A divorce is the termination of a marriage by legal action, requiring a petition or complaint for divorce (or dissolution in some states) by one party. The state of Wisconsin is a no-fault divorce state, which is referred to as a separation decree; the right to cohabitation is terminated but the marriage is undissolved and the status of the parties is not altered.
Child support guidelines exist under state laws, which vary by state, to require the non-custodial parent, under normal circumstances, to pay child support based on a percentage of net or gross income. Child support guidelines are based on income, not expenses. The percentage of support is calculated based on the total number of children for which a parent has an obligation to support. Some state guidelines provide an adjustment for work-related child care costs.
There are two kinds of custody: legal custody and physical custody. Custody battles most often arise in a divorce or separation, requiring a court’s determination of which parent, relative or other adult should have physical and/or legal control and responsibility for a minor (child) under 18. When both parents share custody of a child after a divorce it is called joint custody. Joint custody may be either legal or physical custody. Physical custody, designates where the child will actually live, whereas legal custody gives the custodial person(s) the right to make decisions for the child’s welfare. Child custody can be decided by a local court in a divorce or if a child, relative, close friend or state agency questions whether one or both parents is unfit, absent, dead, in prison or dangerous to the child’s well-being. In such cases custody can be awarded to a grandparent or other relative, a foster parent or an orphanage or other organization or institution.
A premarital agreement is a written contract created by two people planning to be married. The agreement typically lists all of the property each person owns, as well as their debts, and it specifies what each person’s property rights will be after they tie the knot. Premarital agreements often specify how property will be divided — and whether spousal support (alimony) will be paid — in the event of a divorce.
Adoption law is generally governed under state law. All 50 states have statutes governing adoption; the process by which a legal parent-child relationship is created between individuals not biologically parent and child. In most cases, adopted children may inherit on an equal basis with biological children under state laws of distribution upon death of a parent. In some states, doctrines of “equitable adoption” allow courts to recognize adoptions when not all statutory procedures have been carried out. The parent-child relationship established by adoption, however, will be relevant to areas of federal law affected by family status such as Social Security and federal income taxation.