Family Law

Preparing for your Divorce or other Family Law Case

In order to be successful in Family Law cases a person should prepare themselves in a multitude of ways. Being prepared emotionally as well as being organized with documents and understanding the law will make a difference in your success throughout the process.

Emotional Preparation

By its nature Family Law involves emotional issues. Often one party will feel betrayed while the other party may have already made an emotional break. Abigail Trafford in her book Crazy Time : Surviving Divorce and Building a New Life, Revised Edition provides substantial insight into the process of making an emotional break. She gives an overview of the many stages you are likely to go through when you separate. Understanding these stages will help you recognize them as you move through them. You may also progress through the stages more quickly and in a healthy manner. In Madison and many other cities throughout the country there are Rebuilding classes based on the work of Bruce Fisher. These classes assist people moving through the various stages of a break up. People who take this class often make emotional progress much faster than those who do not. The course includes substantial reading materials and there are many resources available in popular book stores that will help you through this process. To start the process you might read some thoughts of Dr. Kenneth Waldron by clicking here.

Not only does getting in control of your emotional pain, frustration or anger help you personally in terms of your mental health, it is crucial to your success in family court. You will judged on how well you adjust.

Understanding Your Role As a Separated Parent

In order to help your children adjust to your separation and in order to make the best possible presentation to the court take time to find reading materials which will help you in that process. Isolina Ricci's book Mom's House Dad's House is a good starting point. It will aid in developing new vocabulary to help your children understand living in more than one home. Click here for a comprehensive reading list which has been prepared by Family Law attorneys throughout Wisconsin.

Dividing Your Property

In Wisconsin the legislature has instructed courts to classify property as subject to division at the time of divorce unless the property was gifted to or inherited by one of the parties. Property received by gift or inheritance which has not been commingled with other property is awarded by statute to the party who initially received the property. See Wis. Stats. 767.61. All other property is subject to division with a presumption that the court will divide this property equally between the parties.

There are numerous factors that the court can consider which could lead the court to deviate from equal division of your property. For example:

  • If you brought significantly more property to your marriage than did your spouse and you had a very short term marriage, those factors combined provide the basis for an argument to the court that you should receive more than half of the property at the time of your divorce; or,
  • If a large portion of your combined worth came from gift or inheritance then the party without gifted or inherited property could argue for more than half of the remaining property (i.e. the property which is "subject to division").

In order to prepare to negotiate a property division settlement you should read and understand Wis. Stats. 767.61 and apply the facts of your case to the factors for deviation.

We prepare balance sheets for property division in both MS Excel and Corel Quatro Pro formats. With these balance sheets you can list all of your property and debts and make a proposal for property and debt division. Often people tend to compartmentalize. They will want to offset one item of property against another. It is important to understand that if there is no legal basis to deviate from equal division, each party will receive one-half of the net value of your estate. In other words, one party could take responsibility for the majority of the debt and keep more of the property with both parties ending up with equal net value. You can download copies of our balance sheets by clicking here.

Financial Mediation

Once you have prepared your property division proposal you may want to take advantage of a mediator. In Dane County attorneys with experience in this area volunteer their time for one mediation session for divorcing parties. There is a $75 charge for the administration of this program. Click here to learn more about the mediation process.