Recently in Paternity Category

October 12, 2012


Throughout your legal representation, it is imperative that you respond to your attorney in a timely manner when information is requested. Most often a hearing date is coming up and we must adhere to court deadlines to exchange documentation and provide it to the opposing party. By responding on time to your attorney and providing the necessary documentation, you will save money. Repeated efforts to track clients down or get the information needed from other sources probably will show up on your bill one way or another.

But most importantly, it will help your case. When attorneys do not get timely information from clients, they simply cannot be the efficient, effective advocates they strive to be. They may not be able to present your case in the best light. They may alienate counsel or the court. They may have to delay things to your detriment. They may not be able to file the appropriate documents with the court because they do not have all the necessary information.

When you receive mail or email from your attorney, please open and read the mail immediately. You often will be requested to take some action such as gather documents, schedule appointments, sign papers, or pay court fees. It is crucial that you read all incoming mail and respond to the action requested. Advise your attorney of the best way to provide you with written materials, i.e. either by mail or email.

You may be required to provide "discovery" to the other side, which is most often paperwork. In many family matters, and particularly in divorce, you will be required to provide copies of any financial documents the other party requests. You may have a desire to hold back documents and use them for surprise purposes at trial. We have seen parties punished severely by the court for taking that approach. It is in your best interest to cooperate with requests for information in a timely manner.

There may be several orders issued by the court while your case is pending. You should keep a separate folder for copies of your orders. You should also carefully read and understand the content of every order. If you have any question about the meaning of an order, please discuss it with your attorney. It is crucial that you comply with all of the orders in your case. Failure to do so may lead to you being found in contempt of court, and may tarnish your image with the court. It is sometimes possible to modify an order while your case is pending. You should discuss that possibility with your attorney.

In summary, providing the required information to your attorney in a timely manner will not only make the legal process easier, it will save you time and money and keep your legal action moving forward without delays.

May 14, 2012

Child Placement and Custody in Wisconsin: What About the Child's Wishes?

Last week I attended the thirty-sixth annual conference of the Wisconsin Inter-Professional Committee on Divorce. One full day was devoted to the topic of the voice of the child in custody and placement disputes. Wisconsin Statutes provide that the "wishes of the child" is a specific factor for the court to consider. See Wis. Stats. Sec. 767.41(5).

But what does that mean in practice? How much weight should the child's wishes be given? And how can the child's wishes be accurately ascertained in the fraught environment of a pending court action?

A pending Wisconsin Court of Appeals case explores these issues in the context of a post-judgment placement modification motion. Wessel, Lehker & Fumelle argued in that appeal that it was error for the trial court to base its placement decision exclusively on the child's preference. Read our briefs here. Watch this blog for updates.

Kris Lehker

October 24, 2011

Wisconsin Child Custody: Medical Decisions Before Birth

Can a putative father obtain an injunction in a Wisconsin paternity case before he has been adjudicated the father? The answer - at least in one court - appears to be "yes."

Mom filed a paternity action regarding her unborn child. Alleged dad learned that mom was planning to subject the baby to an elective medical procedure shortly after the baby's birth. Specifically, mom was planning to have the baby circumcised.

Alleged Dad objected to the circumcision on health and cultural grounds. Dad moved for a temporary order enjoining the parties from consenting to non-emergency medical procedures pending further order.

Because the baby's due date was rapidly approaching, the court scheduled the motion for a hearing on the injunctive relief just a week after dad filed his motion. On the Friday before the Monday hearing, the court ruined a guardian ad litem's weekend, appointing him in the case with a preliminary recommendation due Monday.

Ultimately the parties settled, stipulating to an interim order enjoining both of them from consenting to circumcision pending further order. They reached this stipulation despite an interim recommendation from the guardian ad litem that the injunction be denied and the mother be given authority to proceed with circumcision.

Thus while there was no court ruling on the question of a man's standing to obtain injunctive relief concerning a child with no adjudicated father, the court appeared ready to address the medical consent issue squarely - appointing a guardian ad litem to address the merits, scheduling an emergency hearing.

The final outcome: Alleged dad was adjudicated the father. Months later the parties reached a permanent agreement that neither would consent to circumcision.