Why should a person hire an attorney that specializes in divorce?
Spouses put an enormous amount of effort into their marriage and children, sometimes a lifetime of effort. Wisconsin’s divorce and child custody rules are rather complex, and provide significant discretion to the judge. Just like any other specialization, dedicated divorce lawyers use their knowledge to put their clients in the best position to achieve their goals.
How can a potential client be best prepared for their first meeting with you?
Think about their ultimate goals they wish to achieve at the end of the divorce, and why. Have at least a basic understanding of their financial situation.
What type of questions should a client ask a potential attorney?
Whether they have sufficient knowledge to handle the case. How could my assets be divided? How, specifically, does the court decide on a child’s custody? What are the factors in awarding spousal support, child support, and property division? What is the timetable for each step? Perhaps most importantly, does the attorney have a specific plan to achieve your goals? The client should understand the attorney’s style. Clients must feel comfortable communicating with their lawyer.
What type of questions do you ask your potential client during the first meeting?
Questions designed to understand their background and what led to them to divorce. I want to understand their motivations and goals. Whether there are any specific concerns regarding abuse, violence, substance abuse, or child needs/safety.
What do you see as being the most common fight of high-conflict couples?
Child placement. Parents are very protective of their time with children. If the parents have a poor opinion of each, or lack of trust, it is very hard for parents to overcome.
What is the top mistake you see a lot of women make during their divorce?
Believing that they can rely on their ex-husband to willingly pay long-term spousal support. Support should be paid as appropriate, but the ex-husband will do everything possible to decrease or end support. It can be financially dangerous to be completely dependent on spousal support.
What can and should a woman do if her spouse is spreading vicious lies about her in and out of the court room?
Notify her lawyer immediately. Also notify the guardian ad litem (the children’s representative). In some cases, a harassment injunction is appropriate. If the spouse’s behavior does not meet that legal standard, an order can sometimes be obtained in family court to prevent that behavior. Otherwise, aggressively force the spouse to prove his claims.
Do you recommend mediation to your clients and can you explain what mediation is and how a person can best prepare for it?
I recommend mediation when the spouses are in sufficiently equal positions of emotional strength to avoid intimidation. In cases of abuse, mediation is not recommended.
Mediation is a process in which an objective person (usually a lawyer, sometimes a counselor) works with the spouses to reach agreement. The mediator does not represent either spouse. Usually, each spouse submits a position statement. The mediator meets briefly with the spouses and their lawyers together, then the parties break into separate rooms and the mediator shuttles between them with proposals. Mediation is not binding, and the spouses are not forced into an agreement if it cannot be found.
The best preparation is to ensure that your lawyer has all the information he/she needs, that you have clearly stated your goals, and that your lawyer understands them. Discuss reasonable expectations prior to mediation, and understand that an agreement takes compromise from both spouses.
What is the advice you would give a woman regarding the marital home? Such as, should she move out of it during the divorce or should she keep it in lieu of other marital assets?
I rarely advise clients to move out of the home during a divorce, unless to avoid a very bad financial situation or escape abuse. One reason is because one of the factors in awarding custody is which parent is in the home. Another reason is because once a spouse is out of the home, it is nearly impossible for her to return if she wishes.
Each client must evaluate the personal and financial importance of the home. Due to the changing housing market, I usually advise parents to take cash instead of non-liquid assets.
If a woman feels that her spouse is neglecting the children or putting them in danger, what options does she have to ask for supervised visits and full physical and legal custody?
Sole custody is rarely awarded, except in very serious cases. Supervision can also be difficult to award because of the difficulty in finding an acceptable and willing supervisor. Definitely, limiting placement is the most effective option. However, if a woman has legitimate concerns about her child’s safety, she should explain them clearly to her lawyer. Concerns of physical abuse, drug/alcohol abuse, or mental illness should be pursued immediately and aggressively
437 S. Yellowstone Drive #105, Madison WI 53719
120 3rd Street, Unit H, Baraboo, WI 53913
Years in Practice: 6
Is there anything else that you would like potential clients to know about you?
Throughout my career, I have represented clients of diverse financial, ethnic, social, and cultural backgrounds. Experience gained through participation in hundreds of court hearings, lengthy trials, and all manner of substantive and procedural disputes allows me to serve my clients across the entire spectrum of family issues. I often work with Domestic Abuse Intervention Services representing victims of domestic abuse. I routinely serve as a guardian ad litem for children, speak on family and child related topics, and serve on several state and local bar association boards.