Milwaukee Lawyer FAQs
The practice of law inevitably delves into some extraordinarily complex matters. This, of course, is why lawyers exist. Often, clients have questions about a legal matter which do not require an attorney to answer in person. To assist both existing and potential clients, we have compiled this Frequently Asked Questions section.
Here you will find answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about family law and other legal issues we handle in our practice. This section will be routinely updated with additional questions and answers. The answers here should not be construed as comprehensive, as many issues are far too complicated to address in their entirety here and the specifics of individual cases differ.
If you have a legal matter which will require the counsel of an experienced attorney, please contact the attorneys of The Fields Group to arrange an initial conversation about your particular legal problem.
Contact our Milwaukee Bankruptcy Attorneys online for a free initial consultation or call (414) 763-3200.
How do I qualify for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13 Bankruptcy?
If you meet the qualifications for both Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcy, then you can choose the type of bankruptcy that best fits your financial situation. Unfortunately you might not have a choice.
To get more information about Bankruptcy and find out if you qualify for Chapter 7 or Chapter 13, contact The Fields Group Law Firm today. Call 414-763-3200 or contact us here.
What is an Automatic Stay?
When you file for bankruptcy, the court may issue something called an “automatic stay.” One of the many powerful benefits of filing for bankruptcy, an automatic stay essentially puts a “hold” on most or all of the debts against you, requiring creditors to stop collection efforts (including phone calls, letters or other communications).
For those facing the stress and panic that often accompanies overwhelming debt, an automatic stay can bring a welcome relief to the constant feelings of being harassed by creditors. Additionally, an automatic stay can be used to block foreclosure.
If you are considering filing for bankruptcy and have questions about what an automatic stay could mean for you, contact one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys at 414-763-3200 for a free consultation.
What is a Chapter 13 Repayment Plan?
When you file for Chapter 13 bankruptcy, you are required to submit something called a “Plan of Reorganization.” A Plan of Reorganization is a legal document that outlines how you will repay the monies you owe, including how often you will make payments and how much each payment will be.
Once submitted, your Chapter 13 plan must be approved by the judge assigned to your case and your creditors. Chapter 13 plans may be made from three years to five years, depending on the filer’s financial situation.
If you are considering Chapter 13 bankruptcy and have questions about putting together a repayment plan that will help you regain your financial freedom, contact one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys at 414-763-3200 for a free consultation.
What are the different types of Bankruptcy?
Unless you are a lawyer or legal professional, knowing which type of bankruptcy is right for you can be difficult. Because the government offers federal protection and assistance for those who face an excessive amount of debt, it can be both confusing (and important) to know precisely which type of bankruptcy applies to you.
Each type of bankruptcy is named for its respective chapter in the United States Bankruptcy Code. These chapters are:
Chapter 7: Liquidation and debt elimination (the most common type)
Chapter 9: Municipality bankruptcy (for cities, counties and other municipalities)
Chapter 11: Reorganization (a complex type, for businesses)
Chapter 12: Farmers and fisherman (for farm owners)
Chapter 13: Individual debt adjust (like Chapter 11, but for individuals)
Chapter 15: Ancillary and cross-border bankruptcy (for international cases)
For a professional evaluation of your financial situation and which type of bankruptcy is best for you, contact one our experienced bankruptcy attorneys at 414-763-3200 for a free consultation.
Does Bankruptcy cover ALL my debt?
Certain debts cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. These debts include, but are not limited to, back child support, alimony, and certain kinds of tax debts. Student loans will not be discharged unless you can show that repaying the debt would be an undue burden, which is a very tough standard to meet. And other types of debts might not be discharged if a creditor convinces the court that the debt should survive your bankruptcy.
How does Debt Settlement work?
Debt Settlement works by negotiating the balance owed (principal) on your unsecured personal debt accounts through the time-honored process of creditor negotiation. This is different from simply reducing the interest rate as with Debt Consolidation and Credit Counseling, which do not affect the total debt balance. By negotiating the balance itself, Debt Settlement provides a much faster means of satisfying your debt. Most creditors are willing to accept a settlement below the balance owed in order to close out an account rather than lose the entire amount in a bankruptcy proceeding.
Is Debt Settlement right for me?
Debt Settlement is not an easy out for people who do not like to pay their bills. You must qualify by having significant financial hardship that has prevented you from meeting your financial obligations, such as loss of income, medical issues or divorce/separation. You must also owe at least $10,000 in unsecured debt, be committed to satisfying your debt and be able to settle with every creditor that you owe. Unlike out-of-state debt settlement companies, The Fields Group can utilize Wisconsin laws to protect your rights in a debt settlement program.
To find out if debt settlement is the right solution to help you get out of debt, contact The Fields Group Law Firm today. Call 414-763-3200 or contact us online.
What is Loan Modification?
The regulations surrounding loan modifications can change often, so please contact The Fields Group Law Firm for the most up-to-date answers to your questions.
What is Wisconsin Chapter 128?
Chapter 128 is a debt relief method unique to Wisconsin. It affords citizens the only non-bankruptcy, circuit court-ordered repayment proceeding in the United States. Featuring a 36-month debt repayment plan, Chapter 128 helps stop collections, wage garnishments, interest and late payments, as well as avoiding bankruptcy. To learn more about the Chapter 128 Proceeding, please call The Fields Group at (414) 763-3200 for a free consultation.
Can I move out of my house during the divorce?
Many people believe that if they move out of the marital residence during a divorce, they essentially "abandon" the property and, therefore, have no interest in the actual real estate or the property inside. This is NOT true. In some situations, continuing to remain in the marital residence with your spouse is not healthy for any of the parties involved. That said, a Court will never penalize you for willingly choosing to vacate the residence. While you are not giving up any interest you have in the property, it is important to remember that you chose to vacate the home, and you must, therefore, respect your spouse's privacy. This means you should always obtain your spouse's consent before entering the property.
How do I see my children or support myself during the divorce process?
Either party may request a hearing in front of a court commissioner asking that he/she set some temporary orders in place for the parties to follow during the pendency of the divorce action. Depending on the county where you file your case, it may take up to four or five weeks before your hearing takes place. If you believe there will be a need for these temporary orders, you should request the hearing immediately. Examples of these temporary orders include where your children will reside, child support, bill payment responsibility and maintenance.
How do I start a divorce action?
The process starts by filing a summons and petition for divorce. Generally, the paperwork must be filed in the county in which you reside, unless your spouse resides in another state or county (It is always important to contact an attorney if you do not reside in the same county as your spouse. Failure to do so can result in the dismissal of your case or the inability of the court to decide matters of property division, spousal support, etc.). Once the paperwork is filed with the court, your spouse must be served with the paperwork. You can serve your spouse in the following ways:
- Your spouse can sign an admission of service form
- You can hire a private process server or the sheriff's department to personally deliver the paperwork to your spouse
In any event, you must be able to prove to the court that your spouse was served within 90 days of filing the summons and petition or your case will be dismissed. In certain circumstances, the court will extend the time for service beyond the 90 days upon filing a motion.
How is child support calculated?
Child support is calculated based on the number of children you have and the percentage of time each parent spends with child. In some circumstances, the respective income of the parents is also taken into consideration. Please contact Attorney Campo for a more in depth analysis of any potential child support obligation.
How quickly can I be divorced?
There is a mandatory waiting period of 120 days (the "cooling off period") from the time your spouse is served with the paperwork and the first time you can go before a Judge/Commissioner to finalize your divorce. It is important to realize that 120 days is the shortest period of time that must pass before a divorce can be finalized but is not necessarily the norm. The divorce process is based on the individual circumstances of each family and varies greatly depending on your situation. Some factors which may influence the time it takes to finalize a divorce include, but are not limited to, whether or not you have children, whether or not you own a home, whether or not you own a business and the assets and debts involved in your case.
What happens if I am served with divorce paperwork?
You should contact The Fields Group immediately. Navigating through the paperwork can be overwhelming and Wisconsin law requires that any person served with divorce paperwork respond to the filing party and the Court within 20 days. Attorney Campo will review the paperwork and answer any questions you may have during your initial consultation. Once you retain her services, she will prepare a Response and Counterclaim to be filed with the Court within that 20 day time period.
What happens if my spouse and I decide we don't want to go through with the divorce?
If both parties decide to reconcile, the divorce action can be stopped by simply signing a Stipulation for Dismissal and sending it to the Court for the Judge's signature. There are cases, however, where parties may want to try and reconcile, but do not wish to dismiss the divorce action completely at that time. In this case, the parties may request that the Judge puts your divorce case "on hold" for the period of 90 days. If, at the end of the 90 days, you do not submit a Stipulation for Dismissal signed by both parties, the case will simply continue. It is important to note that if any time during the 90 period, a party believes that reconciliation is no longer a possibility, the party may write a letter to the court requesting that the 90 day "hold" be abandoned and the case continue.
What if I (or my spouse) don't want the divorce?
Wisconsin is a "no fault" divorce State. As long as one party wants the divorce (and can testify that he/she believes the marriage is irretrievably broken with no chance for reconciliation), the Judge will grant the divorce. It is important to note that a Judge will not order parties to marriage counseling.
What if my spouse and I cannot agree on where the children will live?
While the process varies by county, if a placement dispute arises, you can expect the following scenario: If you and your spouse cannot decide on a placement arrangement, a court commissioner will issue a temporary order setting forth specific placement guidelines. Next, you and your spouse will be ordered to attend mediation. The purpose of the mediation session is to sit down with an independent mediator and work though a placement schedule without further court involvement. If mediation is unsuccessful, the next step is the court will appoint a guardian ad litem, which is essentially an attorney for your children. The sole responsibility of the guardian ad litem is to focus on the best interest of the children. He/she is not an attorney that works for either you or your spouse (although you and your spouse can expect to pay the fees for this attorney). The guardian ad litem will conduct an independent investigation that may include meeting with you and your spouse, meeting with the children and, in some cases, a home visit. Once the investigation is complete, the guardian ad litem will make a placement recommendation to the court. If either party is still not satisfied with the recommendation, that party may request a trial and let the Judge decide the placement schedule. It is important to realize that NO ONE involved in the case knows your children as well as you do. Consequently, it is frequently said that the people in the best position to decide these placement issues are you, the parents. Therefore, we often suggest that you first sit down with your spouse, put aside any differences and try to come up with a schedule consistent with the heath and well-being of the children.
What if my spouse leaves me for someone else?
Wisconsin is a "no fault" divorce state. That means that the infidelity of one spouse does not affect maintenance, property division or the Court's ability to grant the divorce. However, if you and your spouse have children, a new significant other can potentially influence custody and placement of the children if the new significant other has a harmful or negative impact on the children. We always recommend that you do not introduce new significant others to your children during the pendency of the divorce.
What is maintenance and how do I get it?
While the Court uses a term called "maintenance," you may be more familiar with the terms "alimony" or "spousal support." Unlike child support, there is no specific formula for calculating maintenance. In fact, a maintenance award is highly discretionary and varies with every individual case. Some of the factors a Judge may consider when determining a maintenance award are:
- The length of the marriage
- The age and physical and emotional health of the parties
- The division of property
- The educational level of each party at the time of marriage and at the time of divorce
- The earning capacity of each party
- The feasibility that the party seeking maintenance can become self-supporting at a standard of living reasonably comparable to that enjoyed during the marriage and the length of time necessary to achieve that goal
- The tax consequences to each party
- Any mutual agreements made by the parties before or during the marriage
- The contribution by one party to the education, training or increased earning power of the other
- Any other contribution the Court deems relevant, including ability to pay
It is important to note that maintenance does not usually come into play in short term marriages absent extraordinary circumstances. That said, the longer the marriage, the more likely a Court will grant a maintenance request. For a more in depth analysis as to whether or not your case involves a maintenance award, please contact The Fields Group.