- What is the Number One thing I should know about being involved in a Family Court case?
It’s hard to say what is MOST important, but it is VERY important that you promptly open any mail, email or messages that are sent to you from the Court System AND that you read any of these documents all the way through. It is also important that you know what your deadlines are to do things and that you meet those deadlines. If you feel overwhelmed by the process, contact a lawyer right away.
- How do we set up mediation before a final divorce judgment?
After the case is filed and original documents served, send a written request to Commissioner Burns and to the other party. Your request should state what the problem is. Be specific. The Commissioner will refer you to a mediator. If this is your first mediation in the case and you are only mediating child custody and placement issues, Green County will pay for the initial session. If this is not your first mediation or if you want to mediate other issues, you will have to make a deposit against the mediator’s fees. For more information, please go to the mediation page.
- How do we set up mediation after a final divorce judgment?
After the judgment, if either party is having problems with custody or placement they need to file a Motion or an Order to Show Cause and serve it on the other party. After this, the party may send a written request to Commissioner Burns and to the other party stating what the problem is. Be specific. The Commissioner will refer you to a mediator. There may be fees due and a deposit required, depending on how long it has been since your last mediation. For more information, please go to the mediation page.
- The other party isn’t following the court order. Why aren’t you doing anything about it?
With very limited exceptions, the Family Court does not monitor the parties to be sure they are following court orders. If you believe the other party is not following the order, you can file a motion or an order to show cause to get the matter in front of the Family Court for a decision.
- How do I get a hearing scheduled?
You will need to file a motion or an order to show cause to get a hearing. Either of these is a formal request that the court hear a matter. The court can only hear the issues you put in your motion or order to show cause. Please go to the Forms Page for links to download blank forms. Once you have the paperwork ready, you should call the Family Court at the number at the top of this page and request a hearing date. See the contacts page for more contact information.
- He/She isn’t letting me see the kids. What can I do?
Child custody and placement issues are very complicated, and we strongly recommend that you talk to a lawyer about this. If you want to try to deal with it without a lawyer, you can send a request to Commissioner Burns asking that a mediator be appointed, or you may prepare an order to show cause or a motion to get a hearing on the issue. If you send a letter, make sure you send a copy to the other parent, and make sure you note on your letter that you sent it.
- I want to move the kids out of Wisconsin. What do I need to do?
The requirements for moving children out of the state are set out in Section 767.481 of the Wisconsin Statutes. There may be additional requirements in your temporary order or divorce judgment. To be sure you are doing things correctly, consult your lawyer.
- He/She isn’t paying the child support ordered. Can I stop him/her from seeing the kids?
No. Issues of child support and periods of placement are separate. Withholding periods of placement because the other parent isn’t paying support is not allowed.
- He/She smelled like liquor when he/she came to pick up the kids. Do I have to send them?
If the children will be in physical or emotional danger, you do not have to allow the other parent to have the children. WARNING: This is a complicated area and you withhold placement at your own risk. If you withhold placement the court may find you in contempt! It is vitally important to seek the help of a lawyer immediately.
- How old does a child have to be before he/she can decide which parent he/she wants to live with?
A minor child does not have the right to decide which parent he or she will live with. The wishes of the child are just one factor to be considered by the court in deciding placement. Children are simply not equipped emotionally to make a decision between the two most important people in their lives. Coaching the children to choose one parent or the other can be emotionally harmful to them, and the Family Court may limit your placement with the children, or may require that your placement be supervised, if you do that.
- Can I give up my rights to the child so I can stop paying child support?
Terminating parental rights is a complicated area and a competent lawyer should be consulted before making any decisions. Most of the time, unless there is another person ready, willing, and able to adopt the child, termination of parental rights is not an option.
- How do I make an appointment to speak with the Family Court Commissioner? (How do I talk with the Family Court Commissioner?)
The commissioner cannot meet with you to discuss your case unless the other side is present. This is because ex parte communication is forbidden under the law. If you would like to present facts to the commissioner and ask for a ruling on some matter, you will need to schedule a hearing before the Family Court Commissioner. To schedule a hearing, you will need to file a motion or order to show cause. You can download forms to help you get a hearing from links on the Forms Page. Please see the Hearings Page for other information.
- But I really need him to see this document, and if I send a copy to the other person they are going to get angry.
It doesn’t matter. The commissioner cannot hear one side of a dispute without the other side being present to tell their side. If you send something to the Family Court, you need to send it to the other side at the same time. If you don’t want to send it to them, don’t send it to the Family Court either. If you do send it, and it isn’t obvious that you sent it to the other side, the Family Court is going to send them a copy anyway, and will warn you for attempting an ex parte communication.
- Will you recommend a lawyer?
No. To find a lawyer, try the yellow pages, talk to people you know, or try the referral information from the State Bar of Wisconsin.
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