Do Courts Still Favor Women in Divorce?
Some people believe that in a divorce, the wife is more likely to get more of a couple’s assets and superior rights to the children. While there may have been some truth to that statement in the past, today, Wisconsin courts are going to look at several issues during a divorce regardless of gender.
Historically, there was a time when women were not able to have their own bank accounts or credit cards. They were also excluded from working in the same professions as men. In some parts of the country, women could not expect to obtain professional educations except for earning degrees in education and nursing.
As times moved forward, opportunities for women started to open up, but the progress was slow. Generations of women stayed home and raised children while their husbands went to work. For these women, being self-supportive after divorce was not economically realistic. A wife leaving this type of marriage without her own means of income, might have been awarded more marital property. It was also believed that the stay-at-home mother was better for children than a working father, leading courts to place children with the mom over the dad.
Today, women are earning higher education degrees at the same rate as their male colleagues and are working in thousands of professions. A stay-at-home parent could be a father or mother, but in many cases, both parents have jobs. Times have changed, and Wisconsin laws have evolved along with the people they serve.
Wisconsin Community Property
During a Divorce proceeding, Wisconsin courts look at several issues and factors to make decisions. Wisconsin is a community property state. The property and income a couple acquired during the marriage will belong to each person with certain limited exceptions. The court will examine the facts and allocate assets and debts to leave each person in a relatively equitable position. If one person stayed home to raise children while the other advanced in their education and career, the court might order the more financially well-off spouse to pay the other spousal maintenance for a period of time. If both spouses work and have equal income-earning ability, they may receive approximately the same amount of everything.
Wisconsin Child Custody and Physical Placement
When it comes to child custody, absent evidence of endangerment, abuse, or neglect, the court presumes that parents having joint legal custody is in the best interest of the child. Likewise, with respect to child placement, the court will look at several factors, but by law, without evidence that either parent is endangering the children, it's going to “set a placement schedule that allows the child to have regularly occurring, meaningful periods of physical placement with each parent and that maximizes the amount of time the child may spend with each parent, taking into account geographic separation and accommodations for different households.”
In other words, Wisconsin law is structured to allow family courts to take in the totality of the circumstances and each couple's unique situation without gender bias. More and more courts are awarding not only joint custody but equal child placement in contested divorce cases. With women earning more, sometimes even outearning their husbands, it is becoming more common to see support being paid by women to men. And while it would be naïve to say we have reached the point of being gender blind, it would be fair to say we have at least achieved gender parity.
Attorney and mediator Karyn Youso of First Look Family Law has experience helping clients evaluate their circumstances so they can make informed choices regarding divorce and child placement. Call us today to set up a consultation to have a “first look” at your options.