Clarifying and Simplifying the Family Law Process


On Wednesday I had the opportunity to testify on two of my bills, Assembly Bill 633 (AB 633) and Assembly Bill 634 (AB 634), before the Assembly Committee on Family Law.


After a divorce is final, current law requires the two parties to exchange financial information on an annual basis where there is either a child support or family support order in effect. AB 633 seeks to clarify which financial documents must be exchanged, including state and federal tax forms and other documentation of income. Additionally, the bill outlines information that may be redacted for privacy or safety reasons. Allowing for redactions will help to protect survivors of domestic abuse and others who may worry for their own safety or the safety of their child(ren). The bill also sets a deadline for the exchange of information to occur by May 1st of each calendar year. Lastly, this bill extends the requirement that this exchange of financial information take place between individuals paying or receiving maintenance (formerly known as alimony), which is not currently required. Making these clarifications in statute will reduce litigation, provide parity among parties, and help determine accurate amounts for child support, family support, or maintenance.


Also under current law, a circuit court commissioner may preside at and grant a fully stipulated (i.e. agreed upon) divorce, just as a circuit court judge can. AB 634 would also allow them to grant a fully stipulated legal separation if both parties state that the marital relationship is broken and that the parties have resolved all material issues. Divorces and legal separations generally address the same issues: custody, placement, support issues, division of property, and other financial orders; so it makes sense to extend this authority to court commissioners. This bill will result in more timely resolutions of legal separations, provide circuit courts with more time to concentrate on contested matters, and result in fewer hearings and lower costs to litigants.


These bills will clarify and simplify the family law process and I look forward to seeing them continue to move through the legislative process.

Historic Opioid Settlements


As you may know, the Joint Committee on Finance (JFC) does more than write our state’s biennial budget. Some of our work outside of the budget includes passing non-budget bills that will affect our state’s revenues and/or expenditures, or approving requests made by Wisconsin’s various departments through what we call a Section 13.10 Meeting.


This week we met in a Section 13.10 Meeting to approve Wisconsin’s allocation of funds from two opioid settlements. The two settlements are part of nationwide litigation totaling a historic $26 billion, of which Wisconsin could receive up to $420 million over the course of 18 years, which will provide substantial assistance to communities across Wisconsin to help fight the opioid epidemic.


The State of Wisconsin and 87 local governments within our state (including Milwaukee County and the cities of Franklin, Oak Creek, and South Milwaukee) have been parties to nationwide litigation against three major pharmaceutical distributors – AmerisourceBergen, Cardinal Health, and McKessen – and opioid manufacturer Johnson & Johnson for actions that contributed to the opioid epidemic. 70% of Wisconsin’s share of the settlement will go directly to the 87 local governments involved in the litigation, with the remaining 30% going to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS). Our committee approved the allocation of the settlement funds unanimously. Funds at both the local and state levels must be used on efforts aimed at fighting the opioid epidemic.


Opioid deaths have increased by more than 25% and hit a record high last year. This funding will go a long way in working toward opioid abuse prevention and recovery.

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