Help! I just got served with divorce papers!

State law has very specific provisions outlining how the divorce process in Wisconsin begins. When someone gets served divorce papers, their best response is to immediately contact a Madison divorce attorney. Under the divorce laws in Wisconsin, the filing spouse becomes the “petitioner” in a serious legal action against the “respondent.” If the respondent doesn’t obtain expert legal advice, they could be disadvantaged by lack of clarity on their rights and responsibilities. The divorce papers will specify a response deadline, and missing it could result in a default judgment against the respondent.

Be aware that default judgments result in the petitioner getting everything they made a claim for in the divorce papers. This is especially troubling for respondents as divorce petitions often include unreasonable, outlandish, and even insulting requests. Respondents should keep a level head; these requests are made with the expectation of negotiations and counterclaims, but failure to respond could have life-altering consequences. The Madison divorce lawyers at John T. Fields and Associates understand the game and the stakes of high asset divorce… and will fight like a pitbull to win.

Note the divorce papers often include an emergency order for temporary child custody guidelines. These “temporary” guidelines require immediate attention because the current custody arrangement is often highly relevant toward the determination of child support and other child custody issues later in the hearing.

The faster you take action, the faster your Wisconsin divorce lawyer will start assembling your response. At John T. Fields & Associates, we will walk you through a timeline in your initial consultation, outlining an attack plan for the coming 120-day waiting period and the entire Wisconsin divorce process.

Shortly after being served divorce papers, a respondent should start collecting useful information for their Wisconsin divorce attorney. In a high asset divorce, the division of property is a game with huge stakes. Courts frown on “he said, she said” arguments, and give deference to documentation whenever possible. An experienced Wisconsin divorce lawyer will draw upon all relevant documentation to strengthen counterclaims to the assets the petitioner tries to seize. Equip your divorce attorney with the following documents for the strongest possible representation:

  • Tax forms, tax returns and earnings statements for each year of marriage
  • Financial records including businesses statements, stocks, and bonds
  • Banking information including 401K and other retirement accounts
  • Checking account and credit card statements
  • A list of monthly expenses, bills, and outstanding debts
  • A written employment history for each spouse including dates, wages, paystubs, job titles and job descriptions
  • A list of luxury assets including houses, property, vehicles supported with titles and deeds whenever possible

Records from the past are highly relevant and help your Wisconsin divorce attorney develop a total financial picture. Preparing for a divorce might cause your spouse to modify their finances and spending habits to gain an advantage in court. John T. Fields and Associates will fight like a pitbull and sniff out any attempts at asset hiding.

A person served with divorce papers should stay on their best behavior. Any new criminal charges or domestic disturbances could hurt a case. In child custody disputes, spouses will go to great lengths to discredit someone’s parental fitness. These measures can include recording phone conversations, referencing driving records, and pulling photos or messages off social media websites to make the spouse appear lewd and irresponsible.

Wisconsin is a “no-fault divorce” state, so extra-marital relationships are generally irrelevant to divorce proceedings. However, a fast transition to living with a new significant other could be construed as a less stable, family friendly decision. These circumstances can affect child placement and child custody. Consult a Madison divorce lawyer at John T. Fields regarding any questionable change in living arrangements.

Neither parent should try to keep their children away from a spouse without legitimate fear of abuse. If there are any concerns about potential violence, an attorney should be contacted immediately for a restraining order. Judges prefer to grant Wisconsin child custody to reasonable people who have demonstrated the capacity to enable healthy relationships with each parent.

Parents should never bad-mouth their exes to the child, especially during a divorce. The state of Wisconsin assigns a lawyer to serve as a “Guardian ad Litem”, representing the child’s best interests in a divorce. In making a recommendation to the judge, a Guardian ad Litem will place ultimate emphasis on the physical and emotional well being of the child. Both parents should put extra effort towards helping their child get through the most difficult time of their young life.

Finally, after being served divorce papers, respondents should keep a journal of anything they think thier divorce lawyer might find useful. Keeping written records of conversations with the spouse could strengthen a case. Respondents also want to write down any divorce questions as they think of them so as not to forget them when meeting with a qualified Madison divorce attorney.

The divorce attorneys at John T. Fields and Associates have experience in all aspects Wisconsin divorce law, including high asset divorce. For expert legal assistance when you need it most, contact us for a free consultation.  John T. Fields & Associates serves Madison, Wisconsin and the surrounding area