3 Wisconsin Divorce Facts Every Parent Should Know
1. You must attend the Helping Children Cope with Divorce seminar.
If children are involved in a Wisconsin divorce, parents must attend the Helping Children Cope with Divorce seminar. The educational class is required by state statute before a divorce or legal separation can be legally granted. The purpose of the seminar is to educate parents about the needs of children during a separation or divorce. Topics covered include:
- Reactions to expect from children
- Developmental needs
- Skills to help cope
- Issues in Co-parenting
- Pitfalls to avoid
A pamphlet will be mailed to each parent that includes a brief explanation, associated fees, and registration information along with the Notice of Pre-Trial Conference. This information can also be found online on your local county court website.
2. A Guardian Ad Litem may be appointed to advocate for your child's best interests.
The Guardian ad Litem (also referred to as a GAL) is an advocate for the best interests of a minor child regarding paternity, legal custody, physical placement, and support. A Guardian ad Litem is an attorney, licensed to practice law in Wisconsin, who is required by the court to have special training. A Guardian ad Litem does not “work for” either party or the children.
Wisconsin Legislature: 767.407: The Guardian ad Litem functions independently, in the same manner as an attorney for a party to the action, and considers, but is not be bound by, the wishes of the minor child or the positions of others as to the best interests of the minor child. Advocating for the best interest of the children may not be the same as advocating for what the children want, so best interest will always be the primary consideration. The Guardian ad Litem may interview the parties, visit their homes, visit the child(ren)’s school(s) and speak with teachers, or use other resources to make their recommendation.
3. Family Court Services or Custody and Placement Study
In certain Wisconsin counties, like Waukesha, Family Court Services (FCS) will conduct a custody study. FCS provides people with tools to help resolve disputes regarding children in family court actions. Parents may only utilize the services offered by FCS if ordered by a judge or court commissioner.
All family court social workers are certified in Wisconsin and are required to participate in ongoing education to conduct mediation and custody & placement studies.
Custody & Placement Study
Legal custody refers to the major decision-making authority for a child. Wisconsin law assumes joint legal custody is in the best interest of the child. This assumption can change if the court determines one of the parents to be harmful to the child.
Physical placement is defined as the right to have a child physically placed with a party.
It is recommended that the parties reach an agreement regarding the legal custody and physical placement of the children. If parties cannot come to an agreement, the court will order the parties to attend mediation. If the parties are still unable to come to an agreement after mediation, the court may order a Physical Placement Study or appoint a Guardian ad Litem. The court will consider all factors related to the best interest of the child when making the final decision. Parental substance abuse issues will greatly impact the court's decision.
Mediation is a confidential and cooperative problem-solving process where a neutral third party mediator assists individuals in clearly defining the issues at hand and reaching an agreement. Participation is mandatory if ordered by the judge. Once an order is signed by the judge or commissioner, it will be mailed out to the parties along with further instructions.
If mediation was productive, the parties may continue sessions until all disputes are resolved. Otherwise, mediation will end when is a party, the mediator, or the court believes a final agreement will not be reached.
Who pays the fees?
The court will sometimes determine which party will pay the mediation fees. Otherwise, the two parties typically split the mediation, child custody studies, and Guardian ad Litem fees. In all other actions, the general rule is the requesting party pays the fees.
Have You Been Served Divorce Papers?
If you were recently served divorce papers in Wisconsin, you only have 20 days to respond! Act fast and get ahead of the process by consulting with one of our experienced family law attorneys.
The experienced attorneys at Divergent Family Law are ready to represent your best interest in the divorce process. We will advise you through all stages and issues that arise including:
- Filing a petition
- Temporary orders
- Child custody and placement
- Child support
- Spousal support
- Courtroom trial
For more information contact Divergent Family Law today to schedule a free consultation.