Dan Exner - Divorce Attorney

Divorce & Family Law FAQ

Attorney Dan Exner answers your frequently asked questions about Wisconsin divorce and family law issues.

A great family lawyer helps people move past difficult life events. We can, and do make a positive difference in peoples lives.

Dan Exner, J.D.

Divorce & Family Law Attorney and Founder of Exner Legal, LLC

Wisconsin Divorce FAQ

How much does it cost to get a divorce in Wisconsin?

The filing fee various but is around $200. I’d say the average, uncontested divorce costs between $5,000 and $10,000 in attorney fees. A contested divorce, like any other contested lawsuit, will easily cost tens of thousands of dollars.

How do I File for Divorce in WI?

To begin the process of filing for a divorce in Wisconsin, you can complete the necessary forms online at wicourts.com or you can work with a lawyer who can file on your behalf.

Do I need a reason to get a divorce?

Wisconsin is a “no fault” divorce state. The only legal ground required required is that one spouse believes the marriage is “irretrievably broken.”

Wisconsin Family Law FAQ

Who Determines Custody in Wisconsin?

The law presumes that parents will have “joint custody” meaning they must make major decisions about their children together as co-parents. The Court may grant one parent “sole custody” if the other parent is incapable of making good decisions or the parents cannot get along.

When should I hire a family lawyer?

You should always consult with a family law attorney prior to filing any family law action or appearing in court. The people who seek out my services after the court action begins are typically in a much worse position than those you seek me out before things get started.

What is the purpose of Family law?

The State has an interest in promoting the health and welfare of its citizens including the family unit and children. The purpose of family law is to ensure society is looking out for the best interests of children. The Courts have the authority to dictate family law issues when parents and relatives cannot agree on what to do.

What is included in Family Law?

Family Law encompasses issues between relatives, parents, children, including: custody rights placement schedules financial support The most common family law actions include: divorces paternity guardianship adoption termination of parental rights child support juvenile cases

What is an ex parte order?

“Ex parte” means ‘with respect to or in the interests of one side only or of an interested outside party.’ In Court, the Judge normally will not take any action unless both sides have a chance to be heard. Therefore, “ex parte” communications from one party to a Judge are usually rejected. An “ex parte order” is an order issued by a Judge after only hearing one side of the argument. Ex parte orders are extremely rare and normally reserved for emergencies.

Is family law public record?

Most court cases – including family law cases – are public record. Most sensitive information, like your social security number, your income, and the names of your children, are kept sealed from the public.

How is Child Custody Determined?

In Wisconsin, custody decisions are based on what is in “the best interest of the child.” However, the courts decisions are governed by the assumption that joint legal custody is always in a the best interest of a child/children. The parents usually agree on the custody rights of children. If they cannot, the Court will impose it’s own judgment.

Can you sue for adultery in Wisconsin?

No – the ability to sue for adultery is a common misconception. Adultery is still technically a criminal misdemeanor punishable with a potential fine of up to $10,000. People mistakenly believe that if their spouse commits adultery they get $10,000. If a district attorney would ever prosecute someone for adultery (which I highly doubt would every happen) any fine would go to the State of Wisconsin.

Can I get legal aid for family law?

You can always hire an attorney to represent you in family law cases. Public defenders are not available for civil litigation, which includes family law. If your income is below a certain level, the Court may waive the filing fees for your action.

Wisconsin Child Custody FAQ

What’s the difference between legal and physical custody?

Non-lawyers often use the terms “custody” and “placement” interchangeably but they are two separate concepts: Custody is the legal right to make major decisions about your children – their school choice, the religion they worship, their primary doctors, etc. Placement is the ability to have your children with you to the exclusion of the other parent. The law presumes that parents will have “joint custody” meaning they must make major decisions about their children together as co-parents.

What is Joint custody?

Non-lawyers often use the terms “custody” and “placement” interchangeably but they are two separate concepts: Custody is the legal right to make major decisions about your children – their school choice, the religion they worship, their primary doctors, etc. Placement is the ability to have your children with you to the exclusion of the other parent. The law presumes that parents will have “joint custody” meaning they must make major decisions about their children together as co-parents.

What is a Guardian ad litem?

A Guardian ad Litem is a third-party attorney appointed by the Court to represent the “best interests” of the children. He or she performs and investigation and in many ways is the “eyes and ears” of the Court. Guardians ad Litem wield tremendous power in custody battles as their recommendations often get incorporated into the final judgment.

Wisconsin Alimony FAQ

Who decides spousal support in Wisconsin?

The parties can either agree on a maintenance/alimony award or the Court has the discretion to impose one. Like any other issue in a divorce, a compromise between the parties is usually better than the judgment of a stranger in a black robe.

How long will I have to pay Alimony?

Wisconsin Courts will generally order either an indefinite or definite maintenance/alimony payment. “Indefinite” does not mean forever but the Court will leave it to the parties to argue about when it should end in the future. “Definite” maintenance terms are usually for a set amount of time. Most maintenance awards are modifiable if the petitioning party meets the legal standard.

How long do you have to be married to get alimony?

Unlike child support, there is no formula for the payment of alimony. The Court has complete discretion to award one party maintenance and will consider ten factors including the length of the marriage and the disparity of income between the parties.

Wisconsin Property Division FAQ

What is survivorship marital property?

If property is imbued with “survivorship” it means legal ownership to the property will pass to one individual when the original owner dies. In “community property” states, like Wisconsin, it is very common for most marital property to have survivorship between spouses.

What is a marital property agreement?

A marital property agreement – commonly called a “prenuptial agreement” – is a contract between soon-to-be-spouses that opts out of the standard Wisconsin community property laws. It gives couples the ability to draft their own rules in the event their marriage ends in dissolution. Couples can elect to enter these agreements either before marriage (“prenuptial”) or during their marriage (“postnuptial”).

Is Wisconsin a 50/50 divorce State?

Wisconsin is a “community property” state meaning the law presumes all assets and debts, whether acquired before or after the date of marriage, will be divided equally between the parties. There are numerous caveats to this rule if certain circumstances exists. For example, all inherited property and property gifted from a third party are not considered marital.

Is inheritance considered marital property?

Inherited property is presumed to be “individual property” and not part of the marital estate subject to division. Inherited property can lose it’s status as “individual” if it is co-mingled with other marital assets.

How We Make a Positive Difference

Family Court is a very different type of court. The issues are not whether you’re guilty or innocent or if you have to pay or receive money. The issues revolve around your children and everything you’ve worked towards in life, and are far more important.

Listen

Your case is unique. Tell us about your situation and we can discuss the options and find the best path to your desired outcome.

Communicate

We make active attorney & client communication our number one priority throughout the legal process.

Solve

Through listening and great communication we'll develop a strategy to help you secure your desired outcome.

FAMILY LAW

Family law covers a wide range of domestic issues including divorce, child custody, property division, alimony, and more...

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Start here to learn about the divorce process and your options, including mediation & collaborative solutions.

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Family Law and Divorce Q&A

1433 N. Water Street, Suite 400,
Milwaukee, WI 53202

Hours: M-F 9AM-5PM

Phone: 414-488-1332