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Modifying Child Custody in Wisconsin: What You Need to Know

Whether a divorce is contentious or amicable, both parties acknowledge that the process is difficult and complicated. They not only need to agree on dividing assets, but, if they have children, they must also agree on the terms of custody and placement. In Wisconsin, the term custody refers to major decision-making authority. Placement is the term that is used when deciding with whom your child will live and for what periods of time.

While property and asset decisions are permanent, those regarding your children do not have to be. Because circumstances often change which can have positive or negative effects on you as a parent, it is important to be aware of child custody and placement modification procedures in Wisconsin.

What Is Needed To Modify A Child Custody and Placement Order

  • Waiting period: According to Wisconsin Statute 767.451, after the court approves the initial child custody and placement arrangement, both parents must wait two years before requesting any changes to the initial judgment. This is to ensure that all parties have adequate time to adjust to the new changes. If you request a change within that two (2) year period, you must prove that your children are being harmed by the current court orders. This is a high standard and very difficult to do.
  • Modification: After two years, a parent may file a motion with the court requesting a modification/review for child custody/placement if there is a substantial change in circumstances. If you provide sufficient evidence of a substantial change, the court will likely approve your request if they also find that the change is in the best interest of your child(ren). There are no specific guidelines of what might constitute a substantial change, but some examples may include:
    • A change in work hours to accommodate for more time with the child
    • Relocation by one parent that my impact time with the child
    • Evidence of substance abuse or other criminal behavior
    • Adjustment to home or school
    • Failure to effectively communicate or co-parent with the other party to the extent it negatively affects your child(ren)
  • Emergency Orders: In circumstances where there is evidence that a child's wellbeing may be in jeopardy, an emergency order may be granted.

Other circumstances that could affect custody/placement would be interference with the parenting time of another parent. If there is evidence that one parent intentionally blocked another parent from having access to a child, then the courts may modify the custody and placement arrangement.

To ensure the smoothest possible course during any of these proceedings, finding the right attorney is key. You do not want to make any mistakes when it comes to the welfare of your children. Your lawyer will be your advocate and help you step by step to achieve the best outcome for you and your family.

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