Family Law – Beloit & Janesville WI

Family Law

iStock_000011113485XSmallNavigating your way through a family law case can be very difficult and stressful for most people. Our attorneys have decades of experience in handling a wide variety of family cases. Our firm handled hundreds of family law cases including divorce, pre-marital planning, marital property agreements, guardianships, adoption, co-habitation agreements, separation agreements, paternity cases, or changes in child custody or placement. The family law attorneys at Monahan & Johnson, S.C. are here to assist families in the Beloit – Janesville WI area.


A divorce is started by one of the parties filing a Summons and Petition for Divorce. To be able to file for a divorce in Wisconsin, one party must reside in the county where the divorce is sought, for at least thirty days, and must also have lived in Wisconsin for six months. It takes a minimum of 120 days to get a divorce, though the process is normally longer, depending on the issues of the case. After the divorce, each party must wait at least six months before either can re-marry.Because getting a divorce takes time, the Court can issue what is called a Temporary Order. This order decides issues like child placement, support, payment of debts, use of the marital home, and so forth, on a temporary basis, while the case is pending. In Wisconsin, the only grounds for divorce that have to be established, is to show that the marriage is irretrievably broken. Once a divorce action is started, the court has jurisdiction to make determinations and orders concerning things such as legal custody and physical placement of children, determining the amount of child support, and the division of property and debts between the parties.


There are two types of custody: sole custody and joint legal custody. Custody is defined as the right of a person to make major legal decisions regarding the child or children. Types of decisions the parent is authorized to make include consent to marry, choice of school, religion, health care and/or medical decisions, obtaining a motor vehicle license, to name a few. Sole legal custody means that only one parent has the decision making authority. Conversely, in a case where joint legal custody is ordered, the parties share the decision making.


Physical placement refers to the time the child spends with each parent. In many cases the parties will reach an agreement as to placement and custody issues. If the parties cannot agree, then the court will decide those issues.In determining physical placement, the court will require certain things from the parties. For instance, the parties might be required to file what is called a “Parenting Plan” with the court. The parents will often be ordered to attend mediation, to see if they can work out a placement schedule themselves. In addition, the court will also appoint an attorney, who is called a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL), who conducts an investigation and makes recommendations to the court, regarding placement and custody issues. Ultimately, the court will make its determination based upon what it believes to be in the child’s best interest. Physical placement varies from case to case, depending on the circumstances of the parties, and a variety of factors. For example, the court can order what is commonly called a “shared placement” whereby both parents have as close to an equal amount of time with the child(ren) as possible. In the alternative, one parent could be awarded what is called “primary placement” whereby the child spends a majority of his or her time with one parent.


The court will determine child support based upon the income of the parties and the placement schedule. Child support is usually ordered to be paid through wage assignment if the person is employed.

If one parent has placement less than 25% of the time, the court will normally base child support on a percentage of that person’s gross income. For one child the percentage is 17%; two children is 25%, three children is 29%, four children is 31% and for five or more, 34%.


The court has authority to make other determinations regarding the children such as payment of medical expenses, health insurance, who will claim the children as an exemption for tax purposes and other issues that may arise during the case.

In addition, the Court can order changes in child custody or placement after a Divorce Order or other order has been entered. Typically such a change will only be considered if at least two years have passed since entry of the last order and there has been a showing of a significant change in circumstances. There are certain exceptions to this “two-year” rule to ensure that a child is not at risk of emotional or physical harm. Those exceptions are limited and very case specific. A thorough discussion of the facts of your case with an attorney would be necessary.


The Court has the jurisdiction in a divorce case to divide the marital property and marital debts of the parties. This could include the division of items such as retirement accounts, real estate and the personal property of the parties. A simplistic definition of marital property is any property acquired during the marriage of the parties, other than gifts from others and inheritances. However, in certain cases, gifts and inheritances can also be divided.

Typically, a judge will start with the presumption that the property and debts are going to be divided equally. However, a judge does not have to divide the property equally, based upon a number of factors. For instance, a judge can look at the health of the parties, the earning capacity of each person, what property each brought to the marriage, the length of the marriage, and any other factor the court thinks would be relevant.

A divorce case can have significant ramifications for you not only now, but far into the future. Our experienced attorneys at Monahan & Johnson, S.C. are here to assist you in navigating your way through the court system during this very difficult process. Our attorneys are sensitive to the issues you are facing. In addition, our attorneys will fight for your rights to insure no one is taking advantage of you!

Monahan & Johnson, S.C.
400 East Grand Avenue, Suite 101
Beloit, Wisconsin 53511 Phone (608) 362-8086 Fax (608) 362-7880