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Divorce Tips from a Pitbull Milwaukee Divorce Lawyer

Fighting for your rights during a difficult time

Child Abuse And Family Law

What Is Child Abuse and Neglect?

Child abuse and neglect is a growing epidemic in our society. In the United States alone, there are over 6 million reported cases of child abuse and neglect annually. The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act defines child abuse and neglect as:

“Any recent act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker which results in death, serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation; or an act or failure to act, which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.”

Child abuse can occur at any socioeconomic level. It is found across the borders of all ethnic, cultural, and religious communities in many forms.

78% of all cases of child maltreatment are due to neglect, while 26% of child maltreatment cases are defined as physical or sexual abuse.

In most cases of reported maltreatment of children, a child suffers more than one type of abuse. Abuse can come in the following forms:

  • Physical: includes any action that inflicts pain
  • Neglect: absence of parental care
  • Emotional/Mental: behaviors towards children that belittle  or dehumanize them causing mental harm
  • Sexual: actions towards a child of a sexual nature; usually meant to please the offender

The earlier a person recognizes that a child is being abused or neglected, the greater chance of stopping it and helping the child to begin the healing process. If you believe your child has suffered any type of abuse, contact the authorities immediately to begin the investigation process. Every parent wants what is best for their child, and getting help is the first step in protecting your child from further abuse and the scars it leaves behind.

Signs of Abuse:

  • Physical Abuse Signs: Unexplained injuries, the child shies away from contact with adults, or wearing excessive clothes to cover up their body.
  • Sexual Abuse Signs: In cases where the child is not old enough to verbalize what is happening to them, the child may have a fear of removing clothing or being in close contact with others.
  • Emotional Abuse or Neglect Signs: A child is ignored or rejected, constantly criticized, yelled at and threatened. Emotional neglect occurs when a parent isolates the child or fails to provide the affection and support the child needs. The child becomes afraid of new situations, the child begins to overact to their own mistakes, and the child’s social development may begin to slow.
  • Education Neglect Signs: A parent or guardian does not bring the child to school, or allows them to miss school frequently, or they constantly cause the child to show up late to school.
  • Medical Neglect Signs: A parent fails to provide necessary medical care for the child, not taking them to a doctor when they are sick and allowing injuries to go untreated, or failing to administer necessary prescribed medication.

It is very difficult to determine if your child has been abused or neglected. If parents are going through a divorce, symptoms of abuse are sometimes mistaken as the child “acting out” because they are upset about the divorce. When talking to a child about potential abuse or neglect, it is important for a parent to listen to their child without pushing too hard to get information from the child. Parents should remain positive and reassure the child everything will be okay and encourage them to tell the truth. The child should know that their parents only want to help them and protect them. A trained professional will also be able help to determine if the child is actually being abused or neglected.

Child Abuse and Family Law

In most cases of abuse allegations, the parents are not living together. A parent may have suspicions that their child is being abused at the home of the other parent, or the child may report abuse to one parent that takes place at the home of the other. This does not always mean that your child’s other parent is the abuser. Perhaps there is someone else in the home that this child has been exposed to that is causing harm to your child. It could be a relative, baby-sitter, or the other’s parents significant other.

It is very important that if you share placement of your child with his or her other parent, you make yourself aware of who else may be living in your child’s home, and who else your child may be exposed to.

If you believe that your child is being abused, contact a lawyer to help you protect your child. There are steps that can be taken to have a child immediately removed from a home where there is suspicion of abuse or neglect, such as filing emergency motions to change placement, or a child abuse restraining order. Whatever the case, please contact authorities right away and if your child has been abused, take immediate steps to get them the help they need. It has been documented that 30% of abused or neglected children will abuse their own children. Let’s stop the abuse cycle here.

As a parent, you are your child’s voice, and that voice should be heard.

At John T. Fields & Associates, we have over 25 years of experience dealing with all areas of family law, and we have been able to assist many families where child abuse was present. Contact our office immediately if you believe your child may be in danger.

Milwaukee Area Office: (262) 782-8322

Madison Area Office: (608) 260-7370

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FAQ: How Is Property Divided?

The law recognizes that the marriage is a partnership and if that partnership is dissolved, all marital assets and liabilities should be divided 50/50. The exceptions to this are any property received as a gift or inheritance. This property is not subject to division so long as it is kept separate.

Wisconsin Divorce Property Division

When property is being divided, the court considers outside circumstances before splitting everything 50/50. Some of these factors include:

  • The length of marriage
  • The property brought to the marriage by each party
  • Whether one of the parties has substantial assets not subject to division by the court
  • The contribution of each party to the marriage
  • The economic value to each party's contribution in home making and child care services
  • The age and physical and emotional health of each parties
  • The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other
  • The earning capacity of each party, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of absence from the job market
  • Custodial responsibilities for children

It is important to be honest to the court and your attorney regarding your assets and property. Contact the family law attorneys at John T. Fields and Associates for assistant in your divorce and to make sure you get the assets you are entitled too.

Milwaukee Area Office: (262) 782-8322

Madison Area Office: (608) 260-7370

 

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FAQ: Explain The Divorce Process

In Wisconsin, it takes a minimum of 120 days from the date of service to get a divorce. This is considered a "cooling off" period which is required by law. Complicated divorces may take longer.

The Divorce Process in Wisconsin

The divorce process begins when one party files a summons and petition with the court. The person who files for divorce is called the petitioner. The other person is called the respondent. The respondent is served with the divorce paperwork and the 120 day time period begins. In the beginning, it is usually necessary to have some temporary divorce agreements on major issues; such as who has custody of the children, who stays in the house, and how much temporary support is paid, to name a few. The parties, through their divorce attorneys, should try to reach a written temporary agreement. If this is not possible, a hearing will be held in court and a court commissioner will make any necessary decisions. Any agreements or decisions made by the court are, in fact, temporary and in effect only while the divorce is pending. The ultimate outcome could be very different.

{Attorney Note: Though this phase only refers to the period when the divorce is pending, it is still very important because it sets up a status quo which is often maintained at the end of the divorce. Also, since complicated divorces can go on for some time these temporary agreements may be something that you have to live with for several months, or even longer}

After a temporary agreement has been reached, the case enters the discovery phase. In this phase, the divorce attorneys collect detailed information on debts and assets so that a settlement can be attempted. If there is a custody dispute, child support dispute, or maintenance dispute, your divorce attorney should gather all necessary information for presentation to the court so you can get the result you desire.

The family law attorneys at John T. Fields & Associates help clients facing adversarial divorces, requiring an aggressive, pit bull-style approach. We handle all aspects of divorce disputes including child custody battles, child support settlements, asset division, and other special circumstances involving divorce. We also assist clients who need representation for no-fault divorce in Wisconsin. Contact our divorce and family law firm for more information about legal representation involving divorce matters.

Milwaukee Area Office: (262) 782-8322

Madison Area Office: (608) 260-7370

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How To Choose A Divorce Attorney

Choosing the right attorney for your divorce is one of the most important parts of the divorce process. Your attorney is the person who will be your advocate to the court and the one fighting for your rights. When selecting an attorney, you want someone who will do everything they possibly can to make sure you get everything you want and need from your divorce.

When selecting a divorce attorney, you want to pick someone you can trust. You will need to share details of your personal life, such as details of your marriage and finances, with your attorney. You want to be able to trust your attorney with everything you tell them and feel comfortable when discussing these very personal matters. You also want to trust that your attorney is fighting for your best interests, and not dragging out a divorce in order to have higher billings. If children are involved in the case, you want to trust that your attorney will put the needs of your child first.

An experienced attorney is also very important. No attorney will know exactly how a divorce will go. But experienced attorneys will be able to remove some of the uncertainty by knowing the judges tendencies and how they have made decisions in the past. An experienced attorney will also be more prepared for surprises or unexpected events which may occur. Trial experience is a good thing for a divorce attorney to have, especially if it looks like it will be a contentious divorce. Not only does trial experience show the attorney is prepared to go to trial, but also can possibly help in negotiations with the other attorney.

You also want someone who has focus and expertise in the area of divorce and family law. While hiring the big name criminal defense lawyer may seem like a good idea, a lack of experience or knowledge of family law is not good. Family law and divorce cases can be very complicated and there is a lot at stake. You will want an attorney who knows the ins and outs of family law and will be by your side through the difficult time. At John T. Fields & Associates, the Milwaukee law firm with more than 25 years of practicing in family law, the attorneys are there to use their knowledge and experience of family law matters to help fight for you.

When selecting an attorney, it is important to remember that you get what you pay for. Usually, the more experienced the attorney is the more their hourly rate will be. However, often times an experienced attorney is able to get things done more quickly or efficiently, making the end costs very similar to a lower priced attorney. Settling for the cheapest attorney you can find as a way to save money is never a good idea. You want to have the best representation you can afford.

 

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Tips For Coping With A New Step Parent

After a divorce, moving on can be a very difficult task. One, or perhaps even both, former spouses may find another partner and get remarried. The difficulty here can be in dealing with a stepparent or new spouse of an ex. This can be an especially difficult time for children.  After a divorce, children can struggle when one of their parents has a new spouse. They see this new parent as trying to replace the one they still have. It should be made clear to the children, by all adults involved, that stepparent(s) are not replacing biological mothers and fathers.

Stepparents interacting with the children can also be difficult. Relationships between children and a stepparent will develop slowly. It often takes months, or even years, for a child to be comfortable with their new stepparent. And once they do become comfortable with a stepparent, it is not okay for a stepparent to be called “Mom” or “Dad”. Those names should be left for the biological parents. Instead, have the children refer to the stepparent by their first name or step-mom or step-dad.

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FAQ: How Much Child Support Am I Entitled?

If you are awarded the primary physical placement of your child the court will use a percentage standard to determine the amount of child support you are entitled to. This percentage standard was adopted by the state legislature to avoid long legal battles over how much one party should fairly spend on a child, as well as providing a standard of living for the child as close to the one he would have enjoyed if the parties had not divorced.

Wisconsin Child Support Laws - Child Support Guidelines

The parent obligated to pay child support must pay the following percentages of his/her gross income (before taxes or any other deductions):

  • One child 17%
  • Two children 25%
  • Three children 29%
  • Four children 31%
  • Five children 34%

{Attorney Note: Under some circumstances the judge can vary from these percentage standards and increase or decrease the amount of child support.}

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FAQ: Should I Move Residence During My Divorce?

If a parent with primary physical placement proposes to move the child to a residence outside the state or within the state at a distance of 150 miles or more from the other parent, he or she must provide notice of the intent to the other parent by certified mail. The other party may object to the court or the family court commissioner. This objection must be done within 15 days of receiving notice. The court or family commissioner will then promptly refer the parents for mediation or other family court counseling services and may appoint a guardian ad litem to determine what will be in the best interests of the child or children.

{Attorney Note: Under current law, the parent with primary physical placement will usually be allowed to move.}

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Consequences of Physical Abuse

It is a sad reality that childhood physical abuse exists today. While many children are physically abused every year, it is difficult to know exactly how many because of a lack of reporting the abuse. Yet this abuse has damaging short and long term effects on the children who are victims of the abuse.

The most obvious short term effect of physical abuse of children is medical problems. Children will incur a wide array of injuries from abuse, ranging from bruises and marks to broken bones and scars. In some circumstances, the child will not receive proper medical care as the abusive parent either does not believe the child needs care or does not want to bring the child to get medical care because of the signs of the abuse. However, the physical injuries are not the only result of the abuse. Children who are physically abused also have emotional problems. They become fearful of adults because of the past abuse which came from an adult. The children can also become angry over small things, see a decline in their social skills when interacting with peers, and also exhibit low self-esteem. Abused children also tend to see a drop in academic performance and begin to act out more in the classroom.

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FAQ: What Is A Guardian ad Litem?

A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is a court-appointed lawyer whose job is to serve as an advocate for the best interests of the children in a Wisconsin divorce. Either parent can request a Guardian Ad Litem be appointed, but one will be assigned if the parents cannot come to an agreement on child custody or placement either independently or with the help of a mediator. After performing an investigation called an “informal discovery,” Guardians Ad Litem will advise the judge based on a number of factors, including but not limited to: the wishes of the child, the safety and well being of the child, the strength and duration of existing relationships with grandparents or other family members, the amount of time spent with the child in the past, relocation concerns including school and child care, and the parent’s ability to cooperate and communicate with the other parent in regards to the child. For more information about how Guardians Ad Litem affect your child custody battle, call to schedule an appointment with an experienced Milwaukee area divorce lawyer at John T. Fields & Associates.

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CHIPS: Children In Need Of Protection Services

When a person brings a child into the world, they have an obligation to that child to make sure that their basic physical and emotional needs are cared for. They have a responsibility to make that child feel safe and secure. Sadly, too often in our society more and more parents fall short of their obligation to care for their child’s needs. Selfish parents may choose to satisfy their drug and alcohol addictions instead of purchasing food and clothing for their children.  A parent may knowingly decide to move in with a significant other who has a history of physical or sexual abuse of children. Or a parent may be abusive or neglectful themselves. What should a concerned friend or family member do in this situation? How can you protect a child in need?

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Child Custody Evaluations

Child Custody Evaluation

If you are involved in a heated child custody dispute in Wisconsin, either as part of the divorce process or in a paternity case, you may benefit from a child custody evaluation. This is a valuable tool your divorce lawyer may want to employ to make it clear to the court where your child should be. In some counties in Wisconsin, the court itself will order a child custody evaluation to be done, and the court will appoint a county Social Worker to perform the evaluation. If you do not live in a county that typically orders these evaluations, your divorce lawyer may try to move the court to order it, or get the other party to agree to cooperate with such an evaluation, and use a private, licensed psychologist to perform the evaluation. The result is a valuable recommendation to the court on custody and placement form a trusted professional. Your Wisconsin divorce attorney will be able to recommend who in your area is qualified to perform a custody study.

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FAQ: Types Of Divorce: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly

No Fault Divorce State

Divorce Laws in Wisconsin stay that Wisconsin is a no fault divorce state. This means that neither party needs a reason or any grounds to get divorced. You do not have to show mental cruelty, adultery, abandonment or anything else to proceed with a divorce. In fact, these issues are legally irrelevant. As long as one party believes the marriage to be irretrievably broken, the court will grant the divorce.

The Good: Uncontested Divorce

An uncontested divorce is one in which the parties have mutually agreed on all issues.

The Bad and the Ugly: Contested Divorce

If a divorce is contested, it means that the husband and wife have not reached an agreement on all the issues involved in their divorce. Examples of issues that must be resolved by the parties and their attorneys are child custody, child support, maintenance (alimony) and property division. If an agreement cannot be reached by both parties, a judge will then make a decision on any unresolved issues.

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

Southeast Wisconsin Area Office: (262) 782-8322

Madison Area Office: (608) 260-7370

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FAQ: How Does The Court Decide Who Gets Custody?

One of the most difficult divorce issues arises when you and your spouse cannot agree on custody of your children. If the parties cannot decide on custody and placement arrangements then the judge will make the decision. He will award custody and primary physical placement using the "best interests" of the child or children as the legal standard. The judge will also consider the wishes of the child and parents, as well as the mental and physical health of those living in the proposed custodial household. If professionals such as social workers or psychiatrists are involved, their opinions become a factor. The judge considers the child's relationship with both parents, siblings and others who may significantly affect the child's best interests. He will also take into consideration the child's adjustment to the home, school, religion and the community, as well as the availability of child care services. Finally, the judge will consider whether one party is likely to unreasonably interfere with the child's continuing relationship with the other party. Although difficult, it is important for everyone involved to see the divorce through the child's eyes in order to understand how to best help him/her through the adjustment process.

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FAQ: Can My Spouse And I Use The Same Attorney?

No.

A divorce attorney legally and ethically may only represent one party in a divorce action.

Our legal system is an adversarial system of law meaning there is always considered to be two opposing sides to an issue. If one divorce attorney was allowed to represent both sides, it would be like having the same coach for both football teams in the same game. At best, he could only do one side justice and probably neither side would be well served.

Divorce Lawyer Legal Representation vs. Divorce Without A Lawyer

A person is allowed to represent themselves in their own legal action, so it is possible to have only one family law attorney involved in a divorce if either you or your spouse chooses to represent yourself. Keep in mind that the divorce attorney involved only represents the person who has retained, or hired him. It is strongly recommended when you have anything at stake in a divorce and your spouse has retained an attorney, that you should retain your own Wisconsin divorce attorney. If you do not, you will have the disadvantage. Contact John T. Fields & Associates for more information on legal representation in divorce or to schedule an appointment with an experienced lawyer regarding a divorce action or special circumstances that involve an annulment or legal separation.

Southeast Wisconsin Office: (262) 782-8322

Madison Area Office: (608) 260-7370

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What Should I Expect in Divorce Court?

Many people want to know what to expect in divorce court. It can be stressful and life altering event; that is why it is so important to have an experienced attorney at your side. If you have an attorney, the attorney will do most of the talking on your behalf. Whether you are in front of a commissioner or judge, it is often best to only speak when a question is asked directly of you. Because Wisconsin is a no fault divorce state, it is important to remember while you are in court that placing blame regarding the breakdown of your marriage is not productive and most judges will not want to hear about that. Unless the accusation directly affects your spouse's ability to effectively parent your children, or puts your child in danger, it is generally not best to discuss it in the court room.

It is important not to get emotional in the courtroom. While this is a situation that can cause much anxiety for you, it is important to remain calm. It is easier to communicate when you are calm, and you will better understand the judge or commissioner if they give you instructions or assign future court dates on your case. This is also important when there are children involved because you want it to be clear to the court that you are an emotionally and mentally stable individual. You want to show the court that you are capable of providing a healthy and emotionally stable atmosphere for your children to thrive.

When you are planning to come to court, you can show respect for these dignified proceedings by making sure your dress and grooming are appropriate for the occasion. First impressions are important, and your appearance will have an impact on the judge's impression of you, especially if you are looking to gain custody of your children. This is important because it will give an impression of what type of caregiver you will be. You will want to dress professionally, as if going on a job interview. Men don't necessarily need to wear a tuxedo, or even a suit and tie, but dress casual would be appropriate, such as pressed khaki pants and a button down shirt, tucked in. The same applies to females; you don't have to wear a dress. Nice pants and a shirt would be appropriate. Pants should not be too tight or too loose, and shirts should never be tight or low cut. Most Judges are fairly conservative, so you would want to consider covering tattoos and taking out or covering any facial piercings you may have. Your hair should be clean and neat, and facial hair well kempt.

Lastly, it is important to never show disrespect to a judge or commissioner that you are in front of. Even if you are not pleased with what they may tell you, you will likely be in front of them again before your case is over, so you would want to treat them with the respect their position is due. Always address the judge or commissioner as "Your honor". Do not argue with or interrupt the judge or court commissioner. If you require clarification of an order, it is best to ask your attorney to clarify when the time is right, which is not while the judge is talking. When in doubt about what you can expect when going in to court, always consult your attorney prior to the hearing so that you know exactly what to expect. 

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