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Posted on in Family Law

b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_264841286-min.jpg Divorce obviously has tremendous emotional, psychological, and familial ramifications, but it has significant financial consequences as well.

A frequent source of consternation is how to divide up the wealth accumulated by the couple during their years of marriage. The focus is not only currently held assets, but prospective income as well – especially pensions.

Pensions can be a challenging subject during divorce, as a person’s quality of life post-retirement hinges upon them. Many people are hesitant to share a portion of their retirement assets with their spouse. However, before you panic, it is not a foregone conclusion that your ex-spouse will take the lion's share of your monthly benefit payment. Here is how Wisconsin courts divide pensions during divorce:

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Waukesha debt division lawyersEven when a divorce is necessary, it is still difficult. Both parties are generally invested in protecting their interests and are likely to be entrenched in their positions.

Although divorce is framed as a fight to retain property and assets, sometimes it is about the things you do not want to keep. A prime example is your soon-to-be ex-spouse’s debt. The thought of being responsible for their poor financial decision making is frustrating and infuriating.

In Wisconsin, the Marital Property Act delegates responsibility for debt incurred by either spouse during marriage. Under the Act, all debt occurred during the marriage is considered jointly shared. The reasoning here is that the debt, even if financed by just one of the spouse’s, is for the benefit of the marriage. For example, if the husband buys a house during the marriage, the wife could still be liable post-divorce, even if only the husband’s name is on the title and mortgage.

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Waukesha divorce lawyersThe lives of married people are often totally intertwined, which is part of what makes divorce so difficult. How do you determine who is entitled to what? The challenge is especially acute in the financial realm. After all, it is often the case that one spouse was mostly or entirely dependent on the income of the other.

In these situations, the dependent spouse will often be granted some form of compensation for his or her continued sustenance post-divorce. Generally, this compensation falls into one of two categories: property distribution or spousal maintenance.

Spousal maintenance or “alimony” is court ordered spousal support in the form of monthly payments made by the supporting spouse to the dependent spouse. Property refers to assets already in the couple’s possession, such as a house, stock dividends, etc.

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Wisconsin Traffic Offense AttorneyThere are many complications that can arise when separating a married couple’s finances, possessions, and other parts of their lives during the divorce process. However, these issues can become much more complex in a high asset divorce case due to the complex assets that a couple may own and the high values of these assets. As these couples determine how to handle the division of marital property, they will want to be aware of the factors that may affect their decisions and the steps they can take to protect their rights and interests.

Dividing Complex Assets

Couples with a high net worth may need to determine how to handle assets such as:

  • Bank accounts - A couple may have multiple accounts, including savings accounts in different states or countries, money market accounts or other types of investments, and checking accounts or lines of credit used to make regular payments. Depending on how a couple has handled financial issues, one spouse may not be fully aware of certain accounts. During the discovery process, all of a couple’s accounts and sources of funds may be disclosed or uncovered, and if necessary, a forensic accountant may be used to look for any accounts or other methods that a spouse may have used to hide assets.

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Wisconsin Family Law AttorneyThere are many reasons why a couple’s marriage may break down. In some cases, it may be clear to one or both spouses that the marriage cannot be saved and that divorce is the best choice for everyone involved. However, other couples may not yet be ready for the finality of a divorce, or they may wish to remain legally married even if they will not be living together. In these cases, a legal separation may be appropriate, either as a step along the road to divorce while a couple determines whether their marriage can be saved or as a more permanent solution. 

Legal Separation Vs. Divorce

In Wisconsin, family courts handle legal separation very similarly to divorce. As with a divorce petition, one party will file a petition for legal separation, alleging that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. If both parties agree that their marriage is irretrievably broken, or if the couple has voluntarily lived separately for at least 12 months, the request for a legal separation will usually be granted. A family court may also grant a legal separation if one party does not agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken, as long as a judge determines that there is no reasonable prospect of reconciliation.

Before a judgment of legal separation can be issued, a couple will need to address most of the same legal issues that would be involved in a divorce. They will need to create a settlement that details the division of marital property, and spousal support may be awarded, if appropriate. If a couple has children, they will need to create a child custody agreement that details the legal custody and physical placement of their children, as well as provisions for child support. Once the court has approved or made provisions for all applicable matters, it may enter a judgment of legal separation.

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