Minnesota Vs. Wisconsin: Where You Live Can Affect Your Case

By practicing on both sides of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, we routinely help clients understand the nuances that differentiate the two states' laws. In many respects, the laws' effects may be the same, but different terms and language may be used to describe them, while in other cases, the regulations can be completely different from one state to the next. While you might think that you can handle your family law or workers' compensation matter on your own, there are plenty of variables that demand the skills of an experienced lawyer.

No matter where you live or work, we at Brandau & Waltz Law Offices, LLP, in La Crosse can explain the local laws and how they apply to your particular circumstance.

Below you will find information outlining some of the differences between Minnesota and Wisconsin when it comes to matters of family law and workers' compensation. This information is meant to be an overview, not legal advice. For comprehensive answers to your questions, contact us and speak with attorney Brandau or attorney Waltz.

Divorce And Family Law

Jurisdiction and residency requirements —

  • Wisconsin: In Wisconsin, one spouse must have lived in Wisconsin for at least six months prior to filing for divorce. One spouse must reside in the county where the filing occurs for at least 30 days.
  • Minnesota: In Minnesota, you must reside in the state for at least 180 days prior to filing for divorce.

Property division —

  • Wisconsin: Wisconsin is a marital or community property state. This means that all marital property is assumed to be the property of both spouses and is divided based on a 50-50 split. There are limited exceptions to the classification of marital property.
  • Minnesota: Minnesota is an equitable distribution state. Unlike community property, equitable distribution does not always assume that all marital assets should be split evenly. Instead, contributions to the marriage, whose name is on the deed or title and other factors are considered when dividing property and assets. Division may be contested by either spouse, who can claim a fair and equitable portion of the assets. The goal in equitable distribution is not a 50-50 division, but a fair and equitable distribution.

Mandatory waiting period —

  • Wisconsin: There is a mandatory 120-day waiting period after serving of the initial papers. However, if there is an emergency or other worthy cause, the waiting period may be bypassed.
  • Minnesota: Minnesota does not have a mandatory predivorce waiting period after the initial divorce filing.

Child support —

  • Wisconsin: Parents may set child support payments based on the Percentage of Income Standard guidelines. These guidelines are based on the understanding that both parents are responsible for supporting their children. Parents may stipulate the amount of support.
  • Minnesota: Parents are obligated to provide support for their children until they graduate from high school or turn 18. The amount of support can be determined during mediation or ordered by the courts based on state guidelines.

Workers' Compensation

For workers in Wisconsin, the following information may provide some insight into the processes and procedures associated with workers' compensation benefits.

Temporary total disability —

During the period of time you are being treated, recovering from your injury and losing wages, you are entitled to temporary total disability benefits (two-thirds of your average gross weekly wage at the time of your injury, including regularly worked overtime). You are entitled to receive temporary total disability until your doctor indicates that you have reached a healing plateau (when your condition will most likely get no better or worse).

Temporary partial disability —

During your healing period, your physician may release you to return to light-duty work or full duty for limited hours. During this time, you will be entitled to temporary partial disability if you earn less than your average weekly wage. For example, if you lose 20 percent of your average weekly wage, you will be entitled to 20 percent of your temporary total disability until you reach a healing plateau or return to full-duty work.

Permanent partial disability —

When your doctor has determined that you have reached a healing plateau, he or she should assess any permanent disability that your injury may have caused. In making this assessment, your doctor may consider loss in range of motion, weakness, deformity or disabling pain and discomfort. The value of your permanent partial disability benefit will vary depending on what part of your body is injured and the extent of your injury. Contact our office when your doctor assigns a permanent restriction.

Medical expenses —

The workers' compensation insurance company is liable to pay any medical expenses that are reasonable and necessary to treat your work injury. You have the right to choose your doctor. You are allowed two choices. If you have been treating with one doctor, then switch to another doctor without a referral, you will have reached your second choice. However, if one doctor refers you to another doctor for necessary treatment, that is still considered your first choice of physician. Additionally, all doctors within the same clinic are considered one doctor.

Contact our office when you are referred to another doctor or wish to pursue your "second choice" doctor.

You are also entitled to receive mileage reimbursement for your visits to the doctor or physical therapy, trips to buy prescriptions, etc. Keep a record of all mileage and medical expenses.

Retraining —

Your work injury may prevent you from returning to your current job. If your doctor assigns permanent work restrictions and your employer is unable to accommodate those restrictions, you may be entitled to retraining under the guidance of the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development's Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. This is an important time to contact our office.

The retraining process may involve an attempt to find you a suitable job at your preinjury wages and within your physical limitations. The DVR may recommend that you attend a school retraining program. For every week that you are in your classroom retraining program, you are entitled to a maintenance benefit, which equals your temporary total disability rate, plus reimbursement for meals taken at school and mileage to and from your program. While the DVR may assist you with the payment of tuition and books, the workers' compensation insurance company will be responsible for paying your maintenance, mileage and meals. If the DVR cannot help, you may be entitled to private vocational rehabilitation paid by the workers' compensation insurance carrier.

Loss of earning capacity —

If you injured your neck, back or head or sustained other torso injuries, you may be entitled to a loss of earning capacity. This entitlement occurs when your injury prevents you from returning to your job and you have sustained a permanent wage loss. Employers sometimes take injured workers back, but at wages that pay 85 percent or less of what they made before being injured. If you have sustained a 15 percent or greater wage loss, you may also be entitled to a loss of earning capacity claim.

Wisconsin Workers' Compensation Procedures

  • Unpaid medical bills: If a workers' compensation insurance company denies payment of your medical bills, you may need to submit unpaid bills to any other medical insurer that you have. You will be responsible for co-payments or deductibles under those policies.
  • Work restrictions and surveillance: Workers' compensation insurance companies fight workers' comp claims aggressively. They often do so by hiring private investigators to place injured workers under surveillance. Therefore, it is important not only from a medical standpoint, but also a legal standpoint, that you adhere to your doctor's physical limitations. If you have a 20-pound lifting limitation, do not lift more than 20 pounds.
  • Offsets: You may be entitled to receive unemployment compensation, short-term or long-term disability, or Social Security Disability benefits during the time for which you are claiming workers' compensation. Contact our office before applying for these benefits and keep a record of the amounts of benefits you receive.
  • Contact with the insurance company: When you file a workers' compensation claim, you waive your right to doctor-patient confidentiality. In many cases, the insurance company is entitled to investigate your medical history, hire a rehabilitation nurse to monitor the progress of your treatment, schedule an independent medical examination (IME) and request a statement regarding your work injury.
  • Contact with your attorney: To keep you informed on the progress of your case, you will receive copies of any correspondence we may send to your doctors, employer, the insurance company, the Workers' Compensation Division or the opposing attorney. This should keep you reasonably informed on the progress of your case. There will be times when you will need to contact us regarding your case.
  • Certification of readiness: To maximize the likelihood of a successful recovery, it generally serves your interests to file the Certification of Readiness form (which triggers a hearing date) when all of the issues in your case are "ripe" (after your doctor assigns permanent restrictions). While your claim is pending, you do not have to respond to letters from the Workers' Compensation Division about the status of the Certification of Readiness; our office will address this issue on your behalf. If you have any questions about the process, contact our office directly.