Although most divorce lawyers enjoy going to Court, some clients would rather not go there.  Whether it is due to inconvenience, stress, fear, other reasons, clients often express a reluctance to appear in Court as part of their divorces.  In fact, most people I know would prefer to never step foot in a courthouse.  

It seems in some states, if all provisions are agreed upon by the spouses, paperwork may be submitted by mail and presto!  A divorce is granted.  This is never the case in Wisconsin.  Here, even when all aspects of the divorce are agreed upon, the soon-to-be-exes must participate in a court hearing at least one time, for what is known as final divorce hearing.  The final divorce hearing is the court proceeding in which the Judge formally grants a divorce to the parties.

Other than the final divorce hearing, the number of times a divorcing person appears in Court will depend on many different factors, including the contentiousness of the case and the County in which the case is taking place.   Generally speaking, the more contentious the case, the more likely it is one will find herself in court multiple times – before and after the divorce is granted. 

Sometimes, the number of court appearances has nothing to do with the level of animosity between the spouses.  Some Judges will hold Pretrial Conferences in which the attorneys and the parties to the case must attend to discuss the status of the case.   For some people, circumstances beyond their control, such as a job loss while the divorce is pending, will result in a trip back to Court to change provisions which may have been entered as part of a Temporary Order.

An experienced Wisconsin divorce attorney can help you determine how many Court hearings may be appropriate for your case.

When most people in the legal profession think of research, they envision someone in a musty broom closet pouring through ancient editions of the Wisconsin Reports, running endless searches through Westlaw (found at www.westlaw.com).   Sure enough, as a former law clerk and associate, I recall maddening instances of various attorneys directing me to find a case they “knew” existed which allegedly stood for some obscure proposition.

Although it is not always possible to find that magic bullet, there are many resources to help attorneys, their staff and the public better understand the law and the workings of the legal system. This post addresses research in the broad sense, and while not exhaustive, is intended as a guide to help you locate and organize all kinds of useful information in your quest for good results.

Part 1 discusses “primary” sources for legal research, and Part 2 will discuss “secondary” sources of information. Finally, Part 3 will describe how you can use what is right under your nose to create a fantastic research system.

Part 1: Primary Law at your Fingertips

Most anything, including the law, is now available online.  “Law” is essentially a haphazard collection of rules and regulations proscribed by governmental entities. Law ranges from the U.S. Constitution drafted by our Founding Fathers to the Yorkville Code of Ordinances passed by the Town Board of Yorkville, Wisconsin (all at www.findlaw.com). But, any comprehensive research project will no doubt ultimately lead to at least a preliminary search of the Wisconsin Statutes. If you don’t have easy access to a bound set, you can also find them free online at www.legis.state.wi.us.  For most Wisconsin family court matters, Chapter 767 is the best place to begin. 

Appellate case law is another important body of authority to review. Westlaw, Lexis and Lois are commonly-used subscription services for searching Federal and State material, including statutes and case law. There are also online sources of free case law if you do not work for a firm which subscribes to any of these services. For instance, free Wisconsin cases are published online at www.wisbar.org. Findlaw publishes free federal court opinions, including the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Child support is governed both by the Wisconsin Statutes and be regulation. Thus, a review of the Wisconsin Administrative Code is in order, and it is available both in print form and online at http://www.legis.state.wi.us/rsb/code.htm.   You can find the various child support definitions and formulas used in Wisconsin Courts in Chapter DCF 150 (formerly,  Chapter DWD 40).

In Part 2, coming soon, I will discuss common secondary sources for legal information.