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  • Physical Placement and Legal Custody in Wisconsin

    By: Linda S. Vanden Heuvel

    Under Wisconsin law there are three types of child custody: joint legal custody, sole legal custody, and a combination of the two. There are three types of physical placement : primary physical placement, shared physical placement, and split physical placement.

    Legal Custody in Wisconsin

    If you are awarded legal custody, you have the right and responsibility to make major decisions relative to your children. Major decisions include education, religion, and medical care.physical placement and child custody

    When custody is awarded to both parents, it is defined as joint legal custody. In Wisconsin there is a presumption that joint legal custody is what is best for the children. If legal custody is awarded to only one parent, it is called sole legal custody. The court may grant sole legal custody if it finds that sole legal custody is in the best interests of the children, and any of the following apply:

    A) Both parties agree to sole legal custody.

    B) The parties disagree over sole legal custody, but one party is not capable of performing parental duties and responsibilities, or one or more conditions exist that interfere with joint legal custody.

    C) The parties will not be able to cooperate in decision making.

    The third type of legal custody is an award of joint legal custody to both parties, with one party having final decision making authority, in the event the parties cannot reach an agreement.

    Physical Placement in Wisconsin

    In contrast, physical placement is where the children reside on any given day. The person with physical placement has the right and responsibility to make routine decisions regarding the child’s care while the child is in his or her placement.

    In most cases, both parents are awarded some form of physical placement. The actual placement arrangement may take one of three basic forms:

    A) Primary placement. In Wisconsin, the person with primary placement has the overnight placement of the children for at least 75% of the year.

    B) Shared placement. Under Wisconsin law, if a parent has at least 25% or 92 days of physical placement per year, placement is considered shared.

    C) Split custody. Split custody is unusual, but in that instance children are split between the parents. Generally with split custody, the children are together every weekend and for substantial parts of the summer.

    Careful consideration should be given to both joint custody and physical placement of your children. Your decision-making will impact your children’s lives forever. It is important to obtain input not only from your divorce attorney or family law attorney, but also from, in many occasions, your child’s therapist. In divorce, it is often recommended to involve the input of a child coordinator who can assist in addressing the best interests of the children. Because in Wisconsin there is a relationship between child support paid and the amount of time the child support payor has placement of the children, too often the best interests of the children are secondary to financial concerns. It is imperative to put the interests of the children before the cost of child support. It is often better to compromise on financial issues if compromise means that your children’s needs will be better addressed.

    Contact the attorneys at Vanden Heuvel & Dineen S.C. in one of our six locations in Germantown, West Bend, Sturgeon Bay, Appleton, Sister Bay and Milwaukee. to address your concerns and questions regarding joint custody and physical placement.  They are knowledgeable and experienced in the field, and care about what happens to you and your children. Call 1-800-805-1976 to schedule an appointment for a free consultation. You may also want to obtain a copy of attorney Linda S. Vanden Heuvel’s book, Divorce in Wisconsin: The Legal Process, Your Rights, and What to Expect.



  • Start to Finish: Completion of Divorce in Wisconsin

    By: Linda S. Vanden Heuvel

    The more you and your spouse are able to reach agreements in your divorce, the sooner you will be able to actually complete your divorce in Wisconsin. It takes a minimum of 120 days from the date of service of the divorce pleadings to the divorce date, assuming all issues are resolved, including custody and shutterstock_352105430placement, child support, maintenance,  property division, allocation of debts, taxes and income tax exemptions, and more. If there are major issues in your case requiring appraisals and evaluations for property or social service studies and / or psychological evaluations in placement cases, the completion of divorce in Wisconsin will be substantially longer than the 120-day minimum.

    Courts are also overwhelmed with cases, and scheduling can be a big problem. Sometimes cases are scheduled many months in advance. Attorneys are also often booked into the future, so there is no sure way to answer the question “how long does completion of  divorce in Wisconsin take?”.

    There are many things you can do to expedite the divorce. Promptly respond to your attorney’s requests for documentation. Complete your requested information as comprehensively as possible. Make your divorce a top priority so your schedule does not get in the way of completing the divorce. Be an active participant in appraisals and evaluations.

    Talk to your divorce attorney or family law attorney or custody / placement attorney about a potential timeline for your divorce. That can only be completed after a full discussion of the issues.

    For more information, or for a free consultation, contact the attorneys at Vanden Heuvel & Dineen S.C. offices, which include Germantown, West Bend, Milwaukee, Appleton, Sister Bay, and Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Call 1-800-805-1976 to schedule your case evaluation. You will also find additional insight and information in Attorney Linda S. Vanden Heuvel’s recently published book, Divorce in Wisconsin: The Legal Process, Your Rights, and What to Expect.

  • ShredFest 2016

    By: Linda S. Vanden Heuvel

    WHEN:     Saturday, April 30, 2016, 8:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

    WHERE:  SVA Parking Lot, 18650 West Corporate Drive, Brookfield, Wisconsin

    COST:      FREE

    SVA Professional Services, the Better Business Bureau and ProShred are sponsoring ShredFest on Saturday, April 30, 2016, from 8:30 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., at the SVA Parking Lot, 18650 West Corporate Drive, Brookfield, Wisconsin.

    What Can I Shred? Bring your old checks, check carbons and registers, bank and credit card statements, custodian statements and financial plans, receipts and junk mail.

    How Much Can I Bring?  There is a limit of three paper bags of documents (up to 50 pounds of paper). Place items in paper grocery bags rather than cardboard boxes or plastic shopping bags.

    Please note:  Paper products only. Staples, rubber bands and paperclips do not need to be removed. No 3-ring binders, binder clips, hanging files or media products (photos, CDs, floppy disks, tapes, credit card, hard drives, etc.


  • Grandparent Visitation Expanded in Wisconsin

    By: Linda S. Vanden Heuvel

    On April 7, 2016, the Wisconsin Supreme Court published a decision (S.A.M. v. Meister, 2016 WI 22) Grandparents & Grandchildrenconfirming that grandparents, great-grandparents and stepparents of children with divorced parents may petition for visitation rights whether or not they maintain a “parent-like relationship” with their grandchildren, great-grandchildren or stepchildren. This decision is an important milestone in defining the visitation rights of relatives in divorce cases involving minor children, and embraces the Wisconsin legislature’s gradual expansion of visitation rights over time.

    Meister involved the divorce of Nancy and Jay Meister, who received joint legal custody of their four minor children. Nancy was given primary physical placement and soon thereafter began to limit the informal visitations of the children’s paternal grandmother, Carol. In light of these changes, Carol petitioned the court for formal visitation rights. Both the Circuit Court and Court of Appeals found that Carol was not entitled to visitation rights because she did not maintain a “parent-like relationship” with her grandchildren.

    However, the Supreme Court reversed, holding that the previous courts had incorrectly interpreted the relevant statute, which reads:

    “[U]pon petition by a grandparent, greatg-randparent, stepparent or person who has maintained a relationship similar to a parent-child relationship with the child, the court may grant reasonable visitation rights to that person if the parents have notice of the hearing and if the court determines that visitation is in the best interest of the child.”

    Wis. Stat. § 767.43(1). Based on an interpretation of syntax as well as an examination of the statute’s legislative history, the Supreme Court found that the qualifying clause “who has maintained a relationship similar to a parent-child relationship with the child” applies only to persons other than grandparents, great-grandparents and stepparents.

    The Supreme Court further held that these statutory visitation rights do not unconstitutionally infringe on a parent’s right to direct the care, custody and control of his or her children. The above-referenced statute still requires courts to determine whether such visitation rights are in the best interest of the children, and as such, a fit parent’s determination of the children’s best interest must be given special weight.

    Meister illustrates that the Wisconsin legislature has gradually expanded the number of persons who may petition for visitation rights. Currently, grandparents, great-grandparents and stepparents may petition for such rights, as well as other persons who have “maintained a relationship similar to a parent-child relationship with the child.” A grandparent, great-grandparent, or stepparent does not need to prove the existence of a parent-child relationship in order to secure visitation rights under Wis. Stat. § 767.43(1).

    If you have any questions feel free to contact to schedule a free consultation to meet with an attorney.

  • What factors determine how much your divorce will cost?

    By: Linda S. Vanden Heuvel

    Although it is difficult to predict the total amount of your divorce attorney fees, the following are some of the factors that impact the total cost:

    • Whether custody and placement are in dispute
    • Whether your divorce presents any novel legal questions
    • Whether a pension plan(s) is subject to division
    • Whether there is a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement between the parties
    • Whether either of the parties have received gifted or inherited property, and whether or not that property has been commingled
    • Whether you and/or your spouse have a premarital interest in property or debt
    • The nature and number of the issues contested
    • The cooperation of your spouse and opposing counsel
    • The frequency of your communication with your attorney
    • The ability of you and your spouse to communicate with each other
    • The promptness with which information is provided and/or exchanged between both you and your spouse and the attorneys
    • Whether there are litigation costs, such as fees for expert witnesses or court reporters
    • The extent of discovery
    • The hourly rate of the attorney

    Reviewing regular invoices from your divorce/family law attorney and communicating with your attorney about any questions or concerns will help keep you on track with the overall cost of your divorce.