Property and Debt Division Attorney in Green Bay, Wisconsin
Understanding and defending your property rights in a divorce can be difficult under Wisconsin’s community property laws. One of the most crucial steps in the divorce process is splitting your individual and joint assets. Wisconsin is a “community property” state, which generally implies that in the event of a divorce, both spouses would be regarded to possess equally any assets earned by either spouse during the marriage. In some situations, even assets purchased before the marriage.
You may be guided through the process and guarantee that you get your fair part in your divorce with the assistance of our Green Bay knowledgeable property and debt division attorney. We have years of industry experience defending clients in Wisconsin divorce proceedings at the Gage-Michaels Law Firm.
You may rely on us to counsel and represent you in defending your rights, whether you’re worried about preserving a specific asset or just want to ensure you get your fair share during your divorce.
Why Do I Need A Property and Debt Division Attorney in Wisconsin?
Our skilled property and debt division attorney understands and has experience with divorce and the laws in Wisconsin. Working with us ensures that concerns like spousal support and property partition are addressed correctly. Working with our property and debt division attorney is crucial when your property and assets are complicated and valuable.
We are also aware of the documentation that must be submitted to the court system in a divorce, and we will take care of these matters quickly. In a divorce, your financial and property statement(s) is significant and important. These documents must be precise and comprehensive since a mistake can make or break your case.
There is no assurance that your ex-spouse will feel the same way about your divorce, no matter how you approach it. There’s also no guarantee your feelings won’t change as divorce proceedings move forward.
The majority of spouses experience a lot of anger and bewilderment during the divorce process. Even in the best-case scenario, both partners are likely to experience some pain over their relationship coming to an end.
What is Wisconsin’s Community Property Law?
Regardless of their respective wages, Wisconsin law assumes that each spouse contributes equally to marriage. This leads to each spouse being entitled to one-half ownership of all assets in the case of a divorce, subject to several limitations. All assets acquired during the marriage are subject to this law, with the following exceptions:
- Gifts given to and inheritances received by one spouse
- Property acquired in exchange for separate property
- Appreciation for the value of individual property
- Assets designated as separate property in a marital property agreement
- Recoveries for property damage caused by the other spouse
- Damages recovered for personal injuries
It is possible for assets obtained before the marriage to become community property, even though the equal-ownership presumption often only applies to assets acquired during the marriage. This could happen if independent assets are combined with marital assets (such as in a bank or investment account) or if individual ownership is not properly documented.
Assets that could be classified as either separate or marital (community) property in a divorce include:
- Bank, investment, and retirement accounts
- Life insurance policies
- Stocks and bonds
- Real estate
- Jewelry, furnishings, collections, and other items of personal property
- Ownership interests in privately-held businesses
You may better grasp how the law relates to your marriage and what to anticipate in your divorce with the assistance of our knowledgeable property and debt division attorney.
What is Marital Estate?
All assets owned by either partner, whether they were obtained before or after the marriage, are included in the marital estate. Only assets received as gifts from other parties, assets inherited from a spouse, and assets specified by a Marital Property Agreement are excluded from the marital estate.
These resources might be divided as part of the marital estate if they were combined with marital property. Our skilled property and debt division attorney may be needed when dealing with the commingled property since it may get quite problematic. Our group of knowledgeable property division attorneys in Wisconsin at the Gage-Michaels Law Firm can offer that high standard of service.
What Are Marital Debts?
All responsibilities and debts, whether secured or unsecured, incurred before or during the marriage are considered marital debts. To help achieve an equitable division of the marital estate, our skilled property and debt division attorney in Wisconsin will frequently provide what is known as a martial balance sheet (MBS).
All of the partners’ joint assets and liabilities will be shown on the marital balance sheet, along with a breakdown of who is responsible for what. The division of the marital estate is to be equitable, according to the court’s presumption.
The court must take into account each of the enumerated considerations to diverge from this assumption or to impose an uneven split of the marital estate:
- The length of the marriage.
- Property is brought to the marriage by each party.
- Whether one party has significant assets that the court can’t divide.
- The contributions made by each spouse to the marriage, including the financial worth of services like housekeeping and child care.
- Age and physical and emotional health of parties.
- Contribution of one party to the education, training, or increased earning power of the other.
- Earning potential of each party, including educational background, training, employment skills, work experience, length of time away from the workforce, child-rearing responsibilities, and the time and money required to obtain sufficient education or training to enable the party to become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage.
- The benefit of giving the party physical placement for a longer period is the family home or the right to reside there for a fair amount of time.
- The amount and length of any judgment giving either party maintenance payments, any order requiring recurring child support payments, and if the property division is substituted for such payments.
- Other aspects of each party’s financial situation, such as pension benefits, both vested and unvested, and potential interests.
- The tax consequences to each party.
- Any documented property distribution arrangement that the parties have agreed to before or after the marriage. Such agreements must be enforceable by the court, except that they are not enforceable where the conditions of the agreement are fair to both parties.
- Such additional factors as the court may find pertinent in any specific situation.
The reckless spending and depletion of marital assets brought on by a party may also be taken into account by the court. This includes property that was given away, wasted on drinking, gambling, or using illegal substances, as well as assets that were transferred or sold for too little money.
Once a final property split order has been submitted, it cannot be changed. A motion for relief from judgment may, in exceptional cases, cause a final divorce ruling to be reconsidered.
How Do State Laws Affect the Division of Property and Debts in Divorce?
Even if you want to settle your property dispute without going to court, you need to be aware of the fundamental legal principles governing property distribution. When you’re bargaining with your husband, keep those rules in mind because, if it comes to that, a court will use them to make a judgment.
State law serves as the foundation for the laws governing property split in divorce, and there are some important local differences. But across the United States, the core principles are the same.
What is the “Equitable Property Division” in Divorce?
When deciding how to divide a marital property after a divorce, judges typically use a procedure called “equitable division.” Given essence, this implies that the judge will decide how to divide a couple’s marital assets and debts between them based on what the judge deems to be equitable (fair) in the specific circumstances of the case. It does not imply that the assets will be divided evenly.
State laws offer guidelines, even though the judge will ultimately decide what is reasonable in your situation. The following are some typical considerations for judges:
- the couple’s debts and other liabilities
- whether one spouse contributed to the other’s education or dropped out of the workforce to care for their children
- both spouses’ economic circumstances, age, and health
- the tax consequences of the property division
- whether one spouse has wasted marital assets, and
- whether it makes sense for one spouse to keep certain property, like a business or the family home
How is Your House Divided in Divorce?
Family home decisions are closely related to those other divorce-related matters, such as child custody, child support, and alimony. What will happen to your house after a divorce can be addressed in several different ways, including:
Buying Out Your Spouse
To get the money to buy out your spouse and transfer ownership of the property to your name, if you want to maintain the house, you’ll often need to refinance the mortgage debt. Of course, depending on interest rates and your credit score, it might not always be an option.
Selling the House
If neither of you wants to live in the family home after your divorce or if you can’t afford a buyout or another alternative, you can sell the house and divide the money.
You and your ex may continue to co-own your house for a while after the divorce if it is financially possible. When one parent has primary physical custody of children who require the stability of remaining in the family home, you could choose this option or a judge might mandate it. When the present housing market is especially poor, it can also make sense.
Again, if you’re thinking about including this arrangement in your settlement, you should discuss the dangers and how to resolve them in your agreement with our knowledgeable Wisconsin property and debt division attorney.
If the house is owned separately by one spouse, that spouse will often keep it. However, if money from the marriage was used to pay the mortgage, make repairs, or renovate the home, the other spouse could be entitled to a share of the property’s appreciation during the marriage.
Can You Get Divorced Without Splitting Your Assets?
Final divorce judgments typically need to specify how the couple will divide their property and who would be responsible for paying off their marital debts. The court will issue a divorce decree that legally dissolves your marriage, but it won’t contain directives on how to divide your marital assets or debts. This is known as a “status-only” divorce, and it may be possible to obtain one in certain restricted situations. For example:
- Your state’s laws may expressly permit courts to award divorces based only on status. In California, when one of the spouses requests it, a judge may hold a separate hearing (sometimes called a “bifurcated trial”) just to grant a status-only dissolution of the marriage. The judge must reserve the legal authority (“jurisdiction”) to decide all of the other issues in the divorce later. Other states might allow this kind of bifurcated trial when both spouses agree to it.
- In some circumstances, such as when your spouse and the property are both in another state, you might be allowed to obtain a divorce in your state even though the court lacks the authority to make decisions about property division. In such a case, you would proceed with the divorce in your state but would then need to initiate a separate legal proceeding in the other state to ask for orders splitting your marital assets.
Even if your state allows for divorces without dividing property, this might have unanticipated tax and other financial repercussions. A status-only divorce would let you and your ex move on with your separate lives (and maybe new marriages) while you continue attempting to settle your property problems, but there may be methods to prevent these consequences. So if you’re thinking of doing this, consult with our knowledgeable property and debt division attorney beforehand.
How to Reach a Property Agreement in Divorce?
It might not be too difficult to agree on how to divide your personal property between the two of you if you and your spouse haven’t been married for a while and just have a small number of possessions. However, if you just can’t come to an agreement—or if you jointly possess sophisticated or significant assets—you’ll likely require our knowledgeable property and debt division attorney’s assistance.
Getting Help With a Property Agreement
There are three basic sources of assistance with property settlements:
You and your spouse will meet with a qualified, neutral expert during divorce mediation who will assist you in crafting a settlement agreement. In certain jurisdictions, courts will order you to attend mediation at a specific period throughout the divorce process if you haven’t reached a final settlement agreement before filing for divorce.
The mediator will often create a written record that represents any agreements you struck during the process, whether you seek mediation before or during your divorce.
Usually, when you utilize an online divorce service, you’ll get a settlement agreement that has been finalized based on your responses to an online questionnaire. The majority of the time, to qualify for these services, you must have an uncontested divorce, meaning that before you file for divorce, you and your spouse have reached an agreement on every matter.
However, even if you believe you and the other party agree, the questionnaire may make you aware of any issues or choices you may have forgotten. On state or county court websites, depending on your state, you might also be able to locate divorce settlement agreement forms.
Hiring a Lawyer
There are instances when you’ll require legal counsel to assist with settlement negotiations and document preparation. Even so, you have a few choices about the attorney’s function. You might have everything in your divorce handled by our knowledgeable property and debt division attorney (known as “full-scope” representation).
You may also be able to hire us on a consultancy basis to help design the settlement document or to examine the agreement that you or a mediator produced once you and your spouse have an understanding of the issues.
Preparing for a Property Division
Whether you decide to negotiate a property settlement with a professional or on your own, you’ll still need to complete the following steps:
- Make a Complete List of Your Assets
- Value Your Property
- Identify Which Assets Are Marital and Which Are Separate
- Getting Court Approval of Your Property Settlement Agreement
How is the Marital Debt Divided After a Divorce in Wisconsin?
Because Wisconsin is a community property state, any debts accrued during the marriage by either spouse are assumed to belong to both spouses and must be shared following a divorce. Because the court will assume that it was incurred for the benefit of both parties, even though the debt is in one spouse’s name, it can be allocated to either side following a divorce.
There are two exceptions to this general rule. First, a spouse’s debt from before the marriage that is unconnected to the marriage is not considered marital debt. This is a personal debt that the spouse who incurred it is still responsible for. These personal debts won’t be redistributed by the court throughout the divorce proceedings.
Second, the assumption that a debt acquired during a marriage was done so for marital purposes might be disputed by either spouse.The court may determine that a debt is marital if it is even remotely connected to the marriage.
Who is Responsible for Marital Debt in Wisconsin?
The Wisconsin Marital Property Act says that any debt incurred by either spouse in a marriage is presumed to have been made “in the interest of the marriage or the family.” As a result, any debt incurred during a marriage will by default be treated as a joint marital debt upon divorce. Therefore, during the divorce, this debt will be shared.
In Wisconsin, a spouse may also be responsible for unknown debts. For instance, a credit card debt incurred by one spouse without the knowledge of the other is nevertheless regarded as a marital debt. The debt is shared by both couples.
Are There Exceptions to Shared Debt?
There are clear exceptions to the Marital Property Act definition, such as pre-marital debt, debt in support of a spouse or child from another marriage, or a tort committed by one spouse.
Additionally, a spouse has the right to challenge responsibility for debts that were unquestionably not committed “in the interest of the marriage or the family.” It’s crucial to realize that the spouse who is contesting has the burden of proof. This is thus because, unless otherwise shown, any debts accrued by either spouse during a marriage are marital debts.
How Do You Determine Your Marital Debt Liability?
The Marital Property Act and the Family Code are the two codes that have an impact on marital debt in Wisconsin divorce proceedings. In general, the Family Code deals with how property (and debts) are allocated in a divorce, whereas the Marital Property Act deals with property affected by marriage.
Your marital debt liability as defined by both codes might be determined by several factors. Identify any debt that existed before marriage, was incurred to support a spouse or child from a previous marriage, or was the result of wrongdoing by one spouse.
Next, identify debts that were not incurred “in the interest of the marriage or the family.” To ensure that all parties are aware of any debts, it might also be good to acquire credit reports for both couples.
Consult Our Experienced Green Bay Property and Debt Division Attorney Today!
Consult our knowledgeable property and debt division attorney to learn how to start reducing your liability for these debts during a divorce if you know or have reason to believe that significant debts were accumulated during your marriage and you believe that many of these debts were for personal rather than marital purposes. Since the court starts from a presumption that all debts accrued during a marriage are both parties’ responsibility, the burden will be on you to prove otherwise.
At the Gage-Michaels Law Firm, we routinely work with spouses to examine current existing debts and make a case to a court for limited liability. In Green Bay, Wisconsin, we can help spouses with these and other financial issues, such as spousal support. To learn more, get in touch with our office right now.