating before their divorce is final, especially if your case has been pending for some time. Caution should be exercised though, when introducing this new person into your child’s life. Co-habitation with your new boyfriend or girlfriend will make it extremely difficult to come to an agreement on custody and placement. Tensions may arise if the other parent feels threatened by this potential step parent being active in their child’s life. The threatened parent may try to defend their territory by attempting to minimize your placement with your child. Most Guardians ad Litem will see this as too sudden of a change for your children. As a result, you may end up with no overnight placement at all in an effort to minimize the impact of your divorce on your children. If you have children and are going through a divorce, please contact an experienced divorce lawyer right away. Whatever your circumstances, at John T. Fields & Associates, we can help you understand your options and the best way for you to help and protect your children through this difficult time.

Southeast Wisconsin Area Office: (262) 782-8322

Madison Area Office: (608) 260-7370

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FAQ: Joint Custody Vs. Primary Physical Placement

Joint legal child custody means that both parties share legal custody of the child or children and that neither party's legal custody rights are superior to the other. The judge will grant joint legal custody if he feels that the parties can communicate with one another well enough to make joint decisions regarding the child's well being. If the judge feels that the parties cannot communicate with one another, then one spouse will be granted sole legal custody giving that spouse the authority to make all the major decisions regarding the child or children and the other spouse will have very little to say about it. Primary physical placement means that one parent has the right to have the child placed with them and the right to make all the routine daily decisions regarding the child. {Attorney Note: Practically speaking, primary placement is very important because the parent that has primary physical placement of the child is not only the parent the child will actually live with, but also is the parent that receives child support. For more information on child custody in Wisconsin, child custody legal advice, or to schedule an appointment with an experienced family law attorney in Milwaukee regarding child custody and relocation issues, please contact our Wisconsin divorce law firm.

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Telling Children About Divorce

A divorce is a very sad, confusing, and stressful time in a child’s life. Helping children cope with their parent’s divorce means making them feel loved, bringing some stability to their lives, and putting their needs first. Having a positive and reassuring attitude with your children can help reduce the confusion and fear the children are experiencing. How you tell the children about your divorce can play a big role in helping to deal with their confusion and fear.

Telling Your Children

It is very important that you and your spouse try to tell the children together. No matter how bad things may be between the two of you, it is important that children see their parents are trying to work through this difficult time together. If you and your spouse are not able to tell the children together, it is important that each parent tell the children the same thing. You want to avoid any possibility of conflicting messages, so come to a decision about what to say before you tell the children. Regardless of whether you tell your children together or separately, it is very important that you do not blame the other parent.

When explaining things to children, what you tell them will depend on the ages of the children.

For younger children: the information you give them should be very basic. If they have any questions, give them a simple answer.

Older children will probably want to know more and have more questions. It is fine to answer the questions, but do not give them every detail. You do not want to overwhelm the child with details of the divorce. When answering questions for any child it is very important not to lie to them. You can choose to not tell the children all of the information, but you should not lie to them.

Talk to your children about how both parents will continue to be involved in their lives. Tell the children that both parents will stay involved, even if it means making phone calls to the children, or writing them letters. Emphasize that even though living arrangements may change, both parents will continue to spend time with the children. Children should have positive relationships with both parents, and this can only happen if both parents are involved in the lives of the children.

Most importantly, make sure your children know that it is not their fault that their parents are getting a divorce. Many children, especially younger ones, tend to view themselves as a cause of the divorce.  Assure the children that in no way are they a cause of the divorce and that both parents will continue to love them.

During a divorce, children need to feel loved and supported. Parents must put the needs of their children first and provide reassurance that the children are loved and cared for. Parents should listen to the questions their children have and should be honest with their children about the divorce, but provide age-appropriate information and answers to questions. During the divorce, both parents should continue to be involved in lives of the children and assure their children that they are loved.

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Alcohol's Role In Divorce

In the United States today, it is estimated that 1 in 13 adults abuses alcohol or is an alcoholic, with more than 50% of adults having a family history of alcohol abuse. With these staggering numbers, there is little doubt that alcoholism can and does destroy marriages. With any type of divorce or custody case, it is important to put the needs of the child or children first. When one parent has alcoholism, these cases become more challenging. Alcoholics have difficulty because most of the time they are focused on drinking. Unfortunately, this does not allow them to focus on being a parent and making sound decisions about what is in the best interest of the child.

Alcoholism, like any addiction, is a disease which will affect a person for the rest of their life. There is no one-step cure and it can be a long battle with the disease.

Signs your spouse is abusing alcohol:

  • Their tolerance to alcohol has built up where it now takes more drinks to
  • They have given up other activities they used to enjoy, and instead are
  • When they are not drinking they become irritable, anxious, have a loss of
  • They have begun to lie about their drinking habits, lost their appetite, or look fatigued.

Many families dealing with alcoholism try and use therapy as a way of maintaining the relationship. If the alcoholic is willing to try and get help and go to therapy, the marriage can still be saved. Sadly, many times these types of people do not see their drinking as a problem and even if they try therapy, they relapse into old habits. Often alcoholics can become both emotionally and physically abusive when they drink. In this type of situation, it is important for the spouse and the children to get out of the home. Often the Court will condition the visitation and custody time of the alcoholic parent by requiring them to be sober. The Courts do this to try to ensure that the child will be in a safe environment when with the parent. If the alcoholic parent is not able to remain sober the child will not be left alone with the parent. If your spouse is showing signs of being an alcoholic, talk to our lawyers to see what can be done about changing custody and visitation so your child is not put in harm’s way by being left alone with a parent battling alcoholism.

If your spouse abuses alcohol and you are considering a divorce, contact the attorneys at John T. Fields and Associates at our Madison area office at (608) 260-7370. Our Wisconsin-based firm with more than 25 years of experience in family law will help protect your rights while considering the needs of the child.

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FAQ: Divorce Vs. Legal Separation

Divorce

A divorce is a legal proceeding which terminates the legal relationship between you and your spouse. That is, a divorce ends the marriage.

Legal Separation

A legal separation is very similar to a divorce in regards to the proceedings. The court can make judgments regarding issues such as child custody and property division just like a divorce, but when it is all said and done you are still married to your spouse.

Attorney Note: Formal legal separations are relatively rare today but some people still pursue them for religious reasons or as a way to stay on their spouse's health insurance policy. Many people will say they are legally separated when they are actually going through a divorce. What they really mean is that the court has ordered them not to have contact with one another while the action is pending.

For more information about legal separation or divorce in Wisconsin and to schedule an appointment with an experienced divorce lawyer, please contact the family law attorneys at John T. Fields & Associates.

Milwaukee Area Office: (262) 782-8322

Madison Area Office: (608) 260-7370

 
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