“Placement” refers to where a child lives or spends time and is governed by §767.41, Wis. Stat. At one point, placement was called “visitation.” A party who has physical placement of a child has the right to make routine daily decisions regarding the child’s care.
Placement schedules come in a wide variety of configurations as no one plan or method works for all families. In some families, one party may be awarded primary placement with the other having periods of physical placement at reasonable times upon reasonable notice. “Primary placement” is when a parent has placement of the child/ren for at least 76% of the time—at least 274 overnights in a year. Other families may be awarded substantially equal periods of placement (shared placement). Shared placement exists when both parents have periods of physical placement at least 25% of the time—at least 92 overnights in a year.
If the parties cannot agree on a placement schedule, they will be ordered to mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful, the parties have several options: They may request a Moderated Placement Custody Conference, the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem, or the appointment of a Custody Assessment Team. The Court’s ultimate determination will be based upon the factors found at §767.41(5)(am) of the Wisconsin Statutes.
“Custody” refers to the right to make major decisions for a child and is governed by §767.41, Wis. Stat. Major decisions include but are not limited to:
Wisconsin law presumes “Joint Legal Custody” is in the best interest of a child. Even when families are no longer intact, the law prefers parents discuss, collaborate, and decide major decisions together for their minor child/ren. If the parties have joint legal custody, then neither parent has superior decision making power.
“Sole Legal Custody” vests only one parent with the right to make major decisions for a child. Sometimes, the parties agree one parent should have sole legal custody due to their current circumstances. Other times, the Court awards sole legal custody to one parent when the other has engaged in a pattern of domestic violence or a serious incident of domestic violence. Additionally, the Court may order sole legal custody if at least one party requests it, and the Court specifically finds any of the following:
If the parties cannot agree on Joint or Sole Legal Custody, they will be referred to mediation. If mediation is unsuccessful, the parties have several options: They may request a Moderated Placement Custody Conference, the appointment of a Guardian ad Litem, or the appointment of a Custody Assessment Team. The Court’s ultimate determination will be based upon the factors found at §767.41(5)(am) of the Wisconsin Statutes.
Both parents have a responsibility to financially support their child. Child support is governed by the Department of Children and Families’ Chapter 150 and Wisconsin Statute §767.511. A support order will remain in place until the child turns 18, or, if the child is pursuing an accredited course of study leading to a high school diploma or its equivalent, until age 19.
Child support calculations are based upon one or both parties’ incomes and the amount of placement assigned to each parent. When a parent has primary placement (274 overnights or more), the percentage standard guidelines apply in calculating child support. The percentage standard guidelines are based on the payer’s gross (pre-tax) income or earning capacity and the number of children in the payee’s care. They are:
The Court has discretion to deviate from the child support guidelines and order a payer to pay more or less than the guidelines would otherwise provide based upon the factors found at §767.511(1m) of the Wisconsin Statutes.
Additionally, the following special circumstances may warrant a deviation from the percentage standard: A serial family situation where a payer has children living in more than one household. A shared placement family where both parents have placement for at least 92 overnights a year. The payer’s earning capacity is below established limits or qualifies as a high income earner. The guidelines for these circumstances are set forth in DCF 150.
All child support payments must be made through the Wisconsin Support Collections Trust Fund (“WSC Trust Fund”).
In most cases, child support will be paid by income assignment (directly withholding the money from the payer’s check) through the payer’s employer. If the payer is a sole business owner or a 1099 contract worker, this individual must make payments to the WSC Trust Fund and NOT directly to the parent who is to receive them. To ensure that payment is properly applied, the payer should include the appropriate payment coupon.
Child support payments should be sent to: Wisconsin Support Collections Trust Fund, P.O. Box 74400 Milwaukee, WI 53274-0400
For payment information on your child support account, please call the Wisconsin Child Support Collection Trust at (800) 991-5530. Please have your PIN number ready for this call.
For more extensive information, please go to the La Crosse County Child Support Agency website.
Public Assistance/Health Insurance
If a parent or child receives public assistance benefits, the Child Support Agency is automatically involved in the case and any agreement between the parents regarding support and/or health insurance must be approved by this agency.
For child support enforcement services, you may contact your lawyer or the La Crosse County Child Support Agency (CSA) at:
Child Support Agency
333 Vine Street, Room 1701
La Crosse, WI 54601
Maintenance (formerly called “alimony”) is the payment from one spouse to another for spousal support. Maintenance is governed by §767.56, Wis. Stat. If a party seeks maintenance from the other party, he or she must make a specific request for it. These spousal support payments can be ordered at a Temporary Order Hearing or at the conclusion of a case. Maintenance can be for a limited term or for an indefinite period.
Maintenance involves two objectives: to support the recipient spouse in accordance with the needs and earning capacities of the parties (the support objective) and to ensure a fair and equitable financial arrangement between the parties in each individual case (the fairness objective). The factors the Court will consider when determining maintenance issues are as follows:
If the recipient remarries, the payer may petition the court to terminate maintenance. Maintenance terminates upon the death of either party, if it hasn’t already ended. The court will enforce maintenance payments through the contempt of court process.
Wisconsin law presumes all property owned by the parties should be divided equally and is governed by §767.61, Wis. Stat. However, gifted and inherited property is generally excluded from this presumption. The factors the Court will consider when determining property division issues are as follows:
Property acquired or earned during the marriage is considered marital. Property that belongs to only one spouse before marriage is generally deemed non-marital or separate property. Property that was “separate” (inheritance/gift/owned prior to marriage) can become “marital” depending on how it was handled during the course of the marriage. In short, property division is nuanced and complex.
Parties should consider hiring an attorney or a mediator to assist them with this complicated division. Property settlements are final as of the date of the divorce. Only in rare circumstances would a property settlement be re-opened and amended. Fixing a mistake after a case is finalized is very costly. Some mistakes cannot be corrected, and potential income streams are forever foreclosed. Professional expertise brings clarity and fairness to this difficult process.
The court will enforce property division through the contempt of court process.