Ex Parte Placement Order

By Attorney Gregg Herman
May 22, 2012

Just got back from a trip, so time to catch up with the news…

While I was away, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals issued a case which involved an ex parte placement order.  The case is not going to be published, but may be cited pursuant to the new rule.

The case is Soronen v. Soronen, No. 2011AP1237 (Wis. Ct. App. May 9, 2012).

In and of itself, the case is rather innocuous (except to the parties, of course).  There were two children.  The wife (Karen) was granted primary placement at the time of the divorce.  Five years later, the husband (Jeffery) secured an ex parte order from the FCC transferring sole placement to Jeffery pending a hearing five weeks later.  A GAL was appointed.

At the hearing, the FCC transferred primary placement to Jeffery.  Karen filed for a de novo hearing, which resulted in six days of trial (it is not clear if these were whole days or partial days) and an order, among other things, giving Jeffery primary placement during the school year and Karen primary placement during the summer.

The court of appeals affirmed, basically finding that the trial court properly exercised its discretion based on the record before it.  No problem with that ruling – there was clearly enough evidence to support the exercise of discretion.

However, the court of appeals treated the issue of the ex parte as moot.  Of course, they are correct. It was long gone by the time of trial.

Still, ex parte orders in custody cases are very dangerous.  In the end, it doesn’t appear that any harm was done as the trial court conducted a lengthy hearing and then appeared to follow the advice of the GAL.  But, that is not going to be true in all cases.  Maybe this was not the right case for it, but it would be helpful for there to be some guidance as to when and how ex parte order can be granted.

Attorney Gregg Herman is a founding partner of Loeb & Herman, LLC in Milwaukee, WI. He practices family law exclusively, and can be reached via e-mail or by calling (414) 272-5632.