When a couple divorces and reaches an agreement on issues such as child support and spousal maintenance, the terms of that agreement are considered final. They can only be changed through a petition to the court arguing that there has been a substantial change in circumstances that warrants a change in financial arrangements. What constitutes a substantial change in circumstances is largely up to the discretion of the court considering the case, and many different factors may be considered. A recent Wisconsin case looks at whether changes in income by one or both parties can justify a change in child support amounts.
When dealing with family law matters, it can be difficult to ascertain the true interests of the parties and all those affected, without conducting an evidentiary hearing. While briefs and motions can be carefully crafted in order to present the story from a party’s particular perspective, hearings are often necessary to understand the full details of a situation and the true impact that any changes to a custody order, or maintenance plan, are likely to have on those involved. At the same time, courts are often constrained by time and resources from conducting hearings on every occasion, and may opt instead to hold hearings only in those cases where they are most necessary. A recent case before the Wisconsin Court of Appeals looks at whether courts are required to hold hearings in some circumstances and whether that is a basis for appeal.
Child custody and placement can be one of the most contentious aspects of any divorce. Parents feel strongly about spending time with their kids and having a long-lasting and healthy relationship with them. Splitting time between both spouses can make that difficult and can lead to anger and resentment between ex-spouses. In a recent case before the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, the court considered what to do when one spouse asks to modify the child custody arrangement to which she previously agreed.
In Wisconsin, when a parent is unwilling or unfit to take care of his or her child, the parental rights of the individual may be terminated through special proceedings. The termination of parental rights is governed by statute and is taken very seriously, since it can have a huge impact on both the life of the child and the life of the parents. A recent case before the Wisconsin Court of Appeals considers the question of what to do when lower courts deviate from termination of parental rights procedures.
When dealing with a divorce in Wisconsin, courts must give careful consideration to the division of existing property, assets, and debts that a couple may have, as well as how to divide future obligations and income, if necessary. While Wisconsin courts typically start from the presumption that marital property should be divided equally between two spouses, such arrangements can be modified when it would be in the interest of the courts and the couple to do so. A recent Wisconsin Court of Appeals case considered and applied a creative approach for resolving spousal maintenance issues between a couple by instead offering one spouse an additional lump sum property award.
Even after a criminal defendant completes his or her jail sentence, restrictions on freedom may remain. When a defendant leaves a jail or prison, a judge may impose terms of supervised release, which place certain restrictions on a defendant’s activities and require him or her to check in regularly with a probation officer. For defendants convicted of sex crimes, these terms of supervised release may be particularly restrictive because of the very serious nature of their crimes and the high rates of recidivism for sex offenders. A recent case before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals looks at particularly restrictive terms and a defendant’s efforts to oppose them.
In United States v. Warren, Mr. Warren was charged with transporting and possessing child pornography and was sentenced to five years in prison and 15 years of supervised release. Over the course of 19 days in 2003, Mr. Warren managed a Yahoo Group that he used to share and distribute child pornography to other members. He also solicited members to add to the collection of child pornography that he had created. In February 2004, federal agents executed a search of Mr. Warren’s apartment and seized his computer. Mr Warren admitted to hosting the Yahoo group and to possessing child pornography. He pled guilty to the charges against him and was sentenced to jail time and supervised release. Toward the end of his prison term, the probation officers in charge of Mr. Warren’s eventual release petitioned the court to modify Mr. Warren’s conditions of supervised release. Specifically, they sought to add a travel condition to his release, requiring him to notify his probation officers whenever he sought to travel outside the state. They also sought to impose a no-contact-with-minors condition and a polygraph condition.
Under the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution, criminal defendants are protected from unconstitutional searches and seizures. This means that police cannot enter the home of an individual or search a place like a vehicle without probable cause to do so and a warrant, unless certain circumstances apply. A recent case before the Wisconsin Supreme Court considers whether exigent circumstances justifying entering an individual’s home exist when a police officers claims to be in “hot pursuit” of an individual who is believed to have committed crimes.
When judges are considering a sentence for a criminal defendant, they may look at a wide variety of factors and issues, including prior recidivism, remorse, whether the crime was conducted in a particularly egregious or violent manner, or mitigating circumstances such as economic or personal issues. In a recent case before the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, judges considered whether it was acceptable to consider the prior mental health history of a defendant in determining the severity of his punishment.
When dealing with drug crimes, one of the tools that law enforcement has in their tool box is the ability to seize assets related to a drug crime and to seek a declaration that such assets have been “forfeited” to the state. This involves a judicial process of getting a court to declare that the assets are sufficiently related to the drug activity that they can be forfeited. Forfeiture can help to reduce drug manufacturing or trafficking by seizing the infrastructure and assets necessary to support such operations. A recent case before the Western District of Wisconsin allowed the forfeiture of property after the discovery of a marijuana grow operation.
When individuals are convicted of serious sex crimes in state courts, they can appeal their convictions through multiple state and federal channels. While state procedures are governed by state law, federal procedures govern the process of applying for a writ of habeas corpus (or an application for relief) from a federal court. The law that governs this process is known as the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 (“AEDPA”). Under AEDPA, while federal channels are available to criminal defendants, they must exhaust the necessary state procedures first. Once those state procedures are completed, the clock then begins to run on the time for a defendant to appeal to the federal courts. A recent case out of Wisconsin looks at what happens when federal defendants fail to meet those timelines.