Divorce & Family

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Divorce and Family law is a critical component of the services offered at Fox, O’Neill & Shannon. For more than 50 years, FOS has provided clients with high quality legal representation tailored to their family’s specific needs.

FOS’s family law attorneys have extensive experience in all aspects of family law, including divorce, legal separation, custody and placement disputes, post-judgment modifications, paternity actions, adoptions and guardianships.

Divorce & Legal Separation FAQs

Q:Why should I hire an attorney?

The law and the legal system are complicated. Strict legal and procedural rules must be followed. People unfamiliar with the legal system often have a difficult time navigating the formalities that the courts require. Acting without an attorney can result in countless wasted hours, trying to understand the law and procedures. We know the process and the system well, and can help save time and frustration.

Divorce is difficult. We can help you carefully consider the short and long term implications of your decisions. This is a highly emotionally charged time, but the decisions that you make today may be impossible to undo later on.

No two families are alike. So, no two divorces are alike. A lot of bad information exists about divorce and legal separation. Your neighbor’s or cousin’s divorce may not be representative of the norm. Relying on other’s experiences ignores the deeply fact-intensive nature of family law cases. Consulting an experienced attorney who specializes in family law is the only way to make sure that your legal rights are fully protected.

Q:What is the difference between divorce and legal separation?

In a divorce, the parties’ marriage is legally dissolved, and the court enters orders regarding matters including custody and placement of children, child support, maintenance and property division.

In a legal separation, the court enters the exact same sorts of orders as in a divorce, but the parties remain legally married, often for religious purposes.

Q:We agree on everything. Can you represent both me and my spouse?

No. Ethical rules strictly prohibit joint legal representation in divorce. Your attorney cannot advocate effectively for both you and your spouse at the same time.

Q:What are the legal requirements to get divorced in Wisconsin?

Either you or your spouse must have been a resident of the State of Wisconsin for at least six months, and either you or your spouse must have been a resident of the county in which you file the action for at least 30 days.

Q:What are the grounds for divorce in the Wisconsin?

Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is the only ground for divorce in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin legislature abolished the fault-based system of divorce in 1977.

Q:How is property divided?

Wisconsin is a community property state. This means that the law presumes that all property brought into the marriage, and all property acquired during the marriage, will be split 50-50, with limited exceptions for certain gifted and inherited property.

Each case is different, and the ultimate property division depends on a number of factors which you should discuss with your attorney.

Q:Who pays child support and how much?

Generally speaking, the parent who has less placement time with the children is obligated to pay child support. The guideline amounts for child support are calculated based off of gross income as follows:

  • 1 child = 17%
  • 2 children = 25%
  • 3 children = 29%
  • 4 children = 31%
  • 5+ children = 34%

However, the court may deviate from these guidelines in a number of instances. Examples include situations when the parties share placement, the child support payor is supporting multiple families, or the child support payor falls into high or low income categories. The court may also deviate from the guidelines where the support award would otherwise be unfair to the parties or the children. Because of the many factors that are taken into account when determining child support awards, it is critical that you consult with an experienced family law attorney.

Q:How long does it take to get a divorce?

The length of time that it takes to complete a divorce varies considerably, depending on the issues involved and the level of cooperation between you and your ex. The law imposes a mandatory “cooling off” period which requires all parties to wait at least 120 days from the date of filing the divorce petition before a final judgment of divorce can be granted.

We understand that because every family is different, no two cases are alike. Because the firm’s attorneys also practice in the areas of business, litigation and taxation, FOS is in a unique position to bring a variety of skills and talents to the particulars of your family law case, crafting creative solutions that fit your needs.

Family law matters are uniquely stressful. We understand the importance of keeping clients informed and educated about their matter. The firm’s attorneys constantly work to maintain open lines of communication with clients. This allows us to work together with our clients, making sure that we develop a comprehensive strategy, which minimizes unnecessary costs while achieving our clients’ short and long term goals.

With offices located in downtown Milwaukee and in Elm Grove, we offer convenience and flexibility to suit your needs. Our family law attorneys practice throughout Southeastern Wisconsin, including Milwaukee, Waukesha, Washington, Ozaukee, Racine, Kenosha, Jefferson and Dane Counties.

Divorce and Legal Separation: Potential Approaches

When a couple decides to end a marriage, many matters must be addressed. The parties must resolve issues relating to child custody, placement and child support; determine if maintenance is appropriate; divide personal and real property; and split retirement assets. FOS’s family law attorneys bring their experience and skill to the specific issues present in your divorce.

FOS’s family law attorneys provide prompt attention to your legal needs. We assist you through all stages of the process, from initial filing through final hearing and post-judgment proceedings.

Knowing your potential approaches to the situation are essential as we work with you to craft creative solutions that will work for you and your family, now and in the future.

Q:Pro Se

When a party proceeds “pro se,” the party represents him or herself, without the help of an attorney. That party is personally responsible for drafting and serving all necessary documents, complying with local rules of the court, communicating with the court and appearing at all necessary hearings.

Q:Settlement Focused Litigation / Negotiated Divorce?

The parties focus on working towards a negotiated resolution, and choose not to resort to litigation or formal discovery techniques unless necessary.

Q:Collaborative Divorce?

In the collaborative process, each party hires trained collaborative attorneys, along with other professionals such as financial advisors and child specialists, to work together in a non-adversarial, problem solving process. The emphasis in collaborative is to minimize the emotional toll of divorce on families, and to work together to settle issues in a reasonable and mutually beneficial way. The parties must sign a binding collaborative agreement and, if the process fails, their attorneys must withdraw and the parties must hire new attorneys.

For more information on the collaborative process, visit www.collabdivorce.com, or contact Attorney Laurna A. Kinnel.

Q:Traditional Litigation?

In the traditional litigation model, the parties hire their own separate attorneys. Formal discovery is used to gather all necessary evidence. Finally, all disputed matters are resolved at trial by a judge.


When a child is born to unmarried parents, the parties must act to protect their legal rights and the legal rights of the child. Without a legal paternity determination, a child has no inheritance rights from his or her father. And without an order determining custody and placement, or establishing child support, a father has no legal rights or obligations towards his child.

Whether you want to establish your child’s paternity, or have been served in a state action to determine paternity, FOS’s family law attorneys can help you to navigate through this complex process.

Post-Judgment Modifications and Enforcement

Families and circumstances change. What worked for your family at the time of your divorce might not work now. Or your ex may not be following the agreement you reached or the orders the court imposed. FOS’s family law attorneys can help you achieve the relief you seek.

Special rules apply to requests to modify or enforce child support, custody or physical placement orders. Because the foremost concern in any family law action is the children’s best interests, the court always retains jurisdiction to modify orders regarding these matters. Specific rules and standards, however, apply to modification requests. Our attorneys are well-versed in the law, and can assist you in evaluating and effectuating your proposed changes, whether through stipulation or litigation.

Prenuptial and Postnuptial Agreements

FOS routinely advises individuals who wish to protect and classify their assets, whether in the event of a divorce or for estate planning purposes. Often, parties want to make sure that they provide for children from a previous relationship. Others may wish to mitigate the uncertainty of what a court might order in the unfortunate event of a divorce.

In either case, individuals turn to the attorneys at FOS to assist them in carefully crafting a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement protecting their interests. We bring our unique mix of business understanding, litigation experience, family law knowledge, and tax and estate planning expertise to assist our clients.

Injunctions and Restraining Orders

Unfortunately, in some cases, charges of emotional, psychological and/or physical abuse are made and must be addressed. FOS’s family law attorneys, working with the firm’s criminal and civil litigation attorneys, have substantial experience handling a variety of matters relating to injunctions and restraining orders, including obtaining relief for victims and defending against false allegations.

To learn more about injunctions and restraining orders, click here.

Additional Family Law Resources